ET-044: A conversation with Ronnie Teja
ET-044: A conversation with Ronnie Teja
with your host Wayne Brown on April 24, 2023
with your host Wayne Brown on April 24, 2023
Episode notes: A conversation with Ronnie Teja
Today we’re visiting Bangkok, Thailand, and doing a little country hopping between India, Canada and Australia to chat with our very international guest, Mr. Ronnie Teja. Today, Ronnie Teja’s considered a serial entrepreneur and a digital marketing expert with over 15 years e-commerce experience.
He completed his bachelor’s in marketing and microfinance from Xavier’s College in Mumbai before moving to London pursue his masters in welfare economics at the prestigious London School of Economics.
Ronnie’s entrepreneurial journey started way back in 2008 when he first dipped his toes into the world of e-commerce.
He quickly realized the potential of this growing industry and decided to start his own online business. Through his experience, Ronnie has learnt what it takes to build a successful business and succeed long term.
Here is an extract from our conversation as we start to get into it…
“…And Oh, 100%. Like, yeah, even the journey that I’ve told you about, you know, just discussing about, hey, you know, I’ve given you the end result, you know, we have the beginning, but the middle is also interesting in terms of experiences, which I’m happy to… I think that’s what’s coming next.
Which is starting a business sounds exciting, right? So here we are starting a business and we’re like, oh, well, you know, like I said, three months in, got sued, got a cease and desist by two competitors, which apparently people love to use in the US……”
With that team ET let’s jump straight into our conversation, which touches on a broad range of business and leadership topics. And the episode is titled, “Living My Core Values of determination, hard work and Perseverance.
Today’s Guest: MR. RONNIE TEJA
Ronnie Teja is currently the owner of various e-commerce websites and the boss of over 75 employees around the world. As we speak, in addition to the online watches, he owns and operates a number of other successful e-commerce businesses, selling a variety of products, from accessories to men’s jewelry to software as a service.
The idea behind starting his watch business was a passion project of his to live remotely in Thailand while working online. And the company now sells to some 66 countries globally with a recent partnership with DFO to go into the global retail business.
Ronnie has been a speaker at a number of large e-commerce events, including Affiliate World in Dubai and Barcelona, e-Commerce world Global, e-Commerce Summit Africa, e-Commerce Fuel Summit Palm Springs, and he was recently honored to be in the top 40, under 40 people to watch an e-commerce by IWC poll in ’21, ’22.
As you’ll hear towards the end of the conversation, he’s just getting started and there’s plenty more on the horizon.
Final words from Ronnie:
“I think we’ve talked about everything. I think it’s just, honestly, like I said, the one thing I would leave this audience with, and a message if people watch this, is, that came to me very, very late in life. And perhaps your wisdom of course, supersedes me in this case, which would be mental health. Which is, we are all, so I’ll give you a real life story, and I’ll bare-bones with you.
Right? I gave up drinking about three years ago, and I gave up drinking because I thought it was a stress, it was a stress release. Stress release in the sense that, I would go work five or six days of the week…
I would go binge drinking, and then I’d come out and then I’d just be depressed and anxious and all that fun stuff that goes with it. To the extent that I was running my businesses and drinking at the same time in a very heavy fascist.
They were both growing exponentially at that rate. So it was turning out to be an addiction. So I’ll be, putting it out there. And what I realized was like, I was in that space because I didn’t have the opportunity to talk to anybody about it. And I wish, not I wish, now that I look back at it, the one experience that I would have for anybody is like, if you feel yourself in that position, I think it’s important to reach out to a counselor if you feel uncomfortable with talking to it with your friends or your parents, but mental health’s important.
And I wish nothing but the best for people who might be going through certain situations like this. So maybe it’s something I would offer as a value add if people were to take anything away from that.”
0:00:04.9 WB: Hello, I’m your host, Wayne Brown, and welcome to the ET Project. We’re delighted to be delivering this podcast for executive talent all over the world, whom we’re affectionately referring to as team ET. Today we’re visiting Bangkok, Thailand, and doing a little country hopping between India, Canada and Australia to chat with our very international guest, Mr. Ronnie Teja. Today, Ronnie Teja’s considered a serial entrepreneur and a digital marketing expert with over 15 years e-commerce experience. He completed his bachelor’s in marketing and microfinance from Xavier’s College in Mumbai before moving to London pursue his masters in welfare economics at the prestigious London School of Economics. Ronnie’s entrepreneurial journey started way back in 2008 when he first dipped his toes into the world of e-commerce.
0:00:52.5 WB: He quickly realized the potential of this growing industry and decided to start his own online business. Through his experience, Ronnie has learnt what it takes to build a successful business and succeed long term. He’s currently the owner of various e-commerce websites and the boss of over 75 employees around the world. As we speak, in addition to the online watches, he owns and operates a number of other successful e-commerce businesses, selling a variety of products, from accessories to men’s jewelry to software as a service. The idea behind starting his watch business was a passion project of his to live remotely in Thailand while working online. And the company now sells to some 66 countries globally with a recent partnership with DFO to go into the global retail business.
