By Anandpreet Kaur | Thailand |
Manit Ghogar has been pursuing non-stop automotive-tech related ventures ever since he returned to Thailand after completing his tertiary education in the United States (US).
Once back into the bosom of Bangkok, he joined automotive marketplace Carro in 2017. This were early days for the business which has now morphed into Southeast Asia’s largest used car marketplace, and the first automotive unicorn in the region – a company with a valuation of $1 billion or more.
Two years ago, he was tapped to lead Genie Thailand which operates the group’s insurance and finance businesses, serving as the Chief Executive Officer of both Genie Insurance (Thailand) Public Co Ltd and Genie Finance (Thailand) Co Ltd.
How does he manage to keep up with the pace? Well, Manit, 28, feels lucky to have been raised in a family that has always emphasized the value of consistency and persistence, with the elders in his family serving as a very good example for him to follow.
“Now in their late 80s, both my grandparents continue to work with the same earnestness as they did many decades ago, setting a clear but silent precedent about work and responsibility for the rest of the family,” Manit tells Asia Samachar in an email interview. “We live in a joint family, and the tone set up by the elders has played an important role in keeping the family united, humble and successful.”
The son of Amarjit Singh Ghogar and Anjana Ghogar, Manit goes around spotting a neatly tied turban. Sikh males, and some females, as well, wear the turban as an article of their faith. Does it hinder his stride in the Thai corporate world? No, he said.
“The only difference is that you are an ambassador for other turban wearing Sikhs in a corporate society where Sikhs are not the majority. For this reason, wearing a turban carries a significant responsibility,” he said.
Manit Ghogar has been with the group since their start and has played a pivotal role in helping both Carro and Genie setup and penetrate the Thailand market.
Carro, whose business vehicle is registered as Trusty Cars Pte. Ltd, provides a full-stack service for all aspects of car ownership and uses AI-powered technology to transform the car buying and selling experience. It aims to challenge the traditional way of buying and selling cars through proprietary pricing algorithm and AI-enabled capabilities.
Founded in 2015, Carro facilitates about US$1billion annualised run-rate GMV. Carro group of companies include Genie, myTukar and Jualo. As of June 2021, Carro has raised over US$400 million in equity from SoftBank Vision Fund 2, EDBI, Mitsubishi Corporation, MS&AD Ventures, Insignia Ventures Partners and B Capital Group, according to information at its website.
T H E I N T E R V I E W
Tell us more about yourself?
I was born and bred in Bangkok, Thailand. I spent the first 18 years of my life here, after which I moved to the USA. I spent most of my time abroad at Northeastern University in Boston, studying Finance and Information Systems. During my time there, I got the opportunity to work in different industries, including proprietary trading, payments and venture capital, with each experience being in a different city – Boston, New York and Bangalore, respectively. The culmination of my experiences abroad created a strong interest in technology businesses within the financial services sector, and the role it could play in improving lives and societies, especially in developing nations like my own, Thailand.
Tell us about your immediate family?
My grandparents immigrated to Thailand around 80 years ago. Like many Sikh families at the time, they were forced to reinvent themselves in a culture very foreign to their own. The humble beginnings coupled with less than favorable conditions created a strong sense of tenacity that has served them until today. Now in their late 80s, both my grandparents continue to work with the same earnestness as they did many decades ago, setting a clear but silent precedent about work and responsibility for the rest of the family. We live in a joint family, and the tone set up by the elders has played an important role in keeping the family united, humble and successful. My parents, similarly, have led simple lives. My father a businessman, and my mother, a teacher, have collectively placed a high importance on education, discipline and diligence, values that were put at the forefront of the family’s upbringing.
You joined Genie, part of Carro Group, in July 2017. How did this come about?
I joined Carro Group in Thailand in 2017 after returning from the USA. At present, Carro is Southeast Asia’s largest used car marketplace, but back then was just a young startup with early operations in Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand. I served as the CEO of Carro Thailand for over three years. As part of our journey to build out an end-to-end marketplace for our customers, we invested in a licensed insurance company, today known as Genie Insurance (Thailand) Public Co Ltd. We also established Genie Service Co Ltd, a BOT licensed multi-finance company to offer automotive loans. About two years ago, I got the opportunity to head Genie Thailand, which operates both the insurance and finance businesses.
