Tell us about yourself and your background
By trade I’m an Electronics Engineer and my first job was with ICL, where I worked for five years. Then I joined a company called IIS Infotech in New Delhi, but I was not satisfied with just following “a job profile” and had too much energy to be restricted to such a limited scope of work!
I was highly motivated to start something on my own and set up a company which was very different and in tune with what I felt was right. I wanted to create a company with a lot of empowerment. So in 1997, I decided to call it quits and take the plunge. With just $1,000 in savings and the moral support of my husband, I spent $900 on a computer and $100 on a mobile phone and, suddenly, hey presto, I was in business!
Tell us about the company you have set up – when did you set it up, what products or services do you provide, what is your target market?
We are a strategic hiring and consulting company with global outreach. Nastrac provides executive search and recruitment services to organisations within the hi-tech and financial services industries for mid to senior level positions. We pride ourselves on our boutique sensibility – we ensure that our clients and candidates always get extra special attention and constant contact to ensure optimum response and results. We make sure to keep a personal touch with clients, so that they always feel they can reach out to us. Our record with clients is something I’m very proud of – we have a nearly 100% client retention rate, with some of our clients having worked with us since our start-up days.
Why did you set up the company? / What drove you to become an Entrepreneur?
I had a desire to be a creator rather than a follower, which manifested as a strong need to create a free thinking and autonomous environment to cultivate entrepreneurship. I am very passionate about creating that kind of mind-set here at Nastrac, as I love working with entrepreneurial people and attracting them to Nastrac. They bring the qualities of being committed, result oriented and dedicated to the business, and in turn we reward them for that – as we tie our rewards directly to performance, there is no limit to where someone with an entrepreneurial mind-set can grow both in terms of the role as well as financially.
What has been your biggest challenge in achieving your success?
The recent economic crash of 2008 hit us particularly badly. Our business in the banking sector practically dropped to zero overnight; the financial services industry was no better. We could only focus on the IT industry. We had been running a joint venture in Singapore with a British firm, but as a result of the crash they couldn’t sustain the business; rather than let the company fold, though, I bought out my partner. I took over everything: the assets, debts and clients, and we moved to make ourselves more focused by cleaning up our portfolio and concentrated on middle to senior level hirings. It was a risk, but ultimately it has paid off, as now once again we are thriving.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
Alongside our near 100% client retention rate, I am very proud of how we have grown as a company, with offices around the world, operating across the UK, Western and Central Europe, Scandinavia, the USA and Canada, Asia and Asia Pacific from Singapore to Japan to Australia and India. Nastrac was started in a garage with nearly no investment or external funding, and today is a multimillion dollar enterprise.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
Definitely my husband. He is my main motivator, my biggest venture capitalist and my dearest advisor. He was the one who pushed me to resign back in 1997 and start Nastrac. He was also the one who snapped me out of my concerns and worries when things had gone south. He has made me a big picture thinker from a garage-company owner.
How do you balance your work life and home life?
When I set up Nastrac, I wanted to work in such a way that I could have a good balance between home and work and be able to dedicate quality time to my kids, who were very young at the time. Creating my own company gave me flexibility around working hours although I worked much longer hours than I ever did in any jobs! But it was all around my convenience. Hence even today I have a lot of empathy with young mothers and thus Nastrac is a strong supporter of flexi-timing and the work from home model. To that end I founded an NGO practise called RULE, helping women to make the jump back into work after leaving to start a family.
What advice do you have for women starting out on their own?
The first most important ingredient in the recipe for running a business is courage. Courage to take that first step towards becoming responsible for your own destiny. Next is faith and belief in yourself, the utmost and undying confidence that you can make this a success. All of this also cannot be an enjoyable journey, and it is so important to have fun along the way, without the support of your family.
Can you recommend any organisations or networking groups that have particularly helped you on your journey?
The Singapore government is very pro-SME and there are a lot of government initiatives and help with grants to support small to medium businesses.
If you could ask for one thing to help propel your business what would it be?
Access to more entrepreneurial people who are of similar mind-set and ethos to our current team and will build it with the passion that we do.
What does the future hold for you?
We have a plan to continue to grow over the next few years, opening further offices all around the world, alongside enhancing our communications and interactions with our overseas offices, as well as an automation plan to help improve productivity and workflow within the office itself. We are also looking to further develop people from within to take leadership roles within the organisation as well as inspire more entrepreneurs to join us.
I am also building a tech product which is built around data analytics and predictive analysis which I hope we transform the way recruitment business is done.
About Nina Alag Suri –
Nina Alag Suri is the founder and Group CEO of Nastrac, a multi-award winning boutique global executive recruitment consultancy specialising in Hi-Tech and Financial services which operates globally across Asia, Europe and America. She grew up in India, and was trained as an Electrical Engineer, which she worked as for several years before realising her passion was in entrepreneurship. With SD$1000 and a garage she started her business, and today spends her time moving between her offices and Finland, where her husband works. She is an advocate of helping women in the workplace, and founded RULE, an NGO practise designed to help women get back into the workplace after family leave.