LAB Param Singh MBE Podcast Transcript

LAB Param Singh MBE Podcast TranscriptListen to episode here

Param Singh MBE: [00:00:00] The main attraction to becoming an entrepreneur was always to make a lot of money so that you can do good work. That was not necessarily the best motive to become an entrepreneur.

Amardeep Parmar: Today, we're talking all about entrepreneurship versus intrepreneurship, what the difference is, what traits make you good at each one, how the skills actually combine. So being a good entrepreneur can make you a great intrapreneur and the skills you learn as being an intrepreneur can help you as an entrepreneur.

Amardeep Parmar: And also the hard realities of when it is the right phase of life to be in each part of the journey and where sometimes you do fail, but failing doesn't mean that you close off other doors. And today with us, we have Param Singh, MBE, who's had a really vast experience in his career. Where has been both an entrepreneur and an intrapreneur of both not for profits for businesses for real estate, and he's worked in 11 different industries.

Amardeep Parmar: So he's got that true breath to really be able to give valuable advice for you in your part of your journey [00:01:00] today. Let's get on to the show. So, Param, it's so great to have you here today. It's a really interesting topic. And I know that you've had such a varied experience in both entrepreneurship and intrepreneurship.

Amardeep Parmar: Can you give us a quick overview of some of the different roles you've had in those different spheres? 

Param Singh MBE: So from an entrepreneurship perspective, um, I have been involved with three different startups. Uh, I have, uh, founded, uh, multiple different, uh, charities. So that's the social entrepreneur perspective. I founded a property investment company.

Param Singh MBE: Um, from the  intrapreneurship perspective, I've worked in 11 different careers across 12 different industries. 

Amardeep Parmar: Wow. So I think a lot of people have this fixed mindset of they, in a certain career and they find it hard to move around, but you've been able to have that variety. Right. And you mentioned that about the different companies you started.

Amardeep Parmar: What drove you to become an entrepreneur? What drove you to try and build your own thing where it's through the charities or through the charities of the business side? 

Param Singh MBE: Yeah, absolutely. So, uh, [00:02:00] being a social entrepreneur has been something that's been, uh, that I've been passionate about from a very young age, even after graduating.

Param Singh MBE: And I want to learn about the charity sector and about nonprofits so that when we eventually make enough money, we can and do good with that money and have vehicles to, to do that good work. The main attraction to becoming an entrepreneur was always, um, to make a lot of money so that you can do good work.

Param Singh MBE: Um, that was not necessarily the best motive to become an entrepreneur. Um, but that was the, that was my motivation. Um, and unfortunately it didn't necessarily result in the best results from, uh, from a successful company's perspective. 

Amardeep Parmar: And like, when you look back on that. Like tell us a bit more about your mindset at that time.

Amardeep Parmar: Did you, was it like a real drive where like, I'm going to make loads of money? And then how did you think about that? Like, like put us into the mind of power when you're starting this company. 

Param Singh MBE: Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, we're looking at, we're looking at the news and we look in the media and we see, you know, like, [00:03:00] um, Mark Zuckerberg and we see, you know, the big, the big tech Titans and we think, well, you know, they can do it.

Param Singh MBE: Then why couldn't I do it? And that is a valid, valid mode of thinking, but the reality is that those big businesses, those really big, um, very successful stories are few and far between and most people are not going to have that level of success. You're not very unlikely to become a billionaire. It's just the statistics are just, you know, we've got to look at the data when we try and

Param Singh MBE: oh, when we have a perspective on things and I didn't necessarily have that data perspective. I just had positive mindset. Unfortunately, positive mindset doesn't always get you the results you need. It's good to have, but it doesn't necessarily provide results. 

Amardeep Parmar: I always say it's like, you've got to dream big, but then be able to roll with the punches.

Amardeep Parmar: So if you just keep pivoting and if it, you've got to be happy with your progress at the same time as thinking like, Oh, like I could do more, maybe I could do more. And it's a really hard [00:04:00] balance. I think to find that or dreaming big without being crushingly crushing on yourself in terms of the amount of pressure you put on yourself.