0:01:40.2 WB: Ronnie has been a speaker at a number of large e-commerce events, including Affiliate World in Dubai and Barcelona, e-Commerce world Global, e-Commerce Summit Africa, e-Commerce Fuel Summit Palm Springs, and he was recently honored to be in the top 40, under 40 people to watch an e-commerce by IWC poll in ’21, ’22. As you’ll hear towards the end of the conversation, he’s just getting started and there’s plenty more on the horizon. With that team ET let’s jump straight into our conversation, which touches on a broad range of business and leadership topics. And the episode is titled, Living My Core Values of determination, hard work and Perseverance.
0:02:24.2 Speaker 2: Welcome to the ET project, a podcast for those executive talents determined to release their true potential and create an impact. Join our veteran coach and mentor Wayne Brown as we unpack an exciting future together.
0:02:37.8 WB: Alright, welcome again, team ET welcome to another week. It’s a fantastic week sitting here looking at the wet weather out the window. But, we have a great guest on, as usual, never different each week, but this time really interesting background to our guest, and I am really excited to unpack some of, Ronnie’s story. So, Ronnie Teja, welcome to the ET project. Great to have you on here, and I look forward to our conversation.
0:03:09.4 RT: Absolutely. Pleasure’s all mine, Wayne. I really look forward to getting this on with you, buddy.
0:03:14.0 WB: Look it’s been a while coming and I apologize for that. You come from one of my favorite countries in India, is your heritage, at least maybe not in the last…
0:03:23.1 RT: Yes.
0:03:23.2 WB: Half of your life.
0:03:24.8 WB: Maybe that’s a good starting point. Where in India do you hail from? And maybe you can give us a little intro of who you are.
0:03:31.8 RT: Yeah. Sure. My name is Ronnie Teja, I was born and raised in India. So I moved to Canada, I guess when I was an adult, so 22. Born in a place called Jallandhar, which is up north. So about two hours from Amritsar, where the Golden Temple is. But my dad was in the Army, so essentially we had a… We moved all over India, we lived in Mumbai, lived in Pune, lived in Kharghar, quite the nomad life, so still living the nomad life up in Thailand. So I’m in, primarily I would say I’m still Indian. I do sound pretty Indian. I think [laughter] I don’t think so. But in my head. I don’t sound like it too much. But by definition of my passport I’m Canadian because you can’t have two passports in India. So I guess the term is Indo-Canadian, in this…
0:04:15.7 WB: Indo-Canadian. Yeah. And even though you’re Indo-Canadian, you’re living in Bangkok, so.
0:04:21.2 RT: Yeah. Yeah.
0:04:22.5 WB: And We’ll unpack that further as we get into the conversation.
0:04:25.4 RT: Yeah, yeah. To make it even more complicated for people on out here.
0:04:29.4 WB: And just to throw another city in the mix closer to my own home heritage. You also spent time in Melbourne, I believe.
0:04:37.5 RT: Yeah, all of last year, every two weeks I was in Melbourne, between Bangkok and Melbourne. So there we go.
0:04:42.5 WB: Fantastic. So we’re really on the global tour at the moment. And before we hit the…
0:04:47.7 RT: Yeah, welcome.
0:04:48.5 WB: Before we hit the record button, you were just telling me you’re heading up to Europe shortly, for a couple of events and, I’m very envious. I spent a lot of my career up in Germany, and so I like that area immensely, so. [laughter] good luck. I wish…
0:05:04.2 RT: Well, I’ll come with you…
0:05:04.8 WB: I wish, I could fit in the suitcase and come with you.
0:05:07.1 RT: Yeah, [chuckle] for sure. Any day, man. Come on down.
0:05:10.1 WB: Tell us a little bit about your background. I know you did the BA in marketing and I think it was microfinance in Mumbai?
0:05:19.2 RT: Correct.
0:05:20.1 WB: Yeah?
0:05:20.3 RT: Yeah. So I went to the university, Mumbai, I did my bachelor’s, in microfinance and economics. And then marketing was my elective. To give you a brief background, it’s like, so like I mentioned, my dad was in the Army. So in India we were… I won’t say we were very well to do, but were well to do enough in a sense. We were middle class or upper middle class I guess. Got a scholarship to go to LSE to study Wealth economics. So very, very niche town subject. So it was sort of a different mindset back then, I was very idealistic. And I was like, oh my God, I’m gonna change the world. I’m gonna work for the World Bank or World Economic Development Fund or some thing like that. And I said, okay this is what we’re gonna do. And about through to the end of my masters, I got a call from my mom and she said look, we got the golden ticket, the winning, it’s a winning ticket, it’s a lottery ticket, it’s a golden… You’ll be getting the immigration call to Canada. And I said, well what about my life? I just set up here in London. She said, nope we’re moving, there we go. Done. So we go from London all the way to the other end of the world, which is essentially what you would call the corner of the world, which is, Vancouver BC, London and Vancouver and interestingly enough, they didn’t have any jobs in policy and they’re like, well, What are we gonna do?
0:06:30.5 RT: Support you in like wealth economics in a city which is in a part of the world that is quite economically developed. And they’re like, what sort of work would you be able to do here? ‘Cause most of the jobs in my sector, if I were to come here in that same sector, would be in Ottawa working with Canada Aid or, USAID or something else like that, which is in Washington DC. So, low and behold, landed next day I had a job. My job was basically going to pick blueberries because we’re a family of four living in somebody’s basement. And the men in the family had to work because we had to make rent. There’s no other way. It’s we went from a, let’s say, like a, I would say a very comfortable lifestyle to a very uncomfortable lifestyle, at least when I think about it.
