Jai Thampi, Founder & CEO, Artha Strategies
What separates a good leader from a great one? The answer is simple: effective leaders add value. A manager is paid to take decisions and count value, but a leader should create value and enrich people’s lives – be it their employees or customers or the society at large. Being a firm believer in this notion, Jai Thampi, Founder and CEO of Artha Strategies is dedicated to creating value by helping peer CXOs envision digital roadmaps and accelerate sustainable corporate innovation. Jai commenced his career in the corporate world and helmed many global and regional leadership roles at renowned multinationals for over 25 years. He also worked as a Senior Vice President of Strategy and Innovation at one of Schneider’s global divisions. From software development to sales, marketing, general management, strategy, innovation, and digital transformation, he worked with several industries and gained diverse experience which further shaped him to become the pioneering business leader he is today.
Jai always had a keen interest in new technologies, and business transformation leveraging digital innovations. When he joined Cisco 15 years ago, broadband internet penetration was rapidly accelerating in emerging markets. In a few years, he saw many of his peers in other industries struggling to juggle digital transformation and emerging market growth. Meanwhile, Singapore was becoming an epicenter of innovation and technology startups. This made him realize that a massive potential opportunity is waiting to unfold. Thus, he decided to establish Artha Strategies, his own consulting startup, targeting senior executives in the region.
Addressing a Strategic Gap in the C-Suite
The ideation of Artha Strategies took shape when Jai sensed a strategic gap in the C-suite across industries. Over the years, he observed that many multinational CXOs embarking on their digitalization and sustainability journeys often find themselves struggling to establish an executable roadmap, and embed a digital mindset in their company’s DNA. “Digital transformation is not easy, and during my corporate life, there were many ‘gurus’ promising us the moon without practical execution experience. Engaging these ‘experts’ often only led to massive IT projects or digital marketing investments, but no capability building, no culture change, nor any business model innovations,” elucidates Jai.
So, he developed a practical 3-step approach — the 3E Framework: Enlighten-Envision-Execute for digital transformation which he further refined with real-life experience over the years. Keeping this approach as a core value proposition of Artha, he decided to help senior executives who want real and lasting business transformation. In the early years, he did mostly pro-bono work with like-minded executives, organizing networking sessions to facilitate meaningful conversations and build bridges between corporations and startups, advising and mentoring startup founders. But, earlier this year, he finally decided to leave his corporate life and dedicate full attention to Artha, onboarding some marquee clients like Diageo Southeast Asia.
Turning Stumbling Blocks into Stepping Stones
Like most start-ups, Artha Strategies had to face several challenges in its initial phase. However, rather than seeing those challenges as obstacles, the exemplary tech entrepreneur saw them as new opportunities and led the company toward growth and success. During the pre-pandemic time, Jai was already getting inquiries and proposals within his network, asking for mentorship and advisory services. And such recognition in the industry posed him an immediate challenge as he started as a one-man army. Eventually, he decided to only pick quality projects in new market domains, especially where his role would be strategic and long-term impactful. By being selective on assignments, using cloud-based tools, and leveraging his decades of experience in the corporate world, he was able to mitigate all the challenges while effectively managing his time juggling between actual consulting work and all the rest– such as report preparations, administration, book-keeping, and even IT system management. “Artha is not a big consulting house with an entourage of staff, so there are occasions where I feel handicapped. This is where I rely on my trusted network of partners like innovation studios, venture-building houses, and research agencies. I also request my clients to assemble a small team to work closely with me on their projects. This “tiger team” approach not only gives me the extra resources but also helps the client find some trailblazer digital talent internally,” opines Jai.
When it comes to challenges the avid leader believes roadblocks are an inevitable part of any entrepreneur’s journey and pivots are necessary. “Unlike in large corporations where you may have senior leaders to back you, or the infrastructure to de-risk your actions, in your business you decide and you execute. You use your past experiences and present facts to shape a new future. As a leader you are the beacon of hope and direction to your employees,” adds Jai.
Ensure Customer Success while Fostering Partnership
Leveraging the “3E framework” approach, Artha is currently working with the regional leaders of Diageo Southeast Asia to develop a digital strategy that transforms into an execution blueprint. While describing her experience with Artha, Preeti Arora Razdan, the CEO of Diageo’s Southeast Asia says “It’s been wonderful to partner with Jai on this critical agenda for Diageo. Jai brings a wealth of knowledge and experience. He worked really well in a complex business setup to identify the key issues and find a way forward. He worked very collaboratively with all stakeholders and became an integral part of the team.” Such positive responses from clients certainly testify to Jai’s unwavering commitment to customer satisfaction.
Besides customer-centricity, giving back to society has always been at the core of Artha. Driven by this purpose, the company aspires to contribute to humanity’s bigger challenges like sustainability. Sharing an aligned mission, Singapore Deep Tech Alliance (SDTA), one of Artha’s strategic venture builder partners is working together with Artha to solve the critical sustainability challenges in the world. Sharing his experience of working with Jai, Luuk Eliens, the founding managing partner at SDTA states, “With his extensive corporate network, and his digital and sustainability experiences, we find Jai a great partner to collaborate with in solving the critical sustainability challenges that SDTA is here to address.” Under the insightful leadership of Jai, Artha is also working with other leading corporations in industries like healthcare and industrial automation, and partnering with other leading innovation studios in the region.
Continues Helping Others Acquire the Wealth of Knowledge
‘Artha’ is a unique word in Sanskrit with dual meanings of “goal” which means “sense of purpose” and “wealth. ”Staying true to this meaning, Jai aspires to leave a legacy of helping others acquire a wealth of knowledge through Artha, so they can pay it forward. Moving ahead, he also plans to scale up the company and helpmore business leaders and entrepreneurs along the way, while also demystifying digital business transformation to many.
Drawing valuable lessons from his entrepreneurial journey, Jai advises budding entrepreneurs to start their journey with a dream and not to give up in the face of challenges .He believes a business should not be a job or simply a means to wealth for entrepreneurs. What it should be is the pursuit of their goal and true love of their roles as entrepreneurs, founders, and leaders. “Remember that the only person you can truly influence to change is you, and the only thing you can fully control is your effort. So start now, and take that first step. When you are younger you can afford more risks, so open your horizons and see the world, find out what people around you truly want and need, and what their day-to-day problems are. Solve them smart, and you have a business ready to scale,” concludes Jai.