Are you a person who suffers from the “I’m too young” syndrome? Then your world is about to change today. We are going to bring you the story of Vindya Vithana; a digital marketer, an entrepreneur, a writer and a wanderer.
Vindya Vithana, Chief Editor of Public Relations and Marketing at Xtream Youth has been named as one of the “50 Most Influential Global Digital Marketing Leaders” by the World Marketing Congress. Candidates from 60 countries are considered for this award and Vindya became the youngest recipient of this award for 2016.
So how old is she? She is still 25!
No, it doesn’t end there. She also runs her own company, which is called Apostrophe,’ a company focused at content marketing and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Vindya is also a known startup blogger in the country who shares her experiences and lessons about startups.
So if you’re young and about to embark on your startup journey, this is a must read. Wanna get started?
If a potential client approaches you in a cocktail and asks “what do you do”? How would you answer?
I’d say my name that they’d know what I do. Just kidding!
Well, it’s like this. Digital marketing is a varied field, and the services that you can offer each client is vastly different. I can’t usually say what I do in a few sentences. Right now my clients reach me mainly based on recommendations. I don’t particularly pitch myself blindly to clients, and I don’t accept every client who approaches me as well. My client-base is mainly startups. I listen to their pitch and then I accept the projects that truly interest me. So the question would probably be the other way around. I’d ask them what they do!
How would a typical day look like in Vindya’s shoes?
My day starts early morning, sometimes as early as 4 am. You’d think I have a very motivating reason for it, but it’s mostly because I don’t want to waste my night-time data! I start my day with a cup of coffee and I make a quick target list for the day. Until about 8 am I go through the work submitted by my team of writers, send them the needed edits and send status reports to my clients. We work in a few different time zones and therefore the early hours are very important.
The daytimes during the weekdays are dedicated mostly to meetings and current projects. I am always on top of social media and the ongoing digital marketing campaigns at any given time of the day. I try my best to relax in the evenings and then again after 7.30 p.m. the other side of the world wakes up, and I am busy again. I try my best to keep weekends to myself in order to relax and rejuvenate.
If a 20-year-old Sri Lankan wants to become a digital marketer, what’s the best path you can recommend?
There are two kinds of digital marketers. You can be an expert in one specific niche and market your own product or the service digitally, or you can study a wider scope and be a professional digital marketer. I personally was a writer before I was a marketer, so it’s always beneficial to have a useful skill that helps you in marketing.
Digital marketing is one of the fastest evolving industries that you can get into. Some of the methods I used less than a year ago have become obsolete now, so it’s a constant process of learning, experimenting, and persevering. You can do a lot of self-studying through the internet. I recommend joining a startup once you are satisfied and confident with your knowledge. That will give you the experience of taking ownership of a brand and building its growth. It’s a tougher job than you may think, but the satisfaction and the financial stability that you get later on will more than make up for it.
What mistakes Sri Lankan businesses make when it comes to digital marketing?
Digital marketing is perhaps the most effective way of the method of marketing at present. It’s ever-growing source of entertainment, news, shopping and social interaction. While I see many Sri Lankan businesses using social media to put their messages out there, I don’t see many of them making long-term investments on content and providing value to the customers. Digital Marketing is not just social media. You need to study and understand your customers and meet them where they need you and are more receptive to what you put out there.
It seems like many of the Sri Lankan business are looking for a quick fix through digital marketing. It is true that digital marketing methods are relatively cheaper than the others, but just like every other marketing methods, to have long-term results, you need to have a long-term plan.
Being “young” in the business world can be daunting sometimes. How do you feel about it and how do you cope up with it?
So far, luckily, I have faced only the positive aspects of being young in this field. It could be because of the industry I am working, because the younger you are, the closer you have been to this digital era. Recently I was offered to set up and lead the Digital Marketing department of a corporate company, and one of the reasons they considered me was that I am young and therefore I understand the target audience and their thinking patterns more.
This is what I believe, as long as you are really good at what you do, your age will not be an issue. If you feel like people are being disrespectful just because you are young, then you only have to prove them wrong with your talents. Let your performance and skills speak for you.
If it really bothers you, you can always wear an over-sized pair of specs, grow a beard and fake the age till you make it!