0:07:10.9 RT: But what I don’t think about as I’m speaking to you, and I’ve thought about it a few times, is like, if I thought I was being uncomfortable, imagine how my parents would’ve felt. I mean, at the age of 45, 46, you’re changing your life for your kids.
0:07:23.7 Speaker 1: Absolutely.
0:07:24.3 RT: It’s like you’ve literally changed, you’ve turned the world on its head and you’re going through all these, like, you’re making all these sacrifices. But the kids never realized it. And a kid like me was basically like I don’t know what the politically direct word is. We were bitching about life, being like, Hey, this isn’t life. I don’t like this place. I don’t know what I’m gonna get there. So now when I speak to you, I realize, I’m like, wow, these guys went through so much and so late in their lives to give us a better life. So I could speak to you sitting on a beach in Thailand, which is, which I’m forever grateful for.
0:07:54.5 WB: The decision to move to Thailand had some family objection to it. So, we’ll come back to that because I think that’s also an interesting extension to what you’re talking about. So, before moving to Vancouver, you were in London, you were just settling there, and I think you went to London School of Economics was…
0:08:15.4 RT: Yes, sir. I did. Yeah. The LSE. Yeah.
0:08:18.5 WB: Yeah. As you said, economics, finance, marketing, you were gonna save the world. Had that not changed, where do you think the trajectory would’ve taken you?
0:08:30.2 RT: Yeah, the trajectory would’ve been a desk jockey. I would’ve been sitting in, I would’ve probably been working in development, probably working a 9:00 to 5:00 job, not 9:00 to 5:00, but like in very remote parts of the world. So it could have been, I would’ve been working in Denmark or could I been working in Sudan. The interesting part is this. My sister has taken the mantle from me because she works for Doctors without borders. And she’s in, or, certain parts of the world where there is a development work needed. However, I went the other side. And, a part of the reason I believe that might have been it is because economically and financially, when you are put in, you’re thrust into certain situations, you realize you don’t want that cycle to repeat. So for me, it became extremely important to have enough money or to make, generate enough money for me to take care of those around me no matter what.
0:09:17.9 WB: Right. And what was the ideal outcome from your parents’ perspective when you…
0:09:24.7 RT: That’s a very interesting question. Wayne. My father is not a risk taker. My father has been in the army, he’s been in the same job for 30, 35 years. So he wanted me preferably to go work in a bank. And my first job, like was in digital marketing, was at HSBC. Which was basically like, he’s like, you know what? Get on a pension 9:00 to 5:00, you’ll be fine. Go to the office every day and just continue on that road. And what else my mother is, I’m my mother’s son, which is essentially like, she would essentially encourage me to do things that are out of the box. And she would, and, I never did conventional things anyway. I was a naughty kid. So she said, look, if you do want to take chances, do take chances.
0:10:02.3 RT: When I started my business, I think my mom was more encouraging, but I’ll tell you what the interesting part is, after three months, both of them were on board, but they were like, this guy’s gone crazy. I think that he sees some potential in this. Maybe we’ll just follow him along the way. And, three months in, I think somebody sent me, somebody sent me a cease and desist letter for something that had happened online. And when you’re starting out when you’re 20 late in your late 20s, you’re like, wow, what do I do with a cease and desist? I’m so scared. You think you’re get, you’re getting sued for the first time. And my dad’s like, yeah. They’re like, don’t worry about it. People do this crap anyway. So I was like, okay, well that’s interesting, right? So maybe they don’t know about business, but they know a lot about life. And to have that sort of comfort of somebody backing you up is really important. That support, I think, goes a long way.
0:10:47.8 WB: Absolutely. How much do you think that’s influenced your risk taking now, given that you now know that they’re behind you and they’re sort of in your corner?
0:10:58.0 RT: Yeah. Look at any time of day. I have to take calculated risks. I think when I started the, tolerance for risk was much higher. It was basically like, you can take swings, right? You’ll be up 60%, you’ll be down a 100%, you’ll be up 90%, you’ll be not down 30%. So the swings were pretty important. It’s kinda like my business, my business is was started on, if I may share, was started on a book that I read a magazine. It literally said the 70% of margin to be made in Quartz Watches. And I was like, wow, that sounds good, but I don’t know nothing about watches. So what do I do know about watches? I flew from Vancouver to Hong Kong, which is about $500, and basically ran the numbers, which just is I called my friend.