Amardeep Parmar: And I'm trying to get there, but I think it's something which a lot of people are working on of, how do you make a huge impact without just beating yourself up all the time about what you have achieved and what you have achieved. And…

Param Singh MBE: Absolutely. 

Amardeep Parmar:I imagine the past, there's some moments where you have beaten yourself up where there's been really hard moments where like,

Amardeep Parmar: am I doing the right thing? Like, what have I got myself into? Can you tell me what some of that reality of like being this hard moments as an entrepreneur? 

Param Singh MBE: So, you know, there's so many people that work a nine to five, uh, five days a week, and they think that that is hard work. Well, when you become an entrepreneur, there is no, there is no day you don't work and there's no nine to five.

Param Singh MBE: There's no such thing as a nine to five. You have to do the work that needs to be done to achieve the goals that you have set out to achieve. And so, so from, you know, people say, Oh, you know, I want to be my own boss and I want to be able to do things on my terms. [00:05:00] Well, it's not, you won't, yes, you will be your own boss, but you're not necessarily doing things on your own terms.

Param Singh MBE: Most people probably don't want to do 12 hours a day, seven days a week. But I know a lot of entrepreneurs that work these sorts of times. The first thing you have to keep in mind with entrepreneurship is it can be a lot of hours because you're creating something from scratch. Nothing exists. There's no systems.

Param Singh MBE: There's no processes. You may not have any customers. And so building all that from scratch compared to working in a company that's been around a hundred years with a million customers, you know, like such as an S and P 500 or FTSE 100 business, it's totally different thing. The other thing is, is that you can't, you can no longer be just a professional.

Param Singh MBE: If you're a very good accountant. Just being a good accountant doesn't make you, is not going to help you in being a good entrepreneur. You're gonna have to become a polymath, which is a skilled person in multiple different areas. You're gonna have at least some bit of knowledge, some bit of knowledge in accounting and legal and data and lots of different areas.

Param Singh MBE: Marketing, um, [00:06:00] to be, to be happy to have any chance of being successful in, uh, become, uh, to have any success, to have any chance of success as an entrepreneur. 

Amardeep Parmar: I  think that's one of the interesting things that you said, because obviously I was in the creative space. There's so many people talk about being your own boss and making your own decisions and the being your own boss.

Amardeep Parmar: I use it myself as like a term because it's easiest way to say it, but in reality, you're never your own boss. If you've got customers, you've got investors, you've got stakeholders. If you've got a business, but maybe it's like an e commerce store, all of your bosses are everybody who buys your product, you can't just do what you want because there's nobody will buy it.

Amardeep Parmar: Well, you can do what you want, but you're not going to make any money. Right. And make sure you've got to get that in your head, like, and get into it in the way that you know, you're getting into. And it's really difficult. Sometimes they both encourage people, but also show people that reality of what's going on there.

Amardeep Parmar: And obviously you have to follow some of your businesses. Right. What was that experience like? A lot of people won't talk about what's happened there. 

Param Singh MBE: Yeah, it's, it's, it's [00:07:00] sad because what happens is, you know, let's say you work on something for one or two years, and then you have to know when to pull the trigger.

Param Singh MBE: Because when you pull the trigger to say, you know what, this is not going to work, you have to come to terms with, okay, well, I've made this many losses. You know, let's say if I was working for a, uh, you know, a company, I would have made this much money. So that's the lost opportunity that you have to account for the, the money that you could have earned in a normal job that you didn't earn because you were trying to make your millions in your startup business.

Param Singh MBE: And then you have to then bring in the account for all the costs that you've had to incur in your startup business itself. And so that can typically become, if it's over one or two years, you're looking at, you're easily looking at a six figure business. So the first, it's, it's hard emotionally because you have to come to terms with, well, this is the end of this journey and the quicker you can close that journey, the better.

Param Singh MBE: So they say, if you are, if you're in business, [00:08:00] um, if you're going to fail, fail fast. And the reason why you want to fail fast is it reduces your cost of, uh, opportunity because you can be doing something else that could make you money and also reduces the costs that you incur in, you know, and spend and or whatever, whatever the sort of, um, items that you have to spend money on to, um, generate revenue.