As the Group CEO of Genie Service and Genie Insurance (Thailand) Public Co., Ltd, what were your main challenges?
As the CEO of Genie Service and Genie Insurance (Thailand) Public Co Ltd, some of the main challenges that I faced included growing the businesses in highly regulated environments. Understanding the unique set of regulations each company had to operate with and all the bureaucracy attached to these industries took a lot of time. Genie Insurance, being a public company, also presented a unique set of challenges. The company is subject to an enhanced level of scrutiny by auditors, regulators and shareholders, a level of practice that is not the norm for most private companies. Navigating through the scrutiny and red tape, as well as developing the necessary relationships with the government in order to grow our businesses were demanding. However, over time, this became a very rewarding experience and one equipped with invaluable lessons.
Can you share some of your achievements over the past four years?
I think that being part of a company that had the grit and mettle to dominate an industry throughout an entire region in a matter of 6 years has been an incredible achievement on the company’s part. Being part of this journey allowed me, with the help of a great team both locally and regionally, to play my part in growing the business into a dominant position in Thailand. This growth, both locally and across the region has allowed us to raise close to US$600 million from some of the most prestigious investors around the world, paving way for us to invest and grow into ancillary markets and continue to serve our customers every step of the way. Making consistent and daily strides towards changing user behavior and inching towards achieving our vision is in itself an incredible achievement, and one that in no way could have been accomplished alone.
You studied finance and economics. Why did you pursue this degree?
I spent my first two years at university exploring different fields of study. This was one of the many liberties of studying at an American university. I pursued coursework in Economics, Math, Information Systems, and Finance for a long time before having to settle on a degree. I eventually decided on a dual degree in Finance and Information Systems as it offered a favorable combination of theory and application. The degree provided inroads into an industry that I at the time knew very little about, but quickly developed passion for. The opportunity to work within the industry at companies like Mastercard and Eze Software Group, whilst pursuing coursework were one of the key reasons I decided to pursue this degree.
Are you involved in any volunteer work? Please elaborate.
I am currently a member of Northeastern’s Young Global Leaders program. The program comprises 100 graduates who advise the university leadership and help strengthen Northeastern’s footprint globally. One important aspect of this program includes investing university resources into various charitable causes each year. The causes are handpicked by the program’s selection committee and resources crowd funded across the university’s student body. Leveraging the university’s global network to deploy resources towards these causes provides us with a platform to ensure meaningful impact, more so than any of us can achieve on our own.
You’re a Sikh, with a turban, involved in top management in the Thai corporate world. How are you received in the corporate world? Does the fact that you wear a turban make a difference?
In terms of how one is received, I don’t think the turban makes much of a difference. I think the work you do is what people remember you for. The only difference is that you are an ambassador for other turban wearing Sikhs in a corporate society where Sikhs are not the majority. For this reason, wearing a turban carries a significant responsibility. If you practice integrity and honest work, the effects will be felt by other Sikhs. If you practice less honest work, the same will be true.
Are there many other Sikhs in top management in the Thai corporate world?
There are a growing number of Sikhs in corporate management positions in Thailand. This has created a small but growing community amongst us. Being in different industries within a common corporate environment has formed a healthy platform for us to share our challenges, learn from one another and extend a helping hand where we can. I believe this has played a crucial role in helping Sikhs grow within their careers and attract others into the realm of corporate Thailand, a career choice that was less common less than a dozen years ago.
Do you encourage younger Thai Sikhs to enter into the corporate world? How and why?
I definitely encourage it. It is a formidable environment to navigate through, but it is one that is conducive to holistic growth and development. I think mentorship plays a vital role in the making of career choices, as well as in the growth of those careers. I think it is important for younger Thai Sikhs to find the right mentors and partners for their journeys, and to build a trusted group of advisors as they climb the rungs of the corporate ladder.
What are you passionate about?
I continue to be passionate about starting and growing companies. Learning about new businesses, industries and technologies has helped fuel this passion.
Twitter Southeast Asia boss Arvinder Gujral leaves for start-up WATI (Asia Samachar, 17 Feb 2021)
ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs / Punjabis in Southeast Asia and beyond.Facebook | WhatsApp +6017-335-1399 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter | Instagram | Obituary announcements, click here