Prayer, Perseverance, patience and Passion is Key to Sucess : Sabina Kamal
Sabina Kamal is among the sucessful muslim women of India. A brilliant techno-creative thinker, has been architecting Digital Products and Solutions for over 20 years, she is currently COO & Founder of Prestigious MobiQuest / Paytm m’Loyal ; India’s largest SAAS based Loyalty & Rewards platform.In an exclusive interview with the News Kashmir she talks to Rameez Makhdoomi and Farzana Mumtaz.
Tell us a bit about your childhood days ?
I spend my childhood in the picturesque Nanital studied at St Mary’s Convent/ Ramnee. My father was an Engineer and principal at the Engineering Polytechnic at Nanital. My mother was an athlete & an artist, a teacher at All Saints School. Most of my childhood was spent in mountains and as a child I was curious, creative and active. I loved to draw and make handicrafts, posters for the school fete and birthday invitation cards, my father would encourage me to build little hobby planes and picture cupboards. While Archies was my favourite comic book, my favourite magazine was Popular Science. I enjoyed treking and nature walks, collecting different leaves and creating art on them, overall my childhood was full of life Alhamdulillah..amid nature.
Tell a bit about your academic life ?
As a child, I always wanted to become an architect, and my favourite subjects were Maths & Arts. I was a pretty average student until high school, Didn’t qualify for Science stream so opted for commerce stream in 11th class along with computer science and art as my subjects and topped the class.
Was keen to go to National Institute of Design however my Father didn’t allow me since it had a common hostel accommodation for boys & girls. Much to my disappointment I was packed off to Aligarh Muslim University for Bachelors in Fine Arts as Majors along with Psychology & English. Now that I am a parent myself and look back it was probably the best decision. AMU not only gave me a strong academic foundation, it served as a great platform to explore and hone my skills from cultural and public speaking to badminton and Tarkwondo. Made friends from all walks of life and built special relationships and bonds for a lifetime.
In 1991 I completed my graduation and topped the Arts faculty. I was among four students selected for the republic day parade by Narasimha Rao, Hon’ Prime Minster. My first National recognition at College was for the National Poster Competition on peace that I won with the headline “Know God. Know Peace. No God. No Peace”. Which made me want to pursue Art for a purpose. Although some day I wish to go back to the brush as part of my retirement plan 🙂 I went on to do my specialization after that in Commercial/applied art from South Delhi polytechnic in Delhi. Did my training as an Illustrator with a Children’s Publication.
What about start of professional career and overall journey of professional life ?
I started as a designer in the well known, Archies cards and gifts company to create designs for greeting cards. At Archies I really learnt the meaning of quality. My first artwork was torn almost 7 times by Ashokji the production incharge until I got it right. I worked with them for a while and then moved on to join Nirula’s as part of the Design & Marketing team headed by Samir Kuckreja , as a visualizer. That was my first step into the world of marketing and communications and the Nirulas Birthday Club was probably the first Loyalty & Rewards program that I helped manage. It’s only now that I realise how it helped engage its customers to drive loyalty and repeats by offering its members free scoop on their Birthdays and also infusing trials.
My journey from brush to mouse began in 1997 when I moved to Network Programs, an American company. I had no idea what I would do in a software company. Internet was in its infancy and I learnt pretty much on the job with self discovery, teamwork and application on the various digital assignments. I made my first website for Telegraph India newspaper and ITH travel house, Buisness Standard and my first elearning assignment was for Telstra Australia for their Global offshore Data Products. Today I admire Dr Gopi from Bell Labs/ Chairman Network Programs & Lotus Interworks vision of bringing in designers into a Software Company. He knew it would probably be difficult for creative souls working in boring cubicles so gave us the freedom to do up the Multimedia Division office space creatively. With great colleagues and mentors like Sarkar Sir, Hasan Kabir, Alok and other colleagues who taught selflessly Network Programs was really the foundation of my Tech journey..from coding to research to quality control, brainstorming, learning new softwares to even the basics of wireframes, file naming conventions and version control, I learnt pretty much at Network Programs. Together we built thegreatindianbazaar.com, but I guess it was too early in time 🙂
A few years later I was called for an interview to FCS Software solutions and was asked the usual question; “where do you see yourself 5 years from now?” and I replied “ either at Disney or Microsoft”. Dilip Kumar , MD & Chairman at FCS smiled at the rather honest response and asked me “Would you rather work for a Microsoft or Build one?” and it got me thinking for a few seconds before replying “ Build one” and happily accepted the joining offer.