Param Singh MBE: And, um, so, you know, I've, you know, so that, that's been a pain. So that's been a good learning experience and, you know, where you have to come to terms with the fact that something hasn't worked and it's time to close. And if you've got other business partners, you have to have those discussions and those discussions can be difficult sometimes as well.

Amardeep Parmar: Yeah, absolutely. And what you just mentioned that I think is really important for people to know. So. Also, the last day I focused on the not for profit of BAE HQ. That means that if I just decided, if I didn't do the stuff I do for fun, essentially, so the podcast, those kinds of stuff, if I just focused on how I could make as much money as possible, I'm down a couple hundred [00:09:00] K probably from this year because of what I could be earning just by becoming very focused on money.

Amardeep Parmar: And I'm in a very privileged position where I can choose to like spend that time and put money into a new business and grow it. And now it's hopefully paying off but  in the short term if you just want to make money often, it can be better to just have a job and get the salary. Being an entrepreneur is a very long time.

Param Singh MBE: That is, that is absolutely 100 percent the case. And, um, the number of people I've, I've, you know, that I've spoken to, you know, making, you know, so there's 5. 5 million, there's 5. 5 million SMEs in the UK and SME in the UK can be businesses up to 250 people, but the average, the average profit that an SME makes in the UK is 12, 000 pounds and 90 percent of startups fail.

Param Singh MBE: So you're looking at a very, so even if your business doesn't fail. It's probably going to be making [00:10:00] on average, 12, 000 pound profit a year. And you would be better off getting a, uh, a salary almost any job would pay you like double that, at least like most graduate salaries, salaries would pay you double that.

Param Singh MBE: And so you could do something as a side hustle, but then you need to appreciate that it's a side hustle and it's not something that's going to pay your mortgage and your bills. 

Amardeep Parmar: Yeah.  And like, I can even open it so you can go to companies after you can see. So. My business last year made a loss because I stopped making money because after my dad passed, then a lot of the revenue generated work, I stopped.

Amardeep Parmar: But I still have my costs and it's something like, I don't think I've admitted that before, but I think I have, but it's just something to be very watchful of because I'm, I was able to make money while working a day job and make savings. So it's always thinking about like what's your unique circumstances, which we'll get into later about whether or not it's the right moment for you.

Amardeep Parmar: But let's talk about entrepreneurship [00:11:00] now, right? So I'm talking about entrepreneurship and the struggles there. What does being an intrapreneur mean to you?

Param Singh MBE: Being a, being an intrapreneur  is, you know, is, is a fantastic opportunity to really like multi skill yourself. And if you were an entrepreneur and you failed, such as myself, Uh, in, in many different, um, digital, uh, with the, with the, with the various different startup companies I've set up, you can go back.

Param Singh MBE: There's always an option to go back into the corporate world and be an intrapreneur and, you know, use those multi, multi, multiple skills that you've gained now to look at a job that you're working in and see, well, you know, I could do in this new job, if I did my work this way, you know, I could save time or I could totally, uh, remove a process.

Param Singh MBE: So you're always looking for improvement. Well, how can you improve something? How can you make something better? How can you make it more efficient? And now with, uh, AI, uh, the, the, the [00:12:00] game is now, well, those people that can use AI to rapidly increase their productivity versus those humans that I just haven't gained that ability to, uh, that knowledge or those skill sets to use AI to augment their own skills and increase their productivity.

Amardeep Parmar: And like, how does it being an intrapreneur  work in practice for you? Like what have you done? Using the entrepreneurial mindset. So you've learned all these skills from being an entrepreneur. Like what's some of the ones where you've then gone into a company and been able to make a real massive difference to them?

Amardeep Parmar: Because that's a huge value compared to them, right? 

Param Singh MBE: Absolutely. Absolutely. So I remember working in a rail business and I, it, within the first few weeks, I had, um, done my first trip to Poland. And I had used the Uber for the first time and I was like, this is amazing. Now there's no, it solved the problem of going, you know, going to a place where you can't necessarily speak the language and you can't get ripped off anymore on cab fares because everything is [00:13:00] listed out in the app, like, uh, you know, the journey and the cost you're going to pay.