0:11:40.7 RT: I said, Hey, I’m coming to stay with you, stay it was for a week, stayed a month. And I said every day we went to Wan Chai hit up every major watch manufacturer till they got so tired of me. And like, so they’re like, why are you just kicking tires on our doors till some guy said, look, you don’t know how watches are made. Come with me, I’ll show you how watches are made. And they took me to Shenzhen to his factory for a week, which ended up being one month. Again as you see you don’t invite me to your house, I’ll overstay my welcome. I think I’m doing that in Shenzhen. And then I had the goal at the end of the day to convince this person, and be like, look, I think this is where money is moving in online marketings, can you fund my first run? I only have very limited amount capital and I’m gonna put most of it into ads, so I need you to, do something for me here. And he is like, man, this is too much. Anyway, long story short, he basically said, I’ll cover you up to like…
0:12:32.6 RT: If you just put a 30% deposit, the 70% I’ll cover, and I’ll give you very lenient payment terms for 120 days, which in China is unheard of. So he was very kind to me from that perspective. And that’s how I got started, right on a whim, looking back, I would say I have been lucky to have good people in my life because if it weren’t for the generosity and the ability to take chance on me or to open the doors to me, I don’t think so. I wouldn’t of made any of this. I think I would’ve gone to China, stayed a week, and then failed and just gone, tail between my legs, gone back to Vancouver. I think the other catalyst at this point of juncture was I think of… And it’s true in this day and age, which is essentially somebody came to me and applied for this big job at one juncture, which was at this company called MEC in Vancouver.
0:13:21.3 RT: And MEC is basically like the, it’s the outdoor enthusiast sporting store in Vancouver. And I remember them asking for feedback and I said, Hey, I didn’t get the job. Can you tell me why I didn’t get the job? And the feedback was, you’re a flight risk. And I’m like, what? What do you mean I’m a flight risk? And the person goes, well, you change your jobs every two years. But I’m like, everybody in the industry, in digital marketing changes, to level up you need to change job every couple of years. Or the other way of looking at it is maybe you’re not giving me something interesting enough to keep me busy or my mind busy. But that’s a very cool way of looking at things, don’t even you look like where they’re saying, look, we think you might leave the job after a couple of years, you’re not of no good years to us.
0:14:02.8 WB: Let’s fill a couple of gaps here because we’ve gone very quickly to where you are today but.
0:14:08.9 RT: My apologies. I do like to bounce on a bit.
0:14:09.8 WB: No, no. That’s fantastic. You mentioned your first morning or your shortly after you arrived in Vancouver, you’re out up picking blueberries. How did you transition from blueberries to digital marketing?
0:14:26.3 RT: Yeah, you are right. We did skip a few things there. I meant, Look and I’m giving these guys a good story, but they don’t know the backstory. The backstory is more important. So for those who are listening and all those who are watching the road to Rome is not dowed with paths, pots of gold. It’s definitely not happened. I landed on the 14th of May. I remember clear as day because I can literally tell you the date that on the 15th I had barely gotten over any jet lag. And mom said, look, you’ve got a job. I’m like, what’s my job? She’s like, you’re going into the fields to pick blueberries. I was like, what the hell? I’ve never done any manual labor in my life, that’s who I was.
0:15:03.8 RT: I didn’t even wash dishes like kids do in the west or you, like I said, we were privileged in the sense we had certain, a level of comfort or garden or done any of that stuff. She’s like, yep, you’re gonna go pick blueberries. And I was like, what, what is this? So anyway, I said, let’s, must be this thing my mom has arranged blueberry picking tour, going went down. So it’s a Cuban that comes and picks you up. So it’s like you going, they show you in the movie. There’s like some a bunch of convicts and in this Cuban, except the convicts are basically blueberry pickers like myself. And I was the youngest guy there. I think I was 22 and everybody else is over 60, who are basically parents of Indian immigrants, right?
0:15:43.1 RT: ‘Cause they wanna make their own livings so anyway. Long story short, funny thing is I’m, turns out I’m not a good blueberry picker. [chuckle] I definitely hadn’t done it. So somebody had to teach me how to do it. This old lady. I’d say the next couple of weeks after that, I remember I used to stand there, wake up every morning, go to this field and I used to cry ’cause it’s a pretty, it’s an ego-shattering experience. It’s a really ego-shattering experience because you have that energy when you come out of school and you’re like, yeah, I’m gonna take over the world. Yeah, I can do this. It’s kind of like life gives you a different answer for what your plans were. So it definitely is very humbling now that I think back to it.
0:16:19.9 RT: But it’s also like it grounded me a little bit. It grounded my ego. And so for that, I’m thankful for that experience. If you guys wanna know how much you make picking blueberries for about 10 hours a day. It’s 50 Canadian dollars, which was pretty good. I didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, didn’t do anything. So definitely was good sort of contribution to the household income. And then through that I sort of got a second job selling radio, door-to-door radio which is quite interesting because I always had a flair for advertising, but I didn’t really know much about sales. But if you ever wanna work in as an entrepreneur or in any job, it’s very important to learn door-to-door sales. And I think if you ever wanna become an entrepreneur, you need to learn how to do door-to-door sales in ethnic communities.
0:17:04.3 RT: So be it Indians or Chinese specifically ’cause we are notoriously cheap. I used to take the public transit. I used to take public transit to go to the Indian part of town. So there’s about two different areas where I would go. And then I would basically start in the morning at 8:00 AM from one end of the road and basically cover the whole… There used to be three strip malls. So basically we would cover each strip mall and knock on every door. And the thing is you do it the Indian way, which is kind of interesting. You don’t ask for things directly like we do in the west, which is like, Hey, how much, what’s it worth? What is the value? Let’s do it. In the Indian way, it’s like, oh, don’t wanna say no, don’t wanna say yes. It’s kinda lead on. And there’s a lot of culture and nuances to it, which is kind weird, right? ‘Cause it’s like people can just say no, but people don’t wanna say no ’cause it sounds kinda rude. So I used to go and chase these this whole round and in two parts of Vancouver, I guess three days a week on each side. And it was interesting this thing. But you brought up some memories.
