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Manas Kumar: optimising leadership

01 Mar 2012
FYI, this story is more than a year old

The word that springs to mind when you meet Manas Kumar is focus. It is a trait that has served the young CEO well - in November 2011 Optimizer HQ joined seven of New Zealand’s largest construction, dairy and telecommunications companies to be listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange with its share price jumping to 0.40 euros within six hours. "In India, cricket is a major sport and every kid wants to be on the team,” Kumar tells IT Brief, "so you grow up knowing if you don’t have the drive you can’t survive.” The analogy is not haphazard - Kumar played professional cricket in South Africa for four years before returning to India to complete a BA majoring in Economics and Maths. In 2003, two years after immigrating to New Zealand he founded Optimizer HQ. He was just 23 years old and now at  31, Kumar is the second youngest chief executive in the world to be listed on the Deutsche Boerse, behind Puma’s Jochen Zeitz. Initially founded as a web development company with a goal of educating the market place about strategy, it was soon evident success for the business lay in offering software as a service (SaaS).  Today the company offers a variety of technologies to businesses specialising in online marketing and SEO. "In the last 18 months Optimizer HQ has grown to a point I could never have imagined back in 2003. Last year we were delivering about 300,000 emails per month, which I was really happy with. Now we’re sending more than 400 million emails and expect to hit the one billion mark by next June.” The decision was, he says, a inspired one that allowed the company to break free of the annual season cash flow problems  many New Zealand companies experience over summer. Recognising a  gap in the market for fundamental business tools  to allow small to medium businesses to effectively compete online, Optimizer HQ focused on creating a system that would facilitate business growth, purely through the Internet. Listing on the Deutsche Boerse marked the beginning of a new era for the company, allowing it to showcase its technologies on the world stage. "This was such an important step for us as a company and one which we’re naturally incredibly proud to have achieved.” While local clients include  New Zealand Police and New Zealand Post Kumar is quite open about the fact that most of his business is offshore and some big international names feature on Optimizer HQ’s client list, from Harvard University to pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. One of the great advantages of using SaaS, according to Kumar, is the ability to have a mobile workforce and still be on top of things - a concept, he says, kiwis are still a little reluctant to embrace. "New Zealand business does not like to be first to do things. It likes to wait and see how it works for other countries first.” This is compounded, he believes, by the challenges of finding funding in a small country. "On any given night, in any given living room or back bedroom in this country, you’ll find ground breaking innovation happening, but there’s a lack of capital backing it up. We have enough brain power in New Zealand to be an SaaS leader but somewhere like Silicon Valley simply has more funding and our Number 8 wire mentality can only take us so far. We need a new level of financial education in New Zealand.” 

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