Param Singh MBE: This was brilliant. So I saw that. I saw that. I thought, what a wonderful idea. I went back to the rail business and the rail business have, um, they had a fatality. Um, so someone on the rail, on the rail, uh, network was on, on the tracks. And they had a fatality and I was like, how is it possible that in the modern world, in the time that we're living in, that someone can be on a crack and not know that the train is coming, uh, and, and then have, and basically lose their life?

Param Singh MBE: And yet I can go to a foreign country where I can't speak the language and I can, and I can see and know exactly how long a car, where a car is, and when I'm in the car, like where it's traveling to and where it gets to. And so I propose, you know, if an Uber app can do this, we, I'm sure we can give all engineers that are [00:14:00] working on rail track, on, on rail.

Param Singh MBE: An app that they can use so they can see trains that are coming and within five, within 10 minutes, the app is notifying those individuals to get away from the rail tracks entirely until the train has gone past. And people love the idea. Now, I, I wasn't, I didn't stay around to develop the app and develop the idea, but you can see how ideas from the business world or things that you can in your everyday life.

Param Singh MBE: You can then look at your business or look at the company that you work in and say, well, how can I, how can I make the company better? Or how can I improve things either in your job or in the wider business by transplant? I call it a transplant, like a surgeon. You're transplanting ideas from different industries or different parts of, uh, you know, parts of the world and bringing them into your company where they may not currently exist.

Amardeep Parmar: Awesome. Yeah.  I love that example as well, because as you [00:15:00] said, I think that's where the real difference is made, where some, if somebody's only got one experience, but then it's very hard to be creative, but the creativity comes from having different experiences. Where you can apply a different lens to a problem that maybe other people in the industry haven't seen before yet.

Param Singh MBE: Exactly, exactly. And that's why it can be beneficial if you're a professional to work across different industries. Like I've worked across like 12 different industries and in lots of different types of jobs. And that provides you an opportunity to see lots of different roles, to see different perspectives.

Param Singh MBE: Being an entrepreneur., it's the same thing. You know, you will see lots of different perspectives. You learn lots of different things. You just wouldn't learn. If you're an accountant, um, you may be a good financial modeler, but you, you wouldn't know where to start on, like, doing a, running a Facebook paid ad.

Param Singh MBE: For example, and so the more you can learn being entrepreneurs is a fabulous opportunity because you have, you have to do everything [00:16:00] yourself. And so you have to learn everything to some level. Um, and that makes for a very good professional. You can go back and, you know, definitely increase your salary.

Param Singh MBE: Um, and people will respect you for the ideas that you can bring as an entrepreneur in different businesses that you work in. 

Amardeep Parmar: Hey everyone! We hope you're enjoying this episode so far. A quick note from our sponsors who make this all possible. From first time founders to the funds that back them, innovation needs different.

Amardeep Parmar: HSBC Innovation Banking is proud to accelerate growth for tech and life science businesses, creating meaningful connections and opening up a world of opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors alike. Discover more at Back to the show. 

Amardeep Parmar: And looking at that as well, so you've had many different transitions throughout your career. How does somebody listening right now know when it's the right time for them to become an entrepreneur and an intrepreneur? 

Param Singh MBE: So that's a very good [00:17:00] question. So one of the things that I started from, um, after graduating was property investment. And that's been one of the few things that have has actually made me money because it's an asset based business.

Param Singh MBE: So the asset itself can't devalue, hopefully. And, and normally, even if you do things wrong in property, you, uh, the property value will increase. And so it's like a bad haircut, you know, it, bad haircut may be here today, but your hair will eventually grow. And so the bad haircut will also grow out. And so you, and so eventually you make money.

Param Singh MBE: Um, now in my case, my property portfolio had come to a point where it, where my expenses were equaling my income. So I could leave my job. And although my income would, would, would go down, I would still have a base amount of income that I, that I have from my property portfolio that could then pay for my essential things and give me the time to, you know, that I need to invest [00:18:00] in myself to learn the skills and in the, in the business to build a business.

Param Singh MBE: So everyone has a different risk profile. If you are married and you've got children and you got a mortgage, you need to be on the lower end of risk, you know, you need to make sure that you're, you have enough money and probably enough savings to be able to take you through the business journey that you're looking to take, go through.