If you can give away a book to a starting Sri Lankan entrepreneur, what would you give?
As a Sri Lankan entrepreneur, I had a tough time trying to find a book that would properly guide me through the obstacles I faced. Therefore, I am currently writing the first of a series of books that will focus on many aspects of entrepreneurship and personal development in general. You should definitely read that book! Do follow me on social media to get the newest updates.
Of course, I had to market my book first because that’s a part of my job! Other than that, I personally was very inspired by veterans in this field such as Stephen R Covey
in, Richard Branson, Ayn Rand and Napoleon Hill. You will never be able to find one book that will give you all the wisdom. However, always be updated on the latest literature in this field in order to keep yourself informed and motivated.
How do you manage your time to do all these things, considering the amount of juggling between jobs?
I will try to give you a practical answer for this. There are a few trusted methods I follow for time management. I use a Calendar app (Cal) which is integrated into a Planner app (AnyDo) which automatically syncs to all the platforms I work, so I don’t forget or miss out on things. I simultaneously keep a manual record of my ongoing projects which is frequently updated as well.
My team and I have this slogan call “Sit and get s**t done”, which is basically keeping your focus on one particular thing until you do it completely before moving to the next. I don’t set more than 6 goals per day for both myself and the team. As soon as I get a task in my hand, if it takes less than 5 minutes I immediately do it, if not, I will make sure it will be assigned to someone else or it is attended in my next immediate available time slot.
There is no magic to time management. You just stop putting it away till later and do as much as you can now. I will share all my findings on time management in the upcoming book!
What are you excited about life?
Tomorrow. I am constantly excited about the endless opportunities that tomorrow brings. As long as you work hard and smart today, tomorrow will definitely bring you good things. And therefore, as long as I am planning and working hard on my dreams today, I am excited for tomorrow. I am excited for all the places I will travel, all the people I will meet, all the laughs and good times that tomorrow will bring.
What do you most enjoy about being an entrepreneur?
First of all, I enjoy the autonomy and freedom it brings. I don’t do well with having a “boss”. It’s a part of my personality. Therefore for me, being my own boss is not a luxury, but a need in order to reach my best potential in what I do. I also like the better financial opportunities it brings rather than working for a fixed salary. Although, I like to live a very minimalist life, my travel and other desires are a little too expensive to satisfy from a 9-5 job.
The work-life balance it brings is also important. Being able to work on my own schedule. It also does not restrict me to a certain staff or an environment like a regular job would do. So far I have worked with many teams and projects and it expands my scope of thinking and knowledge. Finally, as an entrepreneur, I am happier and more relaxed as a person than I was in a stressful corporate environment.
What do you hate about being an entrepreneur?
Honestly, I can’t think of anything. There are times when the deadlines are near and I have to work till late at night that I think if it would be easier to just have a 9-5 job, but the thought evaporates soon after.
What are some of your biggest fears? How do you handle them?
Snakes, and I don’t think there’s anything I can do about it!
On a more serious note, my biggest fear is unrealized potential. The thought of waking up when I am 50 with an unrealized dream scares me. I am constantly in search of where my best potential lies at and I experiment with the ways in which I can realize them to the fullest. I get bored very easily. It’s important to me that I wake up every day and am excited to do what I do. This is why I love working with a lot of startups as well. I will always make sure that at any given time, I am doing something that I really love doing.
What’s the decision you most regret in life?
Well, I don’t particularly believe in the concept of “regret”. If you do something and it doesn’t work out, then you work on minimizing the damage and try to make the best of it. Regretting or worrying over something that has already happened is only a waste of the time you can actually do something productive.
I’ll tell you about one decision that was supposed to be the biggest regret in my life. After I got through from the O/L exam with good results, I went ahead to pursue Biology, because that was just what everyone else did. However, I realized that I was average at best in that stream, so I changed my path to studying English Literature. I did 3 whole new A/L subjects in about 6 months and ended up in ranking at 25th in Colombo district. English Literature is arguably one of the toughest subjects in our A/L syllabus and I took the risk of failing without anything to fall into. But 5 years later, that is still the best decision that I ever made. I haven’t regretted anything ever since!
What did you want to be when you grow up?
