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Computer Science and Technology graduate Ruchir Punjabi's digital marketing agency Langoor spans five countries

5 MINUTES WITH...

Ruchir Punjabi: From living room to world stage in digital marketing

At 22 years of age while studying Computer Science and Technology at the University of Sydney, Ruchir Punjabi started Langoor – a digital marketing agency – from his living room. Today, this venture is a thriving global business that spans five countries.

Eight years on, Ruchir plays a pivotal role in supporting the leaders of Langoor and its group of companies. These companies include leading brands such as AlterNet in the Internet of Things world; Pensaar, a leading Design Thinking business; and Kreate Konnect, an e-commerce channel advisory business.

Ruchir is also passionate about making a positive impact on people's lives. He created the Australia India Youth Dialogue, a diplomatic dialogue between the young leaders of Australia and India. He serves as Director on a number of not-for-profit and business boards – the kind of service that Ruchir got a taste for this at the University of Sydney where he was on the Board of International House and President of the University of Sydney Union.

Currently, he is focusing on expanding the Langoor Group as well as setting up a few ventures with a social agenda. One such venture is creating a Graduate School of Policy and Governance in India for the developing world. We asked Ruchir about his success to date and his plans for the future.

What do you enjoy most about your current role?

I'm working across a range of organisations and projects right now besides my primary role as Chairperson of Langoor. I like the diversity of work and the ability to go in and out of respective pieces of work as required.

What has been your greatest achievement to date – something that you are really proud of? What helped you to reach that goal?

To be honest, I am not quite satisfied with what I have done so far. Don't get me wrong, I don't regret anything and I've had the pleasure of being involved with some wonderful things, but I continue to want to learn and push the boundaries on how I can improve the human race and move it forward. At 30, I feel there is a lot to be done.

Where do you see the digital marketing industry headed over the next five years?

I think there are going to be a range of speciality areas in digital marketing including augmented reality, virtual reality, data and analytics, Internet of Things and artificial intelligence as well as applications for non-conventional screens. These are all exciting areas and will offer some amazing opportunities for engineers and IT professionals to get involved with. People who can connect the dots and pull together a range of these areas will be in high demand.

How does your company differ from its competitors?

Langoor is a digital agency of 200+ creative technologists. These days a lot of our competitors are specialists in the services they offer. However, for the brands we work with, we believe the real edge comes from balancing insight, data, creativity and technology with experience. This means understanding their business goals and helping them achieve those holistically. That's not easy to do with multiple specialists and this is what helps us to stand out.

With operations across Asia Pacific, we also appeal to organisations that want to reach these diverse markets. There are not many companies that have the perspective and experience that we do across this region.

Lastly, we have a setup where we leverage skills and learnings across borders. We end up with an inherent competitive advantage because of how we can apply our learnings from different markets.

Can you describe an average day for you?

I'm actually a Non-Executive Chair in Langoor. This means my time in Langoor usually goes in solving problems that directly support the CEO including strategy, fundraising, PR and some new business development. This is in addition to supporting the respective leaders of AlterNet, Kreate Konnect and Pensaar.

Personally, I am also working on a School of Policy and Governance (an institution) we are building in India to reimagine public policy education from a developing world perspective.

I've invested in a few other start-ups. My favourite of these is one which we're building to be a publisher in the not-for-profit space in India. 

Given the range of my interests, there is no real structure to the day per se. Often it's also in different cities and so the intensity of the day can differ depending on where I am.

Your new start-up, AlterNet is at the forefront in one of the latest emerging industries. How would you describe the Internet of Things and how do you see it being utilised by businesses in the future?

'Internet of Things' (IoT) is more a buzz phrase than it is real. It is an umbrella phrase that promises a new world, but in some ways is limiting the imagination of what is possible because of how broad the idea is. 

What is more real is building sensors to help building managers control temperature, virtual reality games and health trackers like FitBit etc; the point I am trying to make is IoT as a term is too generic but there is some amazing innovation happening at the intersection of different areas through the connection of hardware to the Internet. 

Organisations are going to have to work out what they are good at and whether there are technologies they can take from other areas to help them improve. While the 'Internet of Things' is so broad, innovation in their particular field of expertise using hardware and the Internet can be game changing.

As people and organisations continue to innovate, we are going to witness a complete reimagining of the business landscape in less than 10 years. Business models that have existed for the last 100 years are not going to exist in the next 10 through the adoption of practical IoT and Artificial Intelligence. 

Langoor is now a global business spanning Hong Kong, Singapore, India and Dubai. Have there been any differences in the way Langoor operates in each country?

It is quite amazing how markets react to the same technology. For example, a lack of vernacular language keyboards on phones in India has meant that many people use the WhatsApp voice messages and voice call functions. However, in Australia, most of that usage is through typing. In many parts of the Middle East, WhatsApp calling is banned.

Similarly, most Indians experienced the internet for the first time on their mobile, skipping the whole desktop experience and so they use the internet more for utility (commodity prices, messaging, etc.) than for entertainment.

There are many examples like these where different tools and technologies have received a stronger response in some markets in which we operate compared to others.

What’s next for Langoor?

As a business, we are looking to strengthen our presence in the region and consolidate our work with lesser, yet bigger clients. 

We will also go very deep this year on leveraging data meaningfully.

Lastly, we are keen on expanding our footprint either in the UK or the USA. Many of the decisions impacting our region are made by their organisation's headquarters in these countries.

Have there been pivotal moments or choices made in your career that impacted your success? What did you learn from that experience?

I think starting Langoor right out of university happened because I was at the right place at the right time. I was quite naïve, to say the least, when I started out but there is no education equivalent to running your own business. Seven years along and I am less active in that business, but because of that experience, I am now quite confident walking into new areas I know nothing about.

As a student, you were passionate about social change. Does this passion still resonate throughout your current projects?

Frankly, I have reduced the time I spend in Langoor partly because I am still deeply passionate about social change. There are a limited number of things I can do in Langoor that help me make a meaningful difference in the world. 

At the moment, the School of Policy and Governance, as well as the publishing platform for Indian not-for-profits, are the two key items that have me immensely engaged in helping move humanity forward.

Importantly I believe that you can use capitalism to your advantage, and eventually, redistribute wealth to reduce inequality in the world. At 30, I am still working on building my wealth to hopefully one day have the privilege to affect humanity in a positive way.