0:18:01.3 WB: So you were doing both these jobs together, I guess, right? To some extent.
0:18:04.8 RT: Yes, that was…
0:18:04.8 WB: You were starting early with the blueberries and then carrying on with the door-to-door.
0:18:09.8 RT: Seven days a week.
0:18:11.3 WB: Seven days a week. I read somewhere about you hold three values very dear to yourself. And I think that story kind of feeds into that determination, the hard work and persistence, if I remember correctly.
0:18:27.0 RT: Yes.
0:18:27.0 WB: So yeah, I think that story really epitomizes those values and is probably what’s driven you pretty much your life, I guess.
0:18:36.7 RT: I would… I appreciate you saying that, Wayne and thank you for that. I think that had it not been for this life or these experiences, I don’t know what my values would have been. You know, a land of abundance wouldn’t have given me these values. But persistence is interesting. Persistence, I guess, came from the experiences of doing these door-to-door radio sales or becoming an entrepreneur or whatever. I think your experiences mold you as a person, right? So I think that I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I don’t think so I would, because I think these three things are the cornerstone of my existence. I do get into trouble because of it, because people are like, why do you chase these things so much? Why are you so deep into this whole, why don’t you make time for X, Y, Z? But I’m like, I get up at 6:00 AM Or whatever time I get up with a bounce in my step, and I’m excited. I’m excited to go build something.
0:19:31.8 WB: So let’s move now from the blueberries. Did they stain… I’m curious, did they stain your hands, by the way?
0:19:42.2 RT: Oh, they did, man. You know what, I couldn’t eat blueberries for about three or four years after. I was just so done. I was like, I couldn’t do it. Now I can, but I can only eat them frozen. So I can’t have them like a blueberry cheesecake, not my thing. Frozen blueberries, definitely my thing.
0:19:55.9 WB: Very interesting what happens to the psyche.
0:20:00.2 RT: It’s weird. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
0:20:01.6 WB: Very interesting.
0:20:02.5 RT: Fresh blueberries, not my thing. It’s like frozen grapes. You know, they serve you at Japanese restaurants, definitely my thing.
0:20:09.6 WB: How did you move from this stream of business into the digital e-commerce?
0:20:18.0 RT: So I’m a self-taught digital marketer, right? I said, look, everybody’s got get-rich-quick schemes, not going to lie. I had my get-rich-quick scheme too. I’m like, look, everybody around me is doing affiliate marketing. We need to figure out how the hell this thing works. So I started reading up on Google, you know, how to do PPC ads and how to do SEO and stuff. SEO for me came quite late in life because I had a good group of people around me teach me it. For Google Ads, it was quite easy. You just read the Google blog. They had a lot of training tools, tips and tricks, YouTube videos. YouTube was becoming a thing because I remember YouTube got acquired by Google in 2006. And at that point in time, for a princely sum of $1 billion, and people were like, holy hell, this is crazy. So that’s how I taught myself online marketing. I was like, I’m going to teach myself this skill set, and I’m going to go work for a big brand. And that brand turned out to be HSBC because they were like, we don’t know what this digital marketing thing is. The dot-com bubble just went bust about five or six years ago.
0:21:13.3 RT: So to please the powers that be, we’ll hire somebody in Canada. And that somebody turned out to be this guy because he was happy to take any package that was given to him. That was, I mean, I don’t know what market rate in 2010 was, but I think my starting salary was $40,000, $45,000, which was fair. I’ll take it. It was a good experience. I learned how to do media buying, et cetera, et cetera. But then after about a few months, I was like, this isn’t really what I signed up for. And the reason why I didn’t sign up for this was because it would take about six to eight months to deploy one digital campaign. And I was like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. This isn’t what digital marketing is supposed to be because you’re supposed to look at, in the morning, there’s news that comes out.
0:22:00.0 RT: By the afternoon, you’re supposed to traffic out campaigns. And that’s how this, like you move at the speed of light. And I was like, and of course, there’s eight levels of approval. And then there’s a few bruised egos along the way. And I was like, I don’t think so. This is for me, man. I’m good. Thanks. And there was a value mismatch from my perspective. Right? So I don’t know what the right way to say it would be. It’s like, you know, I appreciate that what you guys do, but this is, this is the job my dad would have wanted me to work in.
0:22:22.8 RT: Right? For example, he said, you stay here 25 years, you’ll be set for life, man, with pension, moving up the chain, all that stuff. But I was like, this ain’t my thing. So, later I joined Best Buy. And Best Buy, to its credit, to this day, I’ll mention on any podcast or anything else, and I’ll say to their face, it’s the best way to sink your teeth into learning digital marketing. Right? My first foray into retail, I used to get to the office at 7:00 AM or 8:00 AM There’d be three campaigns on my desk. They’re like, we need these out by 12 o’clock. Then there would be another campaign set that came out at 3 o’clock. And they’re like, we need this out by 8:00 PM I’d be like, holy shit, this is great. Give me all the work you can. And I’m like, and I’m feeding off of it. Like, some people love the pressure. I love the boiler room atmosphere. I’m like, put it on me. Give me all you can. I’ll keep, I’ll keep spitting it out. Right? And it was like a good five-day gig, you know, 12 hours a day. And, you know, after two years, you’ve amassed about 5000 to 6000 hours under your belt. And that gives you some confidence. Hey, I can do something about it. So that’s how it actually worked out. Yeah.
