In an interview with insights success, Kiran Bhagotra, the CEO and Founder of ProtectBox Ltd shares her vital insights on heading a technology business and making cyber-security simple, quick and affordable.
Below are the highlights of interview between Kiran and Insights Success:
Give a brief overview of your background as an entrepreneur.
I never really imagined myself as a cyber-security entrepreneur because my background is in technology as an investment banker, PR, investor & freelancer, not a coder. But I fell into cyber-security a few years ago whilst contracting for the UK government’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office managing international cyber relations. It was there that I spotted that for a small business to protect itself it needed to either hire an expert, at great expense or spend hours self-sourcing instead of selling. How much better would a simple, quick and affordable comparison be, which I could see how to do. Although I had never run a company myself before I had helped friends with theirs. The real kicker, for me, though was why this gap wasn’t being tackled when half of the 5 million small and medium businesses, in the UK alone, were closing due to it. So, I put my (little) money where my (big) mouth is & built exactly that in ProtectBox! We’ve won Security & Fire Excellence Awards 2018’s Cyber-security Project of the Year, Wired Security 2017’s Start-Up Award & came 2nd for HRH Duke of York/Prince Andrew’s Pitch@Palace 9.0 People’s Choice Award & been finalist in 25+ other Awards.
How do you diversify your organization’s offerings to appeal to the target audience?
We are all about making cyber-security simple, quick and affordable (fun too)! Simple because any small and medium business, from a one-man band to the one with a 10 million turnover catering thousands of employees, can use us. We work just as well for a business owner or an IT manager. Our users’ questionnaire is non-jargonized, including info icons and delegation, and can be answered in an hour. We also have non-mandatory questions to allow more technical users to drill down to exactly what they want to buy.
Quick, because we let you pull your answers to our questions from partners such as Sage and Xero, directly from their systems, as well as 24/7 customer services, at the click of a button.
Affordable, because just like Skyscanner or Kayak, businesses can use our filters or sliders to personalize bundles, before one-click buying to suit their budgets and customer product ratings. Which no-one else offers!
Describe some of the vital attributes that every leader should possess.
First is empathy, to understand the needs of customers, stakeholders and staff. This is how leaders benchmark their decisions, becoming thought leaders rather than followers.
Second is empowerment, so a leader is a dealer in hope. But hope is not a plan. A leader does not do the work for others, but helps others figure out how to do it and succeed beyond what they thought possible. A leader makes the difficult decisions and inspires others to follow them.
Third is to be ego-free, taking a little more than their share of the blame, and a little less than their share of the credit.
How do you strategize your game plans to tackle competition in the market?
Firstly, I don’t worry about it. I seek to understand what they’re doing and how it affects me. Then consider if I need to change. If I need to change, I do. If not, stick to the plan. It’s probably a good one. But resting on your laurels is no good; you must adapt to stay ahead. Being simple, quick and affordable is the modern-day tantra (not mantra).
What are the frequent challenges faced by women leaders in workplaces and what are ways to tackle them?
Coequality is foremost challenge, and this is not just about getting this with men but other women too. Confidence to speak up and giving back are ways to tackle this. Cash, which even though “is King”, isn’t always in abundance for women leaders. Whether that’s unequal pay for those in jobs, lower funding for those running their own companies, not charging enough, being afraid to ask, underpricing, or giving away services for free. Emotional intelligence is how to tackle this.
Striving to take the emotion out of decisions and actions, doing the right or wise thing wherever one can by seeking counsel from an inner circle of both men and women.
Control, whether it’s exerted over us or something that we have a complete lack of in our personal as well as professional lives. Both impact how we perform as leaders. Collaboration is the answer to this, building healthy relationships with advocates including family/friends, creating a strong personal brand, establishing guidelines before each project, positioning yourself as expert in your field, and communicating with confidence.
@ValleyGirlShow, @SheWorx, #WorkLikeaWoman, #WomenMeanBusiness, #FiftyFifty, #INSecurityMovement, #YouEqualTech, @q4theloo are some great examples of above ways to tackle these challenges, in practice.
What were the primal challenges and roadblocks you faced during the initial phase of your career?
Courage, Communication & Clan! Courage to accept my fears/weaknesses and the courage to ask for the right help to overcome them. In my father’s words, “if you don’t ask, you don’t get”. Communicating that ask clearly, concisely & consistently… which I’m still mastering the art of. For anyone that knows me I could compete for Britain on talking! Clan, and by that, I don’t necessarily mean your family, I mean surrounding yourself with the right (and I mean the right) ‘people’ & I would include in that customers, investors and stakeholders, which will never stop making my dreams come true!
Where do you see yourself in the near future and what are your future goals?
In the near future, we plan to launch ProtectBox as an internationally successful product that helps businesses throughout the world. In the same way that banks sell insurance as an add-on, we can be sold/jointmarketed as an all-in-one cyber add-on by accountants, telecoms, banks, lawyers, consultants or any data-related service provider to small and medium businesses. We similarly reach thousands of Suppliers through distributors and re-sellers. Government marketplace RegTech capability can also be extended by plugging us in. Plus ProtectBox’s all-in-one bundles can be subsidized by government grant schemes. We’ve signed 4 (corporate, distributor & government) partners with another 10 across the Middle East, Africa & Americas in the pipeline for the next year. But always open to more!
What is your advice for budding and emerging tech enthusiasts?
Visualize what your deepest hopes & dreams felt like & remind yourself of that same optimism every day! Life is hard; always try to look for the way forward. Accept your fears and weaknesses and surround yourself with people who can help you to turn those into opportunities. Give back by sharing, listening and smiling or making someone else smile (as it’ll make you smile back) everyday!