Himanshu Jain, by qualification, a mechanical engineer, has had a diversified career with many changes in the lines of work and geographic locations before settling in the information technology domain in a leadership role.
However, that excellent job could not keep him away from going for a change again to start his own business in his mid-fifties.
Based out of Tokyo, he is the co-founder and CEO of two successful ventures, EJable.com and ReachExt K.K. The other co-founder in both these ventures is Himanshu’s old colleague Ms. Naoko Takahashi.
Himanshu went to launch his company just before COVID hit, but he with his team overcame all those challenges for ReachExt to be a profitable company from the very first month. Within two years of launching the first business and making it from zero to a multi-million-dollar company, he launched EJable.com as a competition to the first growing business. Apart from his own startups, he is also on the advisory board of a Silicon Valley tech startup SmartBeings, Inc. (WooHoo).
In his free time, Himanshu likes to go for long drives in the countryside, read as much as possible, and go for scuba diving at least once a year.
Where did the idea for your companies come from?
By accident, first and then by continuing to sit outside the box to think about the interiors of the box.
And what caused that accident was a bit of craziness.
I co-founded my first company in late 2019. It was a decision I call “Jumping into unknown waters.”
I was 55 and had a good position as Country Head of Japan and South Korea with a multinational IT consulting in Japan. Great salary and benefits and, above all, the complete freedom to make business decisions. Everything I could have retired with.
Japan has a huge demand-supply gap of tech talent. In addition, recruitment companies often lack technical understanding, and that can add to the frustration of hiring companies. It was an afternoon with such a frustrating experience that over a cup of coffee, I uttered the words that I was gonna start a recruitment company. The person in front of me is now my partner.
And that’s how ReachExt K.K. was born over a cup of coffee and with no serious thoughts. It was the craziness part of the story. However, we kept on growing and kept on building an energetic and smart team that works like a family. We also managed to remain profitable from the word “Go”.
Now comes the second part, “Accident”, which became EJable.com
One day some company sent us an email that they owned a
domain EmploymentJapan.com and were willing to sell it. What made us buy it was the thought that if we create a small website with a few articles about the Japanese employment scene, just by virtue of the keywords in the domain name, the website may get some decent traffic, and we could divert that traffic to our main business. So, the original idea was to have that website as a cost center.
We found some paid content writers and got a few articles written. However, some articles were very nice and made me rethink my cost-center thought process for indirect gains. Why can a cost center not be a profit center with direct profits?
We changed the idea to create competition for our main business of recruitment by turning EmploymentJapan.com into a job board, where instead of paying 35% of the annual gross as the recruitment fee, an employer can just put up a paid ad costing peanuts while getting free branding and publicity.
Then we came across the pains of those thousands of Japanese multinationals in other countries and also their foreign partner companies. They all need Japanese-speaking people in their respective countries for bridging. So, even before the launch, EmploymentJapan.com went into the second incarnation. This was to extend services to employers in other countries to connect with Japanese-speaking bilinguals.
However, with this incarnation, EmploymentJapan.com truly died. How can you serve Japan and also other countries with a name like “Employment Japan”? So, the domain which started all this had to be scraped off. We liked the logo having EJ, though. And hence the business was rebranded as EJable. Instead of EJ standing for Employment Japan, now it stands for English + Japanese + Able.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My idea is always that my typical day should not look like a typical day. Yes, there are always typical tasks that a person needs to do every day, but I devote considerable time to thinking about ideas. Ideas to do things differently and more efficiently for better results.
Apart from the regular tasks, I tend to read a lot. This is because there are only three ways the ideas can come; by thinking, talking and discussing, and reading. I am lucky to live in Japan as people commute to work by subway here, unlike many other countries. I tend to use that time exclusively for reading.