0:23:22.9 WB: And it sounds like I’ve heard you described as a serial entrepreneur. And it sounds very much the case, listening to you talking about the speed of operation, the willingness to try new things, to take risks, to really make things happen. So I think it’s probably an apt description that I’ve heard. So, yeah.
0:23:51.6 RT: Wayne, you give me too much credit.
0:23:54.8 WB: Well, I mean, you’ve got the success under your belt now. And I’m sure it wasn’t always easy to get there. But, you know, you’ve become very successful with what you do. And the learning along the way is how we do it best, I believe.
0:24:06.9 RT: Oh, 100%. Like, yeah, even the journey that I’ve told you about, you know, just discussing about, hey, you know, I’ve given you the end result, you know, we have the beginning, but the middle is also interesting in terms of experiences, which I’m happy to… I think that’s what’s coming next.
0:24:19.9 WB: Sure. Sure.
0:24:22.0 RT: Which is starting a business sounds exciting, right? So here we are starting a business and we’re like, oh, well, you know, like I said, three months in, got sued, got a cease and desist by two competitors, which apparently people love to use in the US. I mean, US is a litigious country. They love throwing you letters of Legal warfare and hopes of you spending a lot more money than them. I wasn’t the sole employee. The first country I started in was Australia, believe it or not. And because the conversion rates in Australia were much higher than the US or Canada. I don’t know how the story would’ve played out if it wasn’t for Australia’s. It’s a near and dear place in heart. I was a sole employee of the company for the first three months. So I’m going back to the days that I had in 2008, 2009, which is basically, I used to wake up at, I think 4:00 AM PST, which used to be morning hours or the afternoon. And I would work, start working on that clock, have a two hour break of nap in the afternoon, and then I would start tracking out campaigns in the afternoon and then again, go for whatever exercise, little, the half an hour that I had and then start working again. So I was customer service. My customer service name was John Smith. And so I used to basically be out with some friends at a bar and people would call and be like, hello, this is John Smith. And my friends are like, who the hell is John, man? It’s like.
0:25:41.7 RT: And they’re like, what’s going on? They’re like, You sound Indian as hell. They know you’re not John. You know that, right? You’re not goddamn John. I’m like, excuse me, I’m John. Anyway, so yeah. So I think about a couple of months into that, I burnt out, man, I was really burnt out. I was like, I can’t get myself out of bed or anything else. And then a friend of mine who’s worth mentioning, right? Again it’s a resource of somebody who was generous in my life and said, look, have you thought about hiring remotely? ‘Cause he ran a company at that point in time and still does, which is a lot bigger than mine. And I said, Hey, how does this work? And through his experiences, well, he’s done the whole Tim Ferriss for a week, but well work week by then. And he is like, look, this is how you go about it, this is what you do. And he says, I have a couple of employees to refer you too. So essentially I didn’t know much about management, got trust into management, and I said, okay, well let’s have a go at this. And then somehow first employees worked out. And then from there we grew. Today we are 75. Lots of highest fires, mistakes, management mistakes, leadership mistakes, everything along the way. I mean, it’s a roller coaster journey and it’s fun. There are the times that I’m stressed and there’s times that I’m frustrated. But there are times like this one, I’m extremely happy to have the… Share these lessons with you.
0:26:54.7 WB: So what is the biggest takeaway in that regard? If you had your time over, what would you avoid doing or do different?
0:27:00.8 RT: Ah, interesting. Highest, low fire first, number one. Number two is sometimes you’re scared to have a hard conversation with the employees. I think for me, it was when I had to have this conversation with my COO back then we lived in Vancouver. Super nice guy, but probably not like very process oriented. But their direction in life was extremely different from the direction I wanted to take my company. Essentially that he wanted to have a family, settle down, which is great, right? He just wanted to get a… Work in Canada. He was happy doing 9:00 to 5:00. While I needed somebody who was all hands on board, walking with me step by step, wanted to grow the company. And I said, so that call that I’m making and I remember was probably… And you might think I’m not a good person for this because I called him maybe three weeks or four weeks after he had twin. And I said, Hey, this is where we are at. This is what’s happening. And I said, look, this is, it’s really hard for me to do because we’ve written on the screen for the last three or four years, but this is where we’re at. I said, in you, what we’ll do is we’ll cover your next six months salary. Because I understand this is on me and I don’t want you to feel pressured financially. But it was a hard call to make.
0:28:11.7 WB: Yeah.