While at FCS, we had a team visit us for a pitch to create an online agency, little did I know it was the hunt for the startup team for India’s first online Advertising & Marketing agency; BrandQuiver started by WPP & Times Internet headed by Suhel Seth and Marketing Guru Shunu Sen. Joined them as Creative Head and worked on various clients like lacoste, Barista, Philips. My first exposure to the fast paced advertising world..with the Dot com bust I remember being on a panel for discussion on .com or .gone 😀 ..championing .com
I moved back to FCS and went on to set up their e-learning, interactive communications & digital consultancy practice. Grew it to a team of 150+ with Digital Centers of Excellence for F500 companies like BestBuy, Canon, Dominos, GE amongst others. The experience taught me the very basics of Learning Principles of Instructional Design and figured out how every individual is unique and how therefore learning needs to be not only ‘personalised’ it needs to be fun too considering different learner types.For the first time we started the use of Gamification to build interactive programs. Created key differentiators of Rapid Building using reusable learning objects to help reduce time and cost. I loved the experience at FCS and the freedom and support it gave me with my new born in 2003. Was privileged to have been given one of the Directors cabins for the baby’s cot and maid to help me continue work in one of my recent meetings Dilip jokingly mentioned how when he was on calls people would ask him are you at home or work when they would hear the child cry. I can’t thank him enough for this as it helped me keep going.
A few years later I received a call from Anita, HR head with Dr Gopi’s companies saying Dr Gopi’s looking for you. Flew down to meet him in Los Angeles to understand his vision to create interactive books for Children and went on to join InterSolutions as Chief Creative Officer.
In 2005 I got bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and I co-founded my first company with Vineet Narang, Xceed IT Solutions. Focussed on e learning and digital products for US & Canadian companies. Successfully delivered over 2000 hours of AICC/ SCORM compliant multilingual learning content for companies like Red vector, American Health and RFID Technologies..from soft skills to technical/ software Trainings to & compliance and regulatory. After having moved from a comfortable corporate salaried environment to a DIY entrepreneurial journey was filled with challenges.
After global meltdown in 2008 we started Mobiquest. An enterprise Mobility company. Some of the key products for SFA for field force with its largest implementations for Abbott Pharma was an industry first.
Our strategic Partnerships with Airtel and Blackberry resulted in some great implementations for their enterprise customers. Some of the products were much ahead of time and didn’t take off welll because of poor 2G connectivity issues like Airtel MediaMate/ mobiLIVE a platform that allowed live video shoots and streamed to Central Server without allowing the video to be stored on the device. The app helped reporters sending live reports in an encrypted format and was a great real for freelance journalists. Some of the dear projects was in the Telemedicine domain with Care Hospitals Hyderabad, WHO, National Council of Medical Research and Apollo Research; to provide initial medical care to rural areas with the help of health workers who were trained to use the multilingual app on Nokia devices.
Our flagship product m’Loyal emerged as a great spinoff being a disruptive Platform that bridged the gap of accessibility and usage of Omnichannel Billing data to consumers, helping convert Purchase Data to knowledge and knowledge to insights and insights to Action in Real time thereby driving “Repeat Sales”
Our journey with Paytm began in 2017, Vijay Shekhar saw great value of Loyalty being a key driver to grow businesses. That’s where the meaning of BIG and scaleup really began and we’re working to keep pace with the contagious energy that stirs each Paytmer.With over 130 million registered members, for over a decade now the Platform ; Paytm m’Loyal emerges as the largest Loyalty & Rewards real-time Fulfillment ecosystem. Some of the popular Loyalty Programs rollouts include Baskin Robins, HP Pay, INC5, GoodEarth, One Apollo, INOX Cinemas.
