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"Innovate or Perish" - Karan Singh, CEO, Sunburn Global in a tete-a-tete with India Business Journal
10 January, 2018

Karan Singh, the dashing CEO of Sunburn Global, flaunts big-ticket degrees from some of the reputed global institutions. A management with Honours (BSc) degree from the prestigious UK’s London School of Economics (LSE) and an MBA from world-renowned Harvard Business School has given Mr. Singh sufficient grounding in academics. Starting his career as a Senior Analyst at Ambit Corporate Finance in Mumbai, Mr. Singh developed his expertise in advising companies in the Media & Entertainment sectors on M&A’s, private equity finance, strategic transactions, business plans and investor presentations for sell-side transactions. Some of his notable achievements at Ambit included his advisory role to Viacom on its entry into India’s entertainment sector through a Joint Venture with the Television 18 Group to create a network of television channels. He also advised Miditech on successful structuring of a joint venture with Turner to create a new Hindi General Entertainment TV channel in India. In May 2011, Mr. Singh joined Percept Live as CEO of Sunburn Global, where he became responsible for providing strategic direction, mapping alliances, creating opportunities for integration, and paving the roadmap for Sunburn – Asia’s largest Electronic Dance Music festival. With his core expertise in areas of strategic planning and high networking, the Sunburn Global chief has brought in a wealth of ideas and knowledge from his global experience to help lead Sunburn and take it to the next level. Mr. Singh is passionate about sports and loves playing Football and Squash. He had also hosted a 90 minute weekly sports talk show at Pulse FM (University Radio at LSE). At Harvard, he had organized the business school’s first ever charity Poker tournament, and was also on the committee for the Squash & Soccer clubs, in addition to being CFO of the university’s Media & Entertainment Club. In an engaging interview with India Business Journal, Mr. Singh outlines his management theories and practices that have helped him excel in his career.

Your 5 management mantras according
Delegate smartly, you cannot do everything on your own.
Always be well-prepared even if it’s for a simple meeting or a call. Do your homework and research.
There’s no substitute for hard work.
Set small incremental goals for yourself and accomplish them.
Don’t beat around the bush, people appreciate honesty and openness.
 
A game that helps your career
I love playing Football and also Squash. Football is great because it’s a team sport and there’s a lot of camaraderie. Everyone has their own role. Squash is a fantastic stress-buster and a sport that can really help you push your limits.
 
A turning point in your career
We have faced a lot of difficulty and massive obstacles in doing Sunburn over the years, from various quarters. There have been many times when it may have been easier to give up but we always kept going and gave each other strength. Now I know we can overcome anything.
 
Secret of your success
Although I believe I still have a long way to go, but I try to set realistic targets for myself and then go all out to achieve them. In a highly dynamic industry and environment, patience, perseverance and discipline definitely go a long way in achieving my goals. And yes, with Passion, nothing is impossible. 
 
Your philosophy of work?
Be collaborative, open and practical, but at the same time ambitious. 
 
A person you admire 
My father for sure, but also my grandfather Mr. Mangal Singh who’s work ethic and desire to help people was truly amazing. I have never seen anyone like him. And I’ve never come across anyone who didn’t have great things to say about him. I do try to follow his guidance and help people wherever I can irrespective of if I can get something in return or not.
 
Your favourite books
The Catcher in the Rye was my favourite while growing up. As a teenager I felt that it resonated with me and was a really good coming-of-age novel. The other favourites include Brave New World which is way more relevant today than when it was written, way ahead of its time, and also Catch 22, a great, satirical, war novel.
 
Your Fitness Regime? 
I work out 2-3 times a week, and apart from that play squash and football along with the occasional swim. I keep mixing it up to keep my workout regimen interesting.
 
Your five business mantras 
 
Think Long Term – Avoid taking decisions that offer short-term solutions. You need to foresee your business’s achievements five years down the road. Focus on building what your clients and customers are looking for, not what will be a quick fix solution.
Consumer is King – Customer satisfaction and loyalty can be the most valuable tool to a brand’s longevity. Don’t build a vague business model or develop a generic solution where the target audience is anyone in the world. Get to know your consumers, research, connect with them frequently, ask relevant questions, and above all, earn their trust.
Embrace Technology – Identifying and using the best IT tools with a first mover advantage can help your brand leapfrog way ahead of competition. Pay attention to tech trends and think through your business model, especially on how it adds value to your customers. Determine which tech tool will allow your business to amplify connect and reach so that you are able to scale and grow.
Innovate or Perish – Brands that fail to innovate risk extinction. In an era of digital disruption one cannot afford to stay still. Business is a moving escalator, the world is evolving, customer expectations are changing, and competitors are forever catching up. Innovation requires you to be a constant visionary, be fearless, and take risks that may seem imprudent to the fainthearted.
Stand your Ground – As a business leader, you need to be extremely persevering and determined. This may seem so common sense, but when you’re in the boardroom making snap vital decisions, it’s tough to pull back and think through. But ultimately, grit and determination, along with insurmountable belief in your brand’s capability, will lead you to success.
 
Your last words 
It’s exciting times we live in. By 2020, the median individual in India will be 29 years, making us the youngest country in the world. Filled with boundless energy, active ideas and a fearless attitude, India is all set to experience a dynamic transformation filled with abounding opportunities for marketers, sponsors and leagues across domains. The future will belong to those who can bring these consumers back together on common yet innovative platforms of engagement. And I am excited to be poised on the brink of such an amazing turning point in our history.