Param Singh MBE: If you're a graduate, you can have a much higher risk profile. You haven't got expenses, you haven't got people to look after, you haven't got dependents. And so you can be more aggressive either in your investing career or in your, in the risks you take uh, in terms of starting up businesses. Um, so you have to take that, keep that in mind when you are building a business or, uh, becoming an investor.

Amardeep Parmar: Absolutely. Yeah. So as we've said, you've worked in. 11 different roles at 12 different industries and had multiple different startups. What are you working on that?What are your current projects? 

Param Singh MBE: So, yeah, so as a, um, uh, as a social entrepreneur, [00:19:00] um, was something that we did this year was, uh, we set up the women in technology and business parliamentary series.

Param Singh MBE: Um, that was done as an experiment because you never know what interest you'll have, whether it's a business or whether it's a social project, you don't know what, how, how something is going to be until you put something out there and you see the traction. And we were overwhelmed with the amount of response we had.

Param Singh MBE: You know, we were filling up the seats, like twice as many RSVPs as we could accommodate three times as many RSVPs as we could accommodate and we thought, okay, this is fantastic. We did our first event. Well, this is fantastic. Let's create this as a series. And so next year we are looking to continue that series where we're giving a platform to women.

Param Singh MBE: Women have done remarkable work, uh, in business and technology, either in the startup, either in the startup space or in big businesses. So either of those are valid, you know, valid routes to, uh, showcase and, you know, gain, um, [00:20:00] uh, gain, um, experience and skills. And so we're looking to continue that, uh, next year after the success we've had.

Amardeep Parmar: Awesome. And do you think your own experience with entrepreneurship, for example, has made you more effective even in that aspect as well, right? All grounds to this event. Because you've done what we've done, how has that helped you? Because I think people often like forget like how everything fits together, right?

Param Singh MBE: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. You know, when you are, um, doing lots of different types of, when you're doing lots of different types of work, you can pretty much do anything. Anything you want to put your hand to, you can do it. And, um, this sort of, and you know, this parliamentary series, um, because I've worked in parliament before the, the, the, the political contacts are there.

Param Singh MBE: Um, because of, you know, as an entrepreneur, we, we, you will have, and I will have done lots of event organizing, you know, we've got those skillsets and, um, and of course. As you develop and grow your, um, sort of community of people, [00:21:00] you have the contacts there as well. And I know you've been very, um, helpful with recommending us, uh, speakers as well, and we absolutely really appreciate that.

Amardeep Parmar: Yeah, and  I've been to a few of the events myself, and I think I missed the last one while I was away. But every time it's a great event, great speakers, you obviously do an incredible job there. And I think that's probably where I first met you guys. And it's also an incredible collaboration, right? We have CTCs and Indus City Hindus. And..

Param Singh MBE: Absolutely. Yeah, it's, it's, um, yeah, it's a good opportunity for us to work together as communities to show, um, uh, not just, uh, the platform for women in technology, but also, um, the more subtle things like, you know, communities working together and, you know, for, for the betterment of society. 

Amardeep Parmar: One of the other things that I was thinking myself, right, is that it's really important idea is that, everybody can learn from women.

Amardeep Parmar: It's not about only women can learn from women. Women are great models for us all. And it's one of the things we do in the podcast too, because I really believe that very strongly is that sometimes [00:22:00] women aren't put in that situation where they're shown as leaders and you're doing an incredible job of that.

Amardeep Parmar: And the people you get on and the panelists you have. Amazing stories. We're going to need to be able to do a quick 5 questions now though. So, first one is, who are three British Asians you'd love to spot a lot, who you think are doing incredible work, and people should be paying attention to? 

Param Singh MBE: Yeah, so that is a really good question.

Param Singh MBE: So look, first and foremost, the number one agent that comes to mind is you, you have done great work bringing so many different people giving, creating this wonderful platform of sharing knowledge and wisdom and shining a light on people that probably otherwise would not have a light show on them. 

Param Singh MBE: So Massive. Thanks to you. Um, another couple of people that come to mind who I only met through the parliamentary event series and one of them was introduced by yourself was Ash Arora, who is one of the youngest partners in a VC firm, and [00:23:00] she speaks when, when you hear a talk, a talk about her work. It's fantastic.