A Doctor. And I’m really glad that I didn’t follow it through!
What inspires you? What motivates you to keep on doing what you’re doing?
I’m constantly inspired by many things, but most of all, I am inspired by success. I closely follow the stories many people and companies that made it to the top from having virtually nothing. I’m inspired by innovation and creativity we see in the world. I’m inspired by the courage and conviction of other people. I’m inspired by the possibilities. That is what motivates me every day to keep on working, because if you have a clear vision, a goal, a plan and a good work ethic, good results are inevitable. Like Paulo Coelho says, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it. That is something that I truly believe in.
What’s the most interesting thing about Vindya that the public doesn’t know?
I think it’s probably that I have a very off-color sense of humor! Only a very few people who are very close to me know that. Since I represent a few known brands, I usually can’t be very public about all the controversial things that I find funny.
However, I do use a whole lot of innuendos in my tweets and even the most technical articles I write and I get away with it most of the time because no one expects me to make such jokes. So now that you know, you can look out for them!
Imagine we abandon you in an island with just one book for a year! What will that book be?
Robinson Crusoe or Masterman Ready, because they might help me survive on the island. If you’re going to abandon me in a nice private island with a resort, then probably Complete Works of Shakespeare because I always wanted to sit down and read all his work, but I never seem to find a time to do it.
What do you do when you don’t have absolutely anything else to do?
I live a life where I am bombarded with so much information all the time, so when I have absolutely nothing to do, I like solitude. My people know this about me. They know when to let me be. I like being alone with my thoughts. I let my mind wander freely and write stories about worlds way different from my reality. I do travel whenever possible. I go find new coffee shops and try food with the weirdest names that I can’t pronounce. I listen to calming music, mostly symphonies because words distract me. I use these times to connect with myself because you can easily get lost in the tide of work and forget who you are.
If you could ask a sage any question that you want to know the answer to, what would you ask?
I will probably ask him how the universe really came into existence, maybe followed by if there is any truth to this “Creator deity” many religions teach about. I am an Atheist, see, I base everything in my life on facts and reason. However, I am fascinated at the level in which religion impacts people. It would be an interesting discussion.
Imagine a Sri Lankan teenager who is just out of university wants to become an entrepreneur. What’s the best actionable advice you can give?
First of all, you need to sit down and think why exactly you want to be an entrepreneur and whether you are ready for it. There are many reasons one might want to start their own venture, and it is very important you clearly figure out your own reason. There will be many times in your journey you will have to come back to that one factor in order to persevere in hard times. I don’t want to sugarcoat this. Being an entrepreneur is not an easy path and not everyone will succeed. Therefore, make sure you are ready for it. Once you make that decision, then you need to stick to it.
In order to stand out in the tide of startups which come to the market every day, you need to have a unique solution to an existing problem. It could be a completely unique concept or even an improvement of an existing solution. What’s important is that there’s a defining and marketable factor in your business. Then you need to put together a team. The life and the soul of a start-up lie on its people. This could be 2 people or even 10, but in the starting stage, I don’t recommend getting too many people together because you know what happened to the soup with too many chefs!
Then you need put together a plan and get to business. Perfect your idea, create a prototype, put it out there and get feedback, perfect the product, put together a funding plan, launch and carry out a well thought out growth strategy. Once you become an entrepreneur, there’s no space for slacking and procrastinating. If you want to work only 9-5 then take the easy way and be an employee to another person. Give 200% and keep on improving.
Each successful entrepreneur has a different story, but each and everyone has had a great idea and has put a lot of hard work to get there. It’s not easy to give a general set of advice in a limited time like this. I will mention the ways I can be contacted if there are any young entrepreneurs out there who wants some insight on this journey.
How can someone reach Vindya Vithana?
Well, how you cannot reach me is through my phone. I really need to work on responding to my calls and text messages. You can, however, reach me by email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
My Blog – medium.com/@VindyXY
Magazine – http://www.mag.xy.lk/
My Twitter – https://twitter.com/vindyavithana
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/vindyavithana/
If you want to start an online business in Sri Lanka, we have a practical workshop for you. It’s called E-Commerce Essentials. To learn more and join the next workshop, click here.
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