Ashik Desai – EVP of Executive Growth at ContextMedia

[quote style=”boxed”]I am a firm believer in execution. The key to bringing ideas to life is having a vision, getting insight from others on it, and then making it happen.[/quote]

Ashik Desai is the EVP of Executive Growth at ContextMedia, a company that empowers healthcare professionals to engage patients while curating content personalized for each member practice.

Ashik’s vision early on was to find a niche where he could sustainably improve health outcomes for patients. Ashik attended Northwestern University, where he completed the honors program in medical education and graduated with a bachelor of science with an emphasis in economics and a finance certificate. Through his experiences outside biology and medicine, Ashik discovered his passion for health information and the influence it could have on patients.

Where did the idea for Context Media come from?

The idea came from Rishi Shah and Shradha Agarwal, who were students at Northwestern. They started an organization now known as ISBE, the Institute for Student Business Education. The group provides students with experiential learning opportunities in multiple sectors of business.

However, Rishi had always had it in him to be an entrepreneur. He saw the need for fully digital patient education platforms at the point of care. The vision was to speak to patients when and where it matters to improve health outcomes. The idea was that there was no better place to do this than in a physician’s office, moments before a patient is making many key therapeutic and health decisions. ContextMedia has revolutionized the industry, creating a fully digital platform that’s measurable, trackable, and impactful.

What is your business model?

We have two sales groups. The member outreach team calls upon targeted physician offices in a condition-specific vertical — diabetes, rheumatoid diseases, PCPs, etc. — to explain the service we provide. We serve as the physicians’ free educational tool in communicating with patients.

We also have a sponsorship team that manages the sales of advertising time on our network. This is our revenue stream. In between educational content, there are relevant sponsor advertisements from health/wellness, CPG, and medication brands looking to target the patients in our offices.

What does your typical day look like?

My day varies every day. I’m traveling between multiple cities weekly, so I find myself on flights early in the morning and late at night. From 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., my time is spent in internal or client-facing meetings, working alongside our team.

In the early mornings and late evenings, I’m able to focus on higher-level projects or initiatives that need to be put in place. My role is to serve as the manager overseeing the areas of our business that need the most focus to grow. I work with team leads and teams to improve efficiencies and develop operational procedures that are sustainable and effective.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I am a firm believer in execution. The key to bringing ideas to life is having a vision, getting insight from others on it, and then making it happen. You need to be able to see the process through and not stop until the task at hand is completed.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Measured success — there’s such a huge focus on measured/metric-based tracking of advertising campaigns and other initiatives businesses are taking on. I think data-based decision-making is brilliant. Also, so many companies in our space and others hold valuable information that could help other organizations: governments, nonprofits, etc. There needs to be a big focus on tools that can interpret and analyze raw data to create reports for industry insights.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I haven’t had any terrible experiences. I think what makes my time at CM better is just the level of responsibility, the pace at which we are growing, and the fact that there’s so much buy-in for the vision and culture of our company. It makes working long hours, and committing yourself beyond just a job, that much more fruitful.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would have acquired more computer science knowledge. Not that I ever wanted to be a product developer or a coder, but understanding the framework of that space is extremely relevant today. As apps, smartphones, and other technologies continue to adapt to society’s needs, the number of people who can actually understand what’s being done from a tech standpoint is shrinking.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Think. Rethink. Propose. Listen. Think again, and execute. I’m all about multiple waves of thinking. It’s important, before you present your idea, to think it out, lay it out, and draft it on a whiteboard. Then, propose it to the right people to get the feedback. Listen to the feedback and questions being brought up, and respond accordingly.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

One of the strategies that has worked very well for us is how we deal with speaking about our competitors. There is significant value in proving why your company is a leader, and less value in proving why others are followers.

What is one business idea you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Someone should start a company to make bill-sharing arrangements at restaurants significantly easier. There are many companies in the process of working toward it, but no one has truly succeeded. Going out with 15 people and using 15 credit cards to charge specific items is a difficult thing to sit through. I see a combination between a transfer of funds and restaurant menus/trackers to be able to select items ordered and make payment via multiple methods.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

I’d love to change the view of entrepreneurship for undergraduate students. It’s great to see such a drive to impact society with an idea that disrupts markets. Yet businesspeople need the ability to take a step back and appreciate and learn from the people and ideas around them. Utilize the knowledge you acquire to determine your next steps, rather than run blindly. There’s value in laying your own bricks, even your own type of bricks, but getting directional guidance on how or when to lay them never hurt anyone.

Tell us something about you that very few people know.

I was on a Bollywood dance team in college.

What are your three favorite online tools, software, or resources and what do you love about them?

My favorite online tools are Feedly, Asana, and Salesforce. Feedly is a great app that curates all the news and media I read daily. Asana is a great tool to track tasks and make sure projects get done on time. Salesforce is an easily usable CRM, and it offers the ability to layer multiple dashboards on it.

What is the one book you recommend our community should read and why?

“Drive” by Daniel H. Pink offers really unique perspectives on incentives and how to motivate people. What gets people motivated? Is it just success, or a balance of success and happiness?

List three experts who have helped you as an entrepreneur and leader and why?

Rishi Shah: Our co-founder has provided the opportunities and guidance needed for me to take on the role I have today.

Harvard Business Review and Entrepreneur: For insights on innovative landscapes and technology, HBR and Entrepreneur get me to think in different ways and become more creative in developing my viewpoints and perspectives.

Atul Gawande: His expertise and insight into the nation’s healthcare system and how it can be improved are incredible. He was a leading charge for me in terms of inspiration to not attend medical school and to focus on improvements to health education. He’s also a journalist who keeps me up-to-date on where healthcare is today and where it “should” be.

What did you have for breakfast?

I had fruit and a cup of coffee. Sometimes, I’ll sneak in a muffin.


ContextMedia on Twitter: @contextmediainc
Ashik Desai on LinkedIn: