Unmesh Sheth is a founder of Sopact. Unmesh has over 30+ years of experience in the software industry. Coming from a small and modest family in India, he rose through the corporate ladder and left his corporate career in 2010 for working with the bottom of pyramid segments in India. He discovered massive data inequality and found the solutions were time-consuming and not scaling fast enough. This gave rise to Sopact. Today, Sopact is a leading impact measurement and management company that focuses on providing a better and faster understanding of the social impact to funders and founders by including stakeholders’ voices in impact evidence.
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Let’s start with a brief introduction first. Introduce yourself to our readers.
Unmesh Sheth: I am the founder of Sopact (a SaaS product helping bring traceability for impact investors, philanthropy, and corporates). With over 30+ years of experience in the software industry, I rose through the corporate ladder and decided to work on my passion in 2010. I am natively from India and have worked with the bottom of pyramid segments. When I discovered massive data inequality and found that the present solutions were time-consuming and inefficient, I decided to build a solution and that gave rise to Sopact. Today, I am leading a small team through this change-oriented business and am growing our platform and as well as client base. Over the years Sopact has grown into a leading impact measurement and management company that focuses on providing a better and faster understanding of the social impact to funders and founders by including stakeholders’ voices in impact evidence.
Our audience is interested to know about how you got started in the first place. Did you always want to become a CEO or was it something you were led to? Our readers would love to know your story!
Unmesh Sheth: When I started my professional journey I aimed to work in a high-profile corporate role. As I gained more exposure and learned about the ins and outs of business and technology, it inspired me to create something of my own. Since I experienced distinct contrasts in society as I worked in different locations (even different nations), I was inspired to work in the social sector, and since I knew information technology, Sopact was the way to go.
“Selfmade” is a myth. We all received help, no doubt you love to show appreciation to those who supported you when the going got tough, who has been your most important professional inspiration?
Unmesh Sheth: I always had the help of my wife Hetal Sheth. She is the co-founder of SoPact, and Founder of Ektta, a nonprofit organization. These two organizations’ combined goal is to empower social organizations with knowledge and technology for improved capacity and transparency.
How did your journey lead you to become a CEO? What difficulties did you face along the way and what did you learn from them?
Unmesh Sheth: In my professional journey, the biggest challenge was moving from India to the USA and then building the first remote team. For me, the initial days of the business were challenging. We didn’t know where to start and how to communicate the vision to product developers. We also had to pivot the product multiple times to reach a product-market fit.
Tell us about your company. What does your business do and what are your responsibilities as a CEO?
Unmesh Sheth: Sopact is a technology social enterprise committed to helping organizations measure and manages impact by directly involving their stakeholders. Sopact uses Impact Cloud®, a cloud-based platform, to implement an organization’s end-to-end impact measurement and management process. Our vision is to make the world a better place through co-creating a globally accepted impact measurement and management framework and streamlining cross-sector efforts.
What does CEO stand for? Beyond the dictionary definition, how would you define it?
Unmesh Sheth: For me, the CEO is a responsibility. As a company’s CEO you are responsible for not just the product but also the people involved. Your team, vendors, clients, and investors look up to you in crisis. A CEO is also responsible for guiding the team in the right direction, inspiring them, and ensuring growth with sustainability.
When you first became a CEO, how was it different from what you expected? What surprised you?
Unmesh Sheth: What I didn’t expect was how often I will need to keep a brave face when things got uncertain. The risk behind many decisions is high and you can’t be sure if you are right. Nevertheless, you need to go with your vision and be ready for whatever comes next.
There are many schools of thought as to what a CEO’s core roles and responsibilities are. Based on your experience, what are the main things a CEO should focus on? Explain and please share examples or stories to illustrate your vision.
Unmesh Sheth: In my opinion, the core roles are building a culture that aligns with the company’s mission and vision, ensuring the right mix of team members, making sound decisions, communicating vision, and delivering performance. In Sopact, we wanted to keep our costs low and still hire the best talent. Hence we followed a remote work culture and developed internal processes accordingly.
Share with us one of the most difficult decisions you had to make for your company that benefited your employees or customers. What made this decision so difficult and what were the positive impacts?
Unmesh Sheth: One of the toughest decisions I made was changing the tech stack of our product. Post finding the product-market fit we realized that the current stack can’t meet scaling requirements. This meant hiring senior talent, training existing resources, migrating many modules, and doing all of that with no downtime. Thankfully, we pulled it off. This made us ready for scaling requirements. We can now confidently spend on marketing as we trust our solution can handle heavy server load and can scale as peruse.
How would you define success? Does it mean generating a certain amount of wealth, gaining a certain level of popularity, or helping a certain number of people?
Unmesh Sheth: The definition of success is different for each company and even internally it keeps on changing depending on the milestones. For us, it moved from securing our first user to proving a product-market fit and now we aim to scale the solution. Overall success if moving forward at the desired pace.
Some leadership skills are innate while others can be learned. What leadership skills do you possess innately and what skills have you cultivated over the years as a CEO?
Unmesh Sheth: I have a good grasp of technical and communication skills but I learned skills like team building, communicating vision, and building a healthy culture along the way. As we grow into the role, we also learn and develop our existing skills.
How did your role as a CEO help your business overcome challenges caused by the pandemic? Explain with practical examples.
Unmesh Sheth: During the pandemic, the major challenge was changing the priorities of society. We had to keep cool as we waited for things to normalize before making any sales pitches. We also had some team members whose friends and family had tested Covid positive. Thankfully, our company was adept at remote working and we could get our team enough time to cope up with challenging circumstances.
Do you have any advice for aspiring CEOs and future leaders? What advice would you give a CEO that is just starting on their journey?
Unmesh Sheth: My advice is to keep your cool. As a CEO you will face the pressure of many critical decisions. The challenge is to think with an open mind, not give in to the pressure and be ready to face the outcome of your decisions.
Thank you for sharing some of your knowledge with our readers! They would also like to know, what is one skill that you’ve always wanted to acquire but never really could?
Unmesh Sheth: That one skill would be public relations. Since I am not from a marketing background this skill didn’t come easy to me. Over the years I have learned a lot about marketing but there is a lot more for me to learn in this aspect. It’s a critical skill especially for startup founders and I am working on it as we grow.
Before we finish things off, we have one final question for you. If you wrote a book about your life today, what would the title be?
Unmesh Sheth: I would call it “In the making”. I have realized that growth is independent of age, gender, nationality, location, race, and all other such aspects. One’s growth is an individual journey and I would like it if I can help our youth understand that.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Unmesh Sheth for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Unmesh Sheth or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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