Gagan SinglaManaging Director of BlinkX by JMFL
Gagan Singla is a Managing Director at BlinkX, a next-gen fintech started by JM Financial. Gagan has worked in various roles across multiple organizations, including HDFC Group, PwC UK, Deloitte US, IIFL, Angel One/Broking, Simplilearn US, Quikr, and Hughes. A Computer Science graduate from IIT Delhi and an MBA from IIM, Gagan has applied his expertise in analytics, data science, digital marketing, product management, and new-age technology to deliver multiplier business growth. He has worked in 11 countries and has a string of global research publications in mathematics and data mining to his credit. He has been a speaker at top colleges and universities in India and US.
ORGANIZATION STRATEGY/ KEY CHALLENGES
1. With what mandate did you start your journey at JM? (key deliverable)
At JM, our journey began with a core focus on innovation, our firm has a rich history of pioneering financial products and solutions, driving significant industry advancements. Our primary goal has always been to establish ourselves as both innovative and highly esteemed, with a continuous emphasis on evolving in the changing landscape. Recognizing the shift to a tech-centric world, we’ve embarked on a mission to infuse technology into our offerings, particularly in fintech, leveraging our expertise as a financial services institution. Under the flagship brand BlinkX, we aim to develop robust tech-based businesses, starting with broking and expanding into multiple verticals. Our mandate involves creating proprietary tech platforms in-house and cultivating a digital startup culture within our organization.
With our growth journey being focused around best in class customer experiences, enabled by awareness & improving accessibility to quality products and services, we are witnessing improving market share YOY. Building a sustainable business with a very solid foundation, capable of scaling up quickly over the mid-long-term horizon, is the key deliverable.
DOMAIN SECTOR (TO CAPTURE CURRENT SECTORAL TRENDS DEVELOPMENTS CHALLENGES)
2. What are the key challenges your organization/industry is facing? Both immediate and long term. And what steps you are taking to overcome them?
The discount stock broking industry faces immediate challenges stemming from increased competition and a crowded market landscape. The sector is witnessing a surge in new players entering the market, which poses a challenge of excessive innovation in both technological advancements and service offerings. However, JM’s advantage lies in its extensive knowledge of financial products and regulations, which it aims to leverage amidst this intensifying competition. Long-term challenges revolve around regulatory changes that demand continual adaptation. While these regulations are beneficial for industry health, compliance efforts require significant time and resources. JM acknowledges the importance of keeping pace with regulatory shifts to maintain a solid brand reputation and uphold industry best practices.
Another critical challenge involves ensuring customer understanding and safety, particularly in risky trading options. As the options trading volume in India remains notably high, JM emphasizes responsible customer engagement, avoiding excessive risks, and educating clients to make informed decisions. To tackle these challenges, JM focuses on optimizing its tech platforms while capitalizing on its expertise in financial products and regulations. The company aims to strike a balance between innovation and regulatory compliance, thereby maintaining a robust position in the evolving discount stock broking industry.
3. What is your talent strategy? How do you draw a balance between homegrown vs lateral hiring at the leadership level?
Our talent strategy at JM focuses on building a cohesive team committed to long-term growth and execution excellence. We have established a robust approach to talent acquisition, emphasizing lateral hiring with a focus on individuals committed to a journey from the outset. This has led to minimal attrition within our core team, ensuring stability and continuity. Recognizing the challenge of acquiring tech talent, we’ve undertaken campus recruitment initiatives, significantly growing our tech team with young, skilled individuals from various campuses. Moreover, our internship strategy has been pivotal, fostering innovation and fresh perspectives while engaging talented interns, and contributing significantly to our team.
Another critical focus area is our emphasis on an execution-driven team. We prioritize individuals with leadership qualities, execution capabilities, and a hands-on approach across all levels. This execution-focused mindset extends to our top management, fostering a culture where everyone is encouraged to be hands-on and creative in their roles. While we acknowledge the importance of homegrown talent, leadership development within a young company like ours requires time. Nevertheless, we have witnessed growth from ground-level employees to middle management, indicating our commitment to nurturing talent from within. As we move forward, we envision a greater emphasis on developing and retaining homegrown talent, offering a unique edge and knowledge base that sets us apart within the industry.
