Naseem Sayani is a well-established force in the digital realm and as demonstrated in the first part of her Q&A with us, crossing bridge after bridge on her road to success as she grew with digital as a platform.
Read on to hear more of Sayani’s take on what’s made her career in digital compelling and what’s coming next. And don’t forget to see her live at this year’s PIMpoint Americas in Chicago on September 18, 2019.
inRiver: Tell us a little bit about how you got started in the digital and startup world.
Naseem: It was all a bit serendipitous, to be honest, I started my career in management consulting in 2007, which was the first year that we all had iPhones in our hands, and I was working mostly with media and customer product companies.
Then, I started to do some startup advising in LA and worked at a digital agency for a couple of years, all with the mindset of how do we leverage brand voice, marketing, and interactions online to drive richer consumer engagement. Now, all of that has coalesced into what I’m doing at BCG Digital Ventures, which is launching new digital businesses at scale.
Today, being able to launch new products and new businesses that are actually solving for very specific user needs, which are anchored in digital solutions, while deeply tied to some level of retail & offline engagement – since the two are so deeply connected – is a lot of fun. It’s been a really nice trajectory given when I stepped into it in 2007.
inRiver: What is the biggest risk you’ve taken in your career?
Naseem: About three years ago, I left agency-land and I left consulting-land to launch my own innovation business. It was a small, in-house, digital innovation agency, and it was something that had been brewing in my mind for a long time.
I wanted to take the chance to run my own business and build my own client base, and so it was one of the scariest things I’ve probably ever done because you go from an environment where work comes through the door, to one where the hustle is very real. At a big company, the phone rings because people know the brand and they know where to find you. When you go independent, the phone’s not going to ring until I tell people where I am and what I’m doing, so the hustle required to generate business was a much bigger effort than I had originally imagined it to be.
The first three months were pretty scary, it was like “okay I haven’t closed anything yet” and as soon as the first thing hit, it snowballed from there. Close one, close two, close three, close four and suddenly I was in a position where I was starting to have to say no to people and projects and it was a very surreal experience. I said to myself, oh my god, this is working!
If I hadn’t taken that risk to leave the full-time gig and head out on my own, I never would have known that I can do this and I can build a business. Now being back inside a larger organization, I know I can go back to doing that anytime I want because the market is there, the work is there and people trust me when I tell the story of what I can help them with.
inRiver: What would you say is the most exciting aspect of what you do today at BCG DV?
Naseem: What I find most exciting is our ability to really identify unique user problems and needs and bring rich solutions to those needs in partnership with our clients. We often compare what we do to what is happening in typical startup land, where a founder has an idea, they hustle like crazy to raise funding and they hope it works, and there’s often limited bandwidth to flex the business rigor, the testing methodology, and the user insight to do it in the ways they might want to.
The digital world has taken a lot of different forms – it used to be just outbound, “how do I tell a story? How do I make sure I have a website? How do I make sure I’m providing e-commerce?”. But in the last five, six years, it’s become about the whole organization, and that’s what we anchor on. What will it take to transform the market? To use the assets of the current business to do something new?, To push the future so far that we can transform the industry, while also transforming the business? It’s a compelling place to be right now.
inRiver: What is your hope for the world of e-commerce in 10 years?
Naseem: Oh wow, so we’re looking into the future big time! For me, I want to stop calling it e-commerce, I just want to call it commerce. It’s a little bit like what digital was a few years ago. We’re not in a world where I believe we should be solving for digital strategy anymore, we should just be solving for strategy in a world that is already digital and I want the same thing to happen to commerce.
I want to get to a place where all of our channels carry the same level of insight and can create compelling experiences for the user. Retail is getting smarter already, as are all the inputs into retail, and with e-commerce s the tip of the spear, we can “reset” the baseline for everything we’re shopping for.
inRiver: What are you most looking forward to at PIMpoint Americas 2019?
Naseem: These events are always the most interesting for me in the people I meet and the stories I hear from them about what they’re doing, what they’re trying, and what’s working or not working. The human interaction and the sharing of knowledge and information that goes on between people in the room, that’s the most fun for me.
We at inRiver would like to extend a huge thank you to Naseem for taking the time to not only share her immense knowledge with us but inspiring us to keep our eye on the digital and e-commerce world as well.