Minu Batish studied MSc Mathematical Trading and Finance, 2009 and met her husband at Cass. She is now a mother, and Minu’s solution to juggling a career and parenthood has been to set up her own start-up – CharityAppointments.com, which she hopes will become the number one place to find your next charity role. We sat down to find out all about it.
Tell me about your time at Cass!
I studied MSc Mathematical Trading and Finance from 2008 to 2009. Previously, I did a BEng in Electrical Engineering as well as an MBA and MSc in Computer Science.
I had a wonderful time at Cass and got the opportunity to learn from world-renowned professors such as Professor John Hatgioannides, Professor Giovanni Urga, Professor Ales Cerny, to name a few. I also made some lifelong friends including my husband! I can never forget the first day of our course – the same day Lehman Brothers collapsed! It was definitely an interesting time as we witnessed the unfolding of the credit crisis and its subsequent effects on the world economy. As a result, the course was also restructured and professors talked at length analysing how the crisis could have been averted and how the markets were reacting to the debacle.
Some of our classmates had already bagged jobs but the rest of us were pretty gloomy about our job prospects. Many of us didn’t have any way to stay and sustain ourselves in an expensive city like London, and some even moved back home.
What happened next?
After the Masters course at Cass, I worked for an Italian oil giant and then moved to Credit Suisse. I took a career break after becoming a mother. Before joining Cass, I had worked for investment banks UBS and JP Morgan and some technology companies and this time none of the plush jobs really excited me. I utilised this career break to take a step back and contemplate what I wanted to achieve. My husband encouraged me to explore various start-up ideas. We had numerous discussions around the ideas however I could not zero-in on that ‘lightbulb idea’ which fitted my objectives.
The market is saturated with just about every idea and solution, so really it meant taking a share of someone’s pie and wriggling through the noise to be heard and basically challenging the status quo. I explored a couple of start-up ideas that didn’t work out. When you have run a couple of start-ups and had failures, you learn how and why they fail. I’ve burnt my fingers and learnt that way.
How did Charity Appointments come about?
Finally, the idea of Charity Appointments dawned upon my husband. I had no idea about charities and so I carried out my own market research before starting out, looking at the current market for charity recruitment. There are about 170,000 registered charities and societies in the UK, plus other smaller foundations, community groups, social organisations and non-profit groups. On average, there are 6 out of 10 people who are not satisfied with their current job and are looking for a change. The estimated charity income market size is roughly £40 billion alone in the UK.
I found out that existing competitors charged too heavily to advertise jobs plus they don’t provide the complete strategic end to end solution for recruitment. Working with the premise that the charities want to cut-down on admin costs and improve their social presence and logistics, it was easy to work out a need-gap analysis and how Charity Appointments will fill a clearly defined business need in the current charity job market.
How did you get it off the ground?
Initially it was difficult, as most charities who advertised their roles with competitors did not find a compelling reason to switch over to my venture. It was about building trust and giving a face to the company. I was learning my own lessons as the site evolved as not just one strategy works in its entirety. You need to optimize your strategies and keep experimenting. One formula that works for one company may not apply to another.
As a start-up entrepreneur, at times you feel like things don’t move as you want – you need patience and perseverance. In comparison to a retail shop, an online business does not give a complete picture of the demographic profile of your customers or a face-to-face interaction about their perception or how they evaluate your brand’s value.
Would you return to investment banking?
Not really, don’t get me wrong, I loved the job while at investment banks but I didn’t want to grow old thinking I have sacrificed my best years of life working on something which wasn’t my dream. It’s better to take a pause and understand we are not going to be younger like in the film the Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I wanted to be challenged and to see how far I could go, so I decided to just work on my dreams.
Also, at an investment bank, there is not much scope for the continuous learning and experimenting that a start-up provides. I launched the site in September 2015, which was not a very conducive time for hiring as recruitment was very slow in charities across the UK at this time, but I got the chance to learn on-the-job and experiment with lots of strategies. I decided to spend the time building my network, understanding the challenges of running the start-up and reading books and HBR articles.
The start-up has given me an all-in-one complete perspective while multitasking on so many roles such as HR, admin, sales, communications, research even a DIY handyman! I try to think of innovative and cost-effective solutions to save money and increase my brand presence. Gone are the days when bankers used to be masters of the universe. Now technologists and the new band of start-up entrepreneurs occupy that coveted slot.
What’s been the hardest part?
Marketing and managing social media are the most important thing in this digitally connected world. Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell. No matter how innovative and worthy your idea and product is, if it doesn’t get to the target segment, the entire idea is useless. Finding the best and the most cost-effective advertising channel can be a bit daunting. When you’re in an investment bank everything is taken for granted – the brand’s name, the office space, your laptop, desk, the teammates to share the job responsibility, even your job scope is pretty much as per the job description. However, a start-up is all very different from my previous roles in Maths and Finance!
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?
For me, patience is key in the start-up business. My advice for other women who are thinking about a start-up is that the best way to do it is to DO IT! Don’t worry about your start up having no money….it never has in many cases. And don’t wait for your children to grow up, they will benefit from your multitasking anyway. But you must be fully prepared to work hard, you need to have determination, patience and the willingness to sacrifice a bit of family time for yourself.
Finally, it’s the quick-fire question round!
Favourite place in London: Docklands. I’ve lived here since I graduated from Cass
Favourite holiday destination: I always fondly remember going to Mussorie in India as a child, and Copenhagen
Must-check-everyday website: BBC and FT, TechCrunch, WIRED, Reuters and Bloomberg Business Weekly
Dream travel destination: Greece – Santorini, and also Venice
Cheese or chocolate: Chocolate!