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Azleen Abdul Rahim

Get To Know Manni Sidhu, CEO & Co-Founder Of Coleegs

According to Coleegs, social media is overcrowded with 2 billion posts a day. And, 80 percent of businesses can’t tell their story because they can’t even afford PR as the service is just beyond them financially. Coleegs is a PR company that specializes in media outreach, getting brands published in credible publications, and securing speaking engagements with TV and Radio – around the world. Coleegs uses the state-of-the-art platform that simplifies those complex processes and makes it easier to use and understand. I caught up with its CEO, Manni Sidhu recently to understand better his views on the future of PR, how his idea works and the technology behind the platform.

Hello Manni. Welcome to Marketing In Asia. Tell us, who is Manni Sidhu as a person?

I’m an entrepreneur who has lived and worked in seven countries across four continents.

In 2005, I helped expand renowned F&B chain ‘Nando’s Chicken’ across part of Canada as their master franchisee, where I produced the top grossing territory in Canada. 

After my successful exit from Nando’s, I moved to Asia living in Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore, working in Consulting, Fintech, and completing my eMBA. I transitioned back to my entrepreneurial routes and into my current role as the co-founder and CEO of Coleegs – a Tech startup that specializes in Media Outreach.

I’m a lifelong learner – enjoy good food, good company, good music, good wine, and have a love for golf.

How has your life journey shaped you as a person today?

My travels, learnings, trials and tribulations have given me the tools and mental strength to take on challenges like building a global Tech startup. 

At the same time, and more importantly, I’ve learned to take time out occasionally, and focus on number one – me.

The world can be a very tough place to navigate, this past year is a great example. Unless you’re constantly learning and applying life’s lessons, it’s going to be a tough ride – never be complacent.

Let’s dive in and get to know the professional side of you now. How do you find your journey running Coleegs?

I had a brief stint at consulting which really opened up my eyes on how agency models (consulting, legal, PR), are structured, and how these business models are outdated. 

More importantly, SME’s should have access to the same resources as big businesses, and that’s how the journey began.

Building a new business model is NO light work, takes years – constantly refining the end product through ‘failure.’ Ultimately, you need to keep moving forward, and have your problem statement front and center – in our case that was ’80% of businesses cannot tell their story because they cannot afford PR, and current Tech products are ineffective.”

Coleegs has offices in the UK, Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia and soon in New York and Japan. How did you achieve such a phenomenal growth when the level of competition within the global media relations industry is beyond words?

That really ties back to how I finished the last question, solve a BIG problem, make sure your business model works, and the growth will come.

Of course, it’s not just that easy, the early days are all about GRIT! “Grit is passion and sustained persistence applied toward long-term achievement, with no particular concern for rewards or recognition along the way” – Angela Duckworth. 

Every entrepreneur should spend some time understanding this concept.

Funding, Strategy sessions, Partnerships will seldom work in the early stages – it’s all about problem solving, perseverance, and doing the menial work. This is why the ‘smartest’ people fail, they just don’t have GRIT. 

To manage multiple team members located in multiple locations can be overwhelming. How do you maintain Coleegs’ philosophy, vision and values across different teams?

This is probably the root cause of why startups fail. For me you have to relate to your employees – what are the problems they face, professionally and personally, and how can the business model solve them. For Coleegs, our PR specialists needed consistent quality projects to work on, have a flexible schedule, and not deal with the admin headaches.

Secondly, unite under a common cause. Once your whole team can come together with a mutual goal, there’s no stopping how well the team can grow. For Coleegs that was a shared passion to tell stories of amazing businesses.

What was one of the biggest challenges you faced while growing Coleegs?

When building a company, challenges are endless. For me, the personal mental challenge of building a Tech start up outweighed the business challenges. 

I spent my late 30’s and early 40’s with no income, depleting assets, and little personal life – while watching my close friends secure their careers, build homes, and travel with their partners. Then there’s the critiques, you will always have critiques – people who doubt you for whatever reason.

This can get you, we’re all human after all. It’s very important to Dig Deep, focus on yourself, who you are, why you’re building the company, and surround yourself with only those who support you.

What is a great leader in your opinion?

I could probability write a list, but there’s arguably one who stands out – Michael Jordan. He inherited a team that was at the bottom of the league, it took him six years to win a major trophy – constantly learning from failure, applying his lessons, and bringing out the best in his team. This dedication is especially important in startups – It’s not all media, panels, and coffee shop networking, it’s crazy hard work. Our team is driven, they work hard, and I don’t settle for  anything less.

Tech Driven is highlighted as one of Coleegs’ value propositions. Can you share more about this?

The tech is essentially our operating system, it allows us to do three core things,

  1. Automate time consuming activities where competitors charge expensive labor – hence keeping our costs low.
  2. Execute Media Outreach projects at scale across the globe. For example – assign and co-ordinate teams, automate workflows, provide data etc.
  3. Provide clients with a dashboard to engage and track media outreach projects across multiple countries.

Media outreach is a real success when..

When it establishes a person, business, or brand, as a thought leader in their category.

What would be your advice to bootstrapping startups on media outreach, how should they play then?

It’s never too early to invest in Earned Media. Have an open mind, build up your profile with mid-tier publications, and gain some thought leader credibility.

Post COVID-19 is changing how businesses do content and media outreach. What’s your take on this one?

Business have gone quiet for the most part, that’s the worst thing you can do in a recession. You need to be vocal, and keep all your stakeholders up to date on how you’re handling COVID – good or bad.

Secondly, don’t just jump on to social media, there’s two billion posts on social media a day – you won’t stand out. Invest in earned media.

How can our readers get in touch with you Manni?

Sure. I can be reached via email and LinkedIn.

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Azleen Abdul Rahim
Written By

Azleen Abdul Rahim is the Co-Founder of Marketing In Asia. He also runs NSE, a social media company. Follow him on LinkedIn and Azleen.com.

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