0:28:12.6 RT: ‘Cause I used to trust the man. We’ve been friends, we’ve had all these discussions together, we’ve been drinking together, beers together, all that stuff. So it’s hard. But to have those conversations, if I had any, I was scared. But if I had any guts and if I wanted to ride by this person, I would’ve had the conversation six months before putting a management team in place. Delegation too many times we focus on taking control as entrepreneurs. We’re like, yeah, this is mine. I don’t wanna give this to anybody else. But again, goes back to the ballroom atmosphere, right? It’s like, what kind ballroom atmosphere do you want? Do you wanna be working on the nuts and bolts, or do you wanna be working in a high pressure chamber? I prefer working in the high pressure chamber today. So, choose your battles, right?
0:28:51.6 WB: Yeah. I’m really curious, you’ve got so much hands on experience and exposure now to starting businesses, running companies. How well did university education prepare you for that?
0:29:08.0 Speaker 3: Zero. I’d like to say a lot. I’d like to say a lot but the answer is zero. It’s like, ask, I’m sure like with the guests that have been on your podcast before, I’d like to hear from them too. How many of them have said, let’s say 10 is the number, how many of them have said university education help them get there?
0:29:24.0 WB: I’m just thinking myself now. We have a colleague who is from a little bit further south than where you originated from. He’s very much into the education, but I think he would also agree with you that it’s what you make of it and how you use it in the application. I think if you just take the theory, it doesn’t serve you so well. You have to be able to modify it in the real sense and make it something that’s useful.
0:29:53.7 RT: Well, when you said it is a little bit south of me, South Indians are usually smart. South Indian are usually the smartest people in India. So I mean we have to carry this with it. All the IT CEOs that we see, Google and like Microsoft, they’re from South India. They’re not from North India. North Indians are farmers, Man. Those guys were the smart lot. Even my school like the people who topped the university or the high school charts were all South Indians. None of the North Indians were there.
0:30:22.5 WB: There’s outliers in every category. So you must be one of the outliers, Ronnie.
0:30:29.8 RT: For sure.
0:30:31.0 WB: We’re now thick in the digital e-commerce. And if I look at where you are today with your watch business, it’s not the only business that you’re operating, if I understand correctly. And you have your finger in many pies.
0:30:45.7 RT: Yeah, look. We run a portfolio for about 15 different websites. So imagine like it’s, we’re in the software business, we’re in the SaaS business. We’re in the watch business. So slowly and surely what’s happened is along the way we said, look, we gotta upscale. And we found different niches that we thought we did extremely well, and we were able to scale. 2021 was… COVID was really good for us. I call it the bonus check payment that we never expected, but it happened. Of course, there’s a lot of mental trauma that also came with it. But on the bright side, money in the bank doesn’t hurt.
0:31:19.3 RT: Yeah. I would say that the way it’s worked out for us long term is that we found certain niches where we would do extremely well. And we said look, if we can take this business model, we can center all operations, so imagine a big firm operating things, marketing can be centered, operations can be centered, customer service can be centered, and you can, and finance can be centered and dev of course, right? So we found the collaboration of teams between all these companies and we said, we’ll put a manager in charge of each of these niches, of these businesses. And then we just run it from there. And depending on the profitability of the business, we are able to prioritize what goes where. And this is how we run our companies today. Yeah. So of course, if this side makes the most amount of money or whatever, and the beauty of having a 24/7 team is, these things can all work in your favour.
0:32:10.1 WB: Yeah, for sure. So it’s very much about your ability, as you look at how your company is structured and the businesses are structured, it’s very much about being able to scale through a core. So you have a central core that you can then build off and leverage from, I guess, is that how you would describe it?
0:32:28.8 RT: Correct. Yeah. And the core is the most important part, right? The core is essentially what is gonna drive the business at the end of the day. It’s like we have this… I won’t say we have, say alpha talent, right?
0:32:42.4 WB: Yeah.
0:32:42.6 RT: We have… And you’ll hear this from an entrepreneur for the first, I don’t know how many people have admitted to it, but it’s like, I don’t have the A plus players, I don’t have the A plus, but what I do have is the A minus and the B plus players, right? People who are trainable, people who fit into our business model, and people who basically are like, look we see what’s coming down the road, we can forecast it and this is the way we can work around it. They’re good at seeing around the corners. If you have that, it’s a very cool ability. If you have the ability to look around the corners, I don’t care if you’re an A plus player, that doesn’t work on my books, but most people in our company have that innate ability to look around the corners. And if you can, you’re welcome to the company. And that I think is more important. ‘Cause that ability, you can’t teach, you can’t teach that ability.
0:33:30.8 WB: Where to from here?
0:33:32.6 WB: You’re very successful with what you’re doing, but I sense that this is just the start of the journey not the end of the journey.
0:33:39.5 RT: Oh, sure. No, no, not at all, man. I’m actually starting a new venture in the cigar business, which is pretty exciting, pretty interesting. Of course a massive re-export business, which comes with its own set of headaches in terms of laws, bonded warehouses, all this other stuff. So I’m in the midst of it. Spend the last two months actually looking into it massively, finding supply deals as we speak, getting three PLs as we are going, part of the trip to Europe includes a stopover in a couple of fancy places, and hopefully with some cigar distributors. And that’s it, man. It’s like, money, fun and and work. But for me, is it wrong for me to say that my life is more fun when there’s work in it?
0:34:18.6 WB: It’s what you…
0:34:19.4 RT: It sounds weird, I know.
