A Team Builder
Redickaa Subrammanian began her career knowing very little about technology. “I was a history graduate,” she explains with a laugh.
But Redickaa, now CEO and chief strategist of customer engagement platform Interakt, quickly caught up on the job. “There’s no better way of learning than through observation and practice,” she says.
Before founding Interakt, Redickaa worked in advertising, copywriting, client engagement, and consulting. The one common thread? “Every company I was at, I was building and heading up teams,” says Redickaa.
Eventually, after a push from one of her mentors, Redickaa decided to start her own company, founding Interakt in 2004.
A Near Miss
Under Redickaa’s leadership, Interakt has grown to more than 200 employees, with offices in Singapore, the UK (London), the United Arab Emirates (Dubai), the U.S. (San Francisco, New York, and Chicago), and India (Chennai, Dubai, Mumbai, Bangalore, India).
But the path to growth wasn’t always straightforward. In 2007, Redickaa thought she had acheived her dream when one of advertising’s biggest brands offered to buy the company. Interakt almost went through with the deal, until Redickaa met with the founder and got a bad feeling.
“I literally realized that that individual was not interested in our capability for digital, or our passion for our customers. He just wanted to buy a bunch of companies in APAC and consolidate them under one brand,” says Redickaa.
Everything was in place for the deal.
“We backed out,” says Redickaa. They knew it was a big risk. They’d used a lot of capital to get the company in an attractive place for sale. “The kitty was empty.”
But after much discussion, the management team agreed “we should restart and go after our passion.”
A Proactive Pivot
Interakt started as a digital agency — one of the first of its kind. Redickaa recognized the importance of bringing creativity and business understanding together to find solutions that delivered on clients’ business objectives. “We grew from just myself and my business partner to more than 100 employees, and we had the opportunity to service more than 150 global brands.”
But despite the company’s success, Redickaa realized that for Interakt to remain as a services company would mean limited opportunities to scale. “We needed to reinvent ourselves if we wanted to continue to add value to our customers,” she says.
The company transitioned to build a marketing automation platform Redickaa says is “omnichannel” in nature. The platform has “everything in one integrated platform”: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, email, mobile, and in-app notifications.
Their first client was one of the world’s largest telecommunications players in the world, and they’ve since onboarded many other marquee brands. Ultimately, Interakt helps customers better leverage data to reach out to customers at the right time, with the right message, on the right device.
In the next five years, says Redickaa, “Our goal is to be the number one platform you think of when it comes to customer engagement and marketing communications.” They expect to draw the interest of the players like Google and Facebook — “they’ll be very interested to come in our direction thanks to our multichannel insight.”
Redickaa describes her leadership style as one of empowerment.
Interakt looks for people who are passionate, curious, and ready to attack their role with the passion of an owner. “It’s all about every single individual within the company being an entrepreneur.”
“We have a very aggressive culture.” Interakt is vying for talent with top brands. “We want to hire those really passionate, fire-in-the-belly individuals — people who want to conquer the world quickly.”
Joining a smaller, younger company like Interakt has advantages for the employee. Typically “the ladder is going to be far longer” at a big company. Interakt gives them “quick access to the kind of opportunities [they] want.”
Things move fast at the company. There’s “not a moment to waste,” says Redickaa.
What happens when people find it hard to keep up? “In that case we give them a handshake and we wish them the best. We’re very particular about the kind of team we want to have.”
Interakt quickly expanded globally, in part to mitigate the risks of volatile markets. When U.S. markets went down in 2009, Redickaa realized that diversifying was important, particularly for a bootstrapped company. “When the U.S. dropped, APAC usually stayed up. When APAC dropped, the U.S. stayed up. Because we were in each of these markets we were able to battle our way out of the fluctuating directions of the market. It was an entrepreneurial instinct.”
Interakt has been self-funded up to this point. But in order to be the number one global platform in the space by 2020, says Redickaa, “we’re going to need capital to really expand and grow.”