From a consumer perspective, the loyalty app allows consumers to view an interactive digital membership card, earn points, see his points and get digital membership and for companies it is getting data of customer or consumer in much advanced way , it gives them intelligent know how of consumer. It personalises and automates marketing. It converts data into insight and insight into action . Offers are send according to customers choice and keeps close touch with him or her. By this very relevant messages are send to customers.Paytm Mloyal or the my company name Mobiquest is my biggest sucess.
What is the future outlook of Mobiquest?
We would like to globally scale up the Paytm m’Loyal Platform and let the retailers/ Enterprises world over benefit from its proven capabilities. We want to cover scores of medium and small enterprises and be a global leader in the Saas Mobile Loyalty domain.
How do you feel about current status of education of Indian muslim women ?
Times are fast evolving and over the last few decades, you can see that Indian Muslim women have progressed well globally and created a niche in almost every vertical domain be it Engineering, liberal Arts & Literature, Pharma, Aviation, Civil Services. Families should continue to encourage provide equal opportunities to their daughters to pursue their aspirations, inculcate free thinking with a strong grounding and value system, to be financially independent and raise responsible future leaders & mothers to take the country towards the next level.
What values in life you would advise people to follow to be successful ?
The 4Ps of success as I see it begin with Prayer followed by Perseverance, Patience and Passion. Staying grounded to values and ethics go a long way in establishing relationships be it personal, business or customers.Transparency and integrity help establish trust, from a business perspective ’easy to do business with’ Valuing relationships beginning with Parents to the others along the journey and Gratitude is always rewarding.Learning never ends. “Rabbi Zidni Ilma” / “O Lord increase me in beneficial Knowledge “. So continue to aspire, inspire , innovate and dream big.
Drop Social Cliches and biases for a healthy more peaceful world. Live and let live.Introspect, unlearn and relearn..constantly working on competing with your own self and improving..doing better.
Life wasn’t meant to be a bed of roses alone, the thorns and trials are part of the journey. Don’t ever give up.Keep Going and remember “ you have never done enough”Rethink life. Rethink your potential. Rethink your blessings. Rethink the purpose of your life. Make the remaining journey more meaningful, enough for you to leave behind a legacy that benefits you and others, which you continue to redeem years after you’re gone.
What impact of Coronavirus you see on our lives ?
No doubt loss of near and dear ones was catastrophic for many families. The Coronavirus pandemic taught us values of family life and relations, in this hectic and fast life where we hardly have any time for each other. It introduced in us self-introspection.
Any more things you would like to share ?I’d like to appeal to the people of my country and globally to all of humanity is to drop social cliches and prejudices against Islam, against my Muslim Sisters specially this whole thing against Hijab. Live and let live. Go research. Form your own opinions. Respect the freedom and free will given by God to do what each individual wants and to be what they want to be.On my future plans, I see a gap in India being non Arabic as a Native Language community for good Quran Recitation Academies, I would like to start or help setup one some day for children & women in different parts of the country on a blended learning format. I intend to someday be able to use gamification to teach Children the meaning & purpose of life in a fun self exploratory way. I have had the opportunity to be a part of the open source Oxygen/ Med Tech community Oxikit/Pillar Tribe during the Pandemic and after a challenging Covid recovery and am glad that my efforts helped to train, inspire the Tech/ Manufacturing/building community to manufacture locally and contribute towards building a Self Reliant Country inspired by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. I’m not sure how yet, but I hope to contribute towards environment conservation and work to help build a greener planet.
What is your Message ?
Let’s together strive to give meaning to our lives as individuals and as humanity learn to coexist with each other with love and kindness and appreciate diversity and establish peace such that when we return to our Lord, we have no regrets and redeem the rewards collected in this journey of life. Would like end with Iqbal sher “Khudi ko kar buland itna ki har taqdeer se pahlay khuda banday se khud poocha, bata teri Raza Kya hai”