0:34:20.5 WB: It’s what you make of it, I think.
0:34:22.4 RT: Yeah. I know man. It’s like, that’s what I said, 6:00 o’clock. Happy to wake up. Let’s go work.
0:34:26.5 WB: What haven’t we talked about that’s important?
0:34:29.0 RT: Not that, nothing, man. I think we’ve talked about everything. I think it’s just, honestly, like I said, the one thing I would leave this audience with, and a message if people watch this, is, that came to me very, very late in life. And perhaps your wisdom of course, supersedes me in this case, which would be mental health. Which is, we are all, so I’ll give you a real life story, and I’ll bare-bones with you. Right? I gave up drinking about three years ago, and I gave up drinking because I thought it was a stress, it was a stress release. Stress release in the sense that, I would go work five or six days of the week…
0:35:10.7 RT: I would go binge drinking, and then I’d come out and then I’d just be depressed and anxious and all that fun stuff that goes with it. To the extent that I was running my businesses and drinking at the same time in a very heavy fascist. They were both growing exponentially at that rate. So it was turning out to be an addiction. So I’ll be, putting it out there. And what I realized was like, I was in that space because I didn’t have the opportunity to talk to anybody about it. And I wish, not I wish, now that I look back at it, the one experience that I would have for anybody is like, if you feel yourself in that position, I think it’s important to reach out to a counselor if you feel uncomfortable with talking to it with your friends or your parents, but mental health’s important. And I wish nothing but the best for people who might be going through certain situations like this. So maybe it’s something I would offer as a value add if people were to take anything away from that.
0:36:02.4 WB: Yeah. And it’s very topical, right at the moment of course, in many countries the focus on wellbeing, mental health is really, I think in Australia as an example, they’ve just released a whole series of legislation for companies to be heavily penalized if they don’t take it seriously and start to look at the wellbeing of their employees. Sure. Sure.
0:36:23.1 RT: Yeah. Look, I came out on the successful side, right? There’s a lot of people who haven’t. I used to be about 35 kilos heavier, that’s the good part that came out of not drinking anymore.
0:36:33.8 WB: I saw a picture of you online somewhere and I thought, I’m not really sure if it’s you, the face looks like you, but the body doesn’t match.
0:36:41.4 RT: No, it’s definitely… [laughter] No. No, no, the curtain don’t match the drapes, man. [laughter] Still has hair, you know.
0:36:49.3 WB: If we go full circle back to your parents at the moment, so your parents, both alive, both well? I’m just saying…
0:36:55.9 RT: Yeah, alive and happy, living in Vancouver…
0:36:58.6 WB: In Vancouver.
0:37:00.6 RT: They’re happy Married, yeah. My dad’s very codependent on my mom who’s in London right now visiting family. And he calls me twice a day, he’s like, so man, what’s going on? I was like, dad, you need to get a life. Yeah.
0:37:11.8 WB: But I can imagine they’re proud parents of both you and your sister?
0:37:15.6 RT: Yeah.
0:37:16.8 WB: They feel vindicated I guess, for the decision to move to Vancouver, I would imagine.
0:37:22.6 RT: 100%. And forever and ever situation like these are avenues where I get to thank them. And I do feel grateful that they’ve given me this option of living an amazing life. We’ve been working remotely for 10 years, before remote work was a thing. So that freedom is extremely important. And that’s what I’m most grateful for.
0:37:48.7 WB: The one thing that just dawned on me, we haven’t mentioned is your watch brand. So what’s the name of your company?
0:37:55.4 RT: It’s called Branzio. Branzio.com.
0:37:58.0 WB: Branzio.com. So where do people go to find you and connect with you and…
0:38:02.4 RT: Oh, yeah…
0:38:02.9 WB: Buy all of your watches and…
0:38:04.3 RT: Go to my website branzio.com you’ll find my brand. If you go to ronnieteja.co you can find my personal website. It’s got a bunch of resources. If you want any downloads for SEO blueprint and a bunch of other stuff, happy to help out. And if there’s anything you need, you should drop me a DM on LinkedIn Ronnie Teja, and then I’m happy to help you out in any way, shape or form. Or if you’re going through something man, it’s like, yeah, you never know. So if you feel like you’re going through something, just reach out, no problems.
0:38:31.6 WB: And I would venture to say, if you’re looking for a good cigar in the near future, you could be the right person to talk to. [chuckle]
0:38:39.6 RT: Oh, yeah, 100%. If you’re ever around Bangkok or if you need a good cigar, do drop in and say, hey man, I wanna smoke a cigar. Ask for it any goddamned day.
0:38:47.0 WB: Ronnie, it’s been a great conversation. I really enjoyed and I’m sure the listeners are gonna enjoy it very much. I hope people reach out to you and make some connections and, you never know what’s around the corner, right?
0:38:57.8 RT: Yes sir…
0:38:58.8 RT: I appreciate you.
0:39:00.7 WB: Thanks for being on the ET project.
0:39:02.7 RT: Thank you, sir. I appreciate you so much.
0:39:06.2 Speaker 2: Thank you for joining us on the ET project, a show for executive talent development. Until next time, check out our site for free videos, ebooks, webinars and blogs at coaching4companies.com.