We also practice online meetings with the entire team twice a week. During these, we use only 30 minutes for work-related discussions, and for the remaining 30 minutes, we talk about things that may not have any direct relation to the work. These are indirect team-building exercises with amazing effects on morale and productivity. We also have a team day out at least once every two months. And this day out is only on a working day – for not working.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Ideas can be brought to life only by planning, brainstorming, and then going to execution. I like to communicate ideas with the team, but at times I need to veto if resistance is only because of pessimism.
Not all ideas bring successful results, and hence many times, thinking too much may prevent the execution, thereby killing the potential of the idea. I give very high importance to the execution. Sometimes this execution can be just on a proof-of-concept basis to better understand the feasibility.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The basic trend behind almost all trends of the current times is artificial intelligence and machine learning. These technologies are touching each and every part of our life. Forget technologies, but AI is writing for you, making visual art for you.
Yes, there are fears about the trends in artificial intelligence. Such as possible job losses etc. However, if we see the human history, it has been a history of continuously increasing automation. But, with continuously increasing job market size.
Moreover, there is no going back from these trends. We need to see how best we can use these. So yes, the trends of artificial intelligence and machine learning getting so deeply integrated in all aspects of our lives is something exciting.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Early to bed and early to rise. Well, apart from exceptions, I tend to go to bed early to start my days earlier than many. I do prefer to work from the office. In Japan, the normal office work starts at 9:00 am or 9:30 am, but I am at the office by 7:00 am, after one hour’s commute. In fact, I have practiced the other side of it also. Because in my previous life, I did not have a choice. You cannot maintain this discipline when you need to collaborate with people in different time zones. But I clearly see the remarkable effect on productivity with this habit.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Be a bit more systematic and process-oriented. From a rating of 2 on a 1-to-10 scale, be at least 5 or 6. Not too much to kill the innovativeness and love to change, but a better balance was still required. Breaking rules is important, but following rules, at least a bit, also doesn’t harm 😉.
Don’t take everything as a competition. There are always some tasks that do not merit too much energy for winning.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I am always right 😉
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
While reading a lot and talking to as many people as possible are the things that I do a lot. However, I make sure that I spend time alone daily without much brain activity. It could be cycling or walking in those lonely places. These are the times when thoughts about new ideas, new ways of doing things, or something which might be missing in plain sight catch up with you.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
One eye on today and the other on the future. I Plan my today by thinking about the next year and the next-to-next year.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
We faced a couple of failures in our initial hirings. This was not because of wrong people but my approach to encouraging everyone to think as the entrepreneur, encouraging high freedom for decision making and total flexibility. All these things can work wonders, but these can sometimes backfire strongly, especially with some very young employees. Later we adopted a better balance, though still preferring to encourage self-decision-making, flexibility, etc. My philosophy remains unchanged empowering people creates leaders, and leaders you create are your best assets.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I would assume that this question is for an idea for a startup where you can aim for a POC (Proof of concept) or MVP (Minimum Viable Product) without a huge investment. Well, to be frank, and honest, if I had another such idea that was great enough and also feasible, I would have already gone for that.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Unfortunately, $100 doesn’t pull much in Tokyo. So, allow me to change the question to “What is the best $100 or so you recently saved?”
Well, the answer is by giving up the Netflix subscription 😊
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
MS Teams. Of course, there are equally good alternatives, but MS Teams is what we use to be connected to everyone every moment in today’s work-from-anywhere environment. People may be away but they are always together. In fact, real-time communication and collaboration have seen a rise from the pre-COVID days. Simple but very effective and we are lovin’ it.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t” by Jim C. Collins.
While this best-seller may have some critics that all examples in this book may not be justified, the book serves its purpose. And that purpose is to think in that direction that one has to make that leap from Good to Great. Remaining as Good is just plain Bad.
What is your favorite quote?
“I must follow them, for I am their leader” by Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin
- It’s never late to bring a big change and create something entirely new.
- Don’t fall in love with each of your ideas, and stick with those. Even an idea needs new ideas.
- Trust people to make them trust you. Enable them by empowering them. Leaders you create are your better assets than the leaders you hire.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.