SHORT/MEDIUM TERM OUTLOOK & STEPS TAKEN
4. Every crisis is a learning opportunity, what lessons have you picked up from Covid?
The most significant lesson from Covid was the realization that rapid transformation is indeed possible. The pandemic highlighted the power of assembling cross-functional teams with a single goal, akin to a war room scenario, to achieve remarkable feats in a fraction of the expected time. This experience taught me the value of bringing diverse talents together toward a unified objective, witnessing the remarkable magic of collective dedication and focus.
Regarding innovation in today’s intricate and uncertain world, fostering an environment where everyone’s ideas are encouraged is pivotal. Promoting innovative initiatives involves allowing teams to explore concepts and create new products, realizing that investment in innovation isn’t a sunk cost. The key lies in acknowledging the transformative impact on individuals and teams, even if a specific project doesn’t yield the anticipated results. Retaining and nurturing talent is vital; keeping teams intact fosters continuous learning and drives innovation organically. Moreover, empowering team members by adopting their ideas not only cultivates dedication but also motivates them to invest substantial effort voluntarily. This approach not only maximizes productivity but also ensures that learning from every endeavour contributes to the collective growth, reinforcing the notion that no learning is ever wasted.
In essence, Covid taught me that a crisis can be an unprecedented learning opportunity, showcasing the potential for rapid transformation and the importance of embracing innovation while nurturing and retaining a dedicated team.
5. How do you define and practice leadership?
My leadership philosophy revolves around a soft yet authoritative approach, prioritizing quick decision-making, fearlessness in managing risks, and ensuring alignment toward shared goals. I emphasize the importance of creating platforms for innovation to flourish within the team rather than imposing a singular vision. Keeping the team cohesive and motivated is a core aspect of my leadership style. Employee-centricity is crucial to me, as evident in our team’s unity and low attrition rates. While some decisions might not align with individual preferences, maintaining overall team happiness is paramount. In my view, leadership involves creating an environment conducive to innovation, fostering alignment, and ensuring collective progress toward our objectives.
Moreover, trust holds immense significance in both employee and client relationships. Trust in the team’s abilities and dedication drives our collective efforts at Blinks, reflecting the importance of fostering trust-based connections within the organization. This belief mirrors my leadership style, focusing on building trust among employees and customers as a foundation for success.
6. We see many Indian leaders on the global stage. How can more Indian leaders become Global Leaders?
The evolving landscape of Indian leaders attaining prominence on the global stage is apparent. My personal perspective aligns with the idea that we should move beyond categorizing leaders based on their regional backgrounds. Instead, we should view Indian leaders as global leaders in their own right. Our focus should shift from glorifying Indian leaders’ global presence to embracing it as the new norm. This perspective signifies a shift in our mindset, acknowledging that global leadership isn’t an exception but rather an expected and natural progression for Indian leaders
7. What are the 3 most pivotal moments in your career that you learned from and/or that got you where you are today?
Firstly, my extensive experience working across diverse cultures and countries during my tenure in management consulting at Deloitte stands as a pivotal phase. Working in various locations— Malaysia, Singapore, London, Russia, France, the US, and more—exposed me to multiple perspectives and work methodologies. This exposure remains a significant advantage, offering me a nuanced understanding of global diversity.
Transitioning from a consulting role to the entrepreneurial side marks another critical juncture. Moving away from structured corporate environments to entrepreneurial setups where outcomes matter more than processes has been transformative. The mindset shift from solving problems within defined roles to creating, building, and innovating solutions marked a substantial change in my approach to business.
Lastly, maintaining a connection with academia and my passion for mathematics and problem-solving continues to be influential. This inclination towards academia and analytical problem-solving aspects has been a constant throughout my career, shaping my strategic thinking and decision-making.
8. What message would you like to share with young professionals?
My message to young professionals aspiring for success in this space is to embrace a mischievous and relaxed outlook on life. In today’s fast-paced and information-packed world, there’s a growing tendency among the younger generation to be overly serious. Amidst the plethora of opportunities and information available, there’s an inclination towards excessive pressure to perform, achieve, and excel.
I advocate for a balanced approach—one that appreciates life as a journey rather than a relentless pursuit of success. While ambition and dedication are crucial, so is the ability to unwind and enjoy the moments along the way. I believe that too much pressure to excel, whether from parents or self-imposed, can stifle creativity and genuine enjoyment in both personal and professional spheres.
My advice would be to find equilibrium between striving for success and leisure. This balance not only fosters a healthier mindset but also allows for personal growth, self-discovery, and a more enjoyable journey towards professional aspirations.