Sabarudin Hashim, Chief Growth Officer of RenoTalk

RenoTalk is a renovation and interior design review site for property owners in Singapore to talk and engage on renovation matters.

What’s your story?
I started out as a digital marketing adviser for SMEs (small-to-medium enterprise) and startups. One of the clients that I advised was in the home renovation industry. The more interactions I have with the client, the more I began to appreciate the amount of passionate work that goes into making someone’s house a real home. More so after I saw the outcome at the end of those gruelling man-hours poured into those projects. So when the opportunity to lead RenoTalk fell onto my lap after the previous owners wanted an exit, I grabbed the opportunity and never looked back.

What excites you most about your industry?
What excites me is that it is on the brink of another disruption. It is right smack in the eye of the storm. For example, if you look at OhMyHome, it’s doing a good job at offering both buyers and sellers a different approach to moving buying/selling property in the market. It’s keeping the giant PropertyGuru on their toes. We are also seeing more homeowners starting their renovation journey with calls to brands/suppliers instead of the interior designer – the traditional “gatekeeper” of a renovation journey.

What’s your connection to Asia?
RenoTalk is the first renovation portal to connect homeowners, interior designers, contractors and brands in the same marketplace via a forum. For the longest time, it has focused its eyes mainly in Singapore, despite being the first of its kind in Asia. Come 2019, that will change as we set our eyes on a bigger role in Asia, connecting property owners with brands and designers that completes that initiates or completes the home-transformation journey.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
My favourite city has always been in Singapore. A perfect blend of eastern values and roots and the influences of the west.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The best advice I ever received was actually a quote read to me by a mentor. It says, “Money is easier to make than Meaning”. I have since then interpreted that in whatever business endeavour I throw myself at, there must always be a social-responsibility component to it.

Who inspires you?
There are many, but two of them stands out in my mind.
1. The late Robin Williams. Love him or hate him, he is unforgettable and probably has a movie that every generation can relate to and remembers vividly. His sense of humour is a reminder that we all express resilience differently, and we should give ourselves permission to laugh at ourselves.

2. Simon Sinek – a motivational speaker and author. His work inspires me to always think deeply about how we as people at times inadvertently nurture the symptoms of many social problems that we are desperately trying to fix.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
It was a study referenced in the book Originals, by Adam Grant. In that study, it was revealed that “the more often employees voiced their ideas and concerns to their superiors, the less likely they were to receive raises and promotions over a two-year period”. There is no way I’ll ever let that happen in RenoTalk!

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would probably drop out of school to pursue writing stories for movies. I have a knack of using words to sell an idea/thought. No surprise there as I ended up doing copywriting as my first gig in digital marketing.

How do you unwind?
I like bird-watching, but I never had any caged at home. They represent freedom and also a personal reminder that we have a responsibility as custodians of this planet. I also read a lot, both books and blogs – I’m a speed reader.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Thailand. Their hospitality blows me away. The many island getaway-destinations represent time and space for you to disconnect from all things digital temporarily and appreciate being in the present.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Originals by Adam Grant. It’s not your typical “how-to” business book, but it really hit the point home that to be an entrepreneur that matters to society, you need to spend considerable time thinking about the way you and the massed think. The need to zig when everybody else is zagging.

Shameless plug for your business:
If you ever want to stand out in the interior design world beyond just showing off lovely interior design photos from your portfolio, and have finally gotten tired of throwing money at the digital “meat processor” called social media and online ads space; Maybe it is about time you consider turning your brand into an authoritative figure in the industry. Only RenoTalk can do that for you in the crowded interior-design market.

How can people connect with you?
Twitter/Facebook handle: iAmSabaHashim
Instagram handle: sabarudin.hashim

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

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