Param Singh MBE: And I remember her mentioning that she specifically looks for passion in entrepreneurs. And I, and I realized that's where I was going wrong because I was focusing on money and when, and when they invest, when their firm invests in founders, they look for passion and I didn't, and I realized I didn't have the passion.

Param Singh MBE: I was just trying to do another job that I'd created myself trying to make money. And so that's the second founder, Ash Arora, amazing person. Third person, uh, was a young graduate, uh, from, uh, Imperial College, who was a science major, and she set up a company called Clear. Her name is, um, Ahana Banerjee, and she has a business, uh, in her early 20s that's already worth 15 million.

Param Singh MBE: And I think, you know, it's fantastic to see so many, uh, you know, people coming through the ranks [00:24:00] who are getting, uh, you know, the right advice. They have like good role models, um, through platforms like yourself and who are doing really successful business and, uh, creating, um, a legacy for our future generations.

Amardeep Parmar:So thanks  so much for the shout out for me there. So I really appreciate it. I think we've got a long way to go before. I think there's a lot more work to be done. But Ahana and Ash are amazing. So Ahana's been on the podcast before. Like you said, incredible what she's been able to achieve at such a young age.

Amardeep Parmar: And I think I am meeting Ash next week, actually. So Ash again. 

Param Singh MBE: Really amazing. 

Amardeep Parmar: She's a lovely person. We've also been to dinner with her, like a group dinners with her a few times. And she's got such infectious energy as well and like really knows her stuff. So really big fan of her as well.

Param Singh MBE: Yeah, absolutely.

Param Singh MBE: And, and one other thing about Ash though, I should mention is that she is so humble. She is such a humble person and you just think, wow, you know, all these entrepreneurs that say, um, I can't work for someone because, uh, you know, because my ego is affected because my ego is too [00:25:00] big. Well, well, well, unfortunate news for you is that even when you are an owner business owner, you're going to have to get over your ego.

Param Singh MBE: You need to become a better person. If you want to be successful entrepreneur, uh, you need to be humble because you're going to have to learn a lot of things. You'd really, uh, we only know like a tiny, tiny fraction of what we need to know to be successful. We're going to have to do a lot of learning and that requires a lot of humility.

Amardeep Parmar: Absolutely. So if people want to learn more from you and connect with you, see what you're up to learn maybe about women in tech events as well. Where should they go to? 

Param Singh MBE: Absolutely. Um, you can connect with me on LinkedIn. That's the best channel. And, um, we are going to rerun our next, uh, sort of round two of the, uh, Parliamentary Women in Business and Technology, which of course is open to both men and women.

Param Singh MBE: Um, uh, next year, um, for, uh, International Women's Day will be our first event. 

Amardeep Parmar: Awesome. So.  Is there anything now that the audience listening today could be able to help you with? 

Param Singh MBE: [00:26:00] Yes, absolutely. So we are always looking for speakers, uh, for, uh, either our parliamentary, uh, women in tech and business series or other events that we may have in the future in parliament.

Param Singh MBE: So if you feel like you have a story that is worth sharing, please reach out to us and, um, you know, we'll, uh, you know, we'll try and we'll try and do our best to include you in some events in future. 

Amardeep Parmar: Perfect. So thanks so much for coming on today. Really enjoyed this. Have you got any final words to the audience?

Param Singh MBE: So absolutely, you know, life is short, follow your passion, follow your dreams and put a plan together, ground it in reality and make it happen.

Amardeep Parmar: Hello, hello everyone. Thank you so much for listening. It means a huge amount to us and we don't think you realise how important you are because if you subscribe to our YouTube channel, if you leave us a five star review, it makes a world of difference. And if you believe in what we're trying to do here,

Amardeep Parmar: to inspire, connect and guide the next generation British Asians. If you do [00:27:00] those things, you can help us achieve that mission and you can help us make a bigger impact. And by doing that, it means we can get bigger guests. We can host more events. We can do more for the community. So you can play a huge part.

Amardeep Parmar: So thank you so much for supporting us.