Maansingh Ghogar shares his thoughts on leadership, growth, and being a team player.
By Shruti Kothari
As the CEO of startup Carro’s Thailand branch, Maansingh Ghogar brings fresh energy into the used cars industry. He is disrupting this typically traditional fi eld through the app, which was conceptualised in Singapore some years ago and then brought here in 2017. It serves as a supply marketplace for used car dealerships, and focuses on sourcing good quality products at the right prices, then providing an auction platform to maximise efficiency, options and profit for both buyers and sellers.
Where did you grow up?
I was born and bred in Thailand. I attended NIST from the time I was in kindergarten up until high school, and for that reason NIST was an integral part of my childhood. But outside of school, there were a handful of moments that still stand out to me, and one of those is a story about my Dad. When I turned 6, he entered me into a football league called the North Bangkok Soccer League (NBSL). It was an hour’s commute every Saturday morning, and an hour back, and between that an hour of running around under the Bangkok sun. I absolutely hated it. But, what I soon came to notice was that every single week, my dad was the first in the car, ready to drive me to my games, and cheer from the sidelines for every single one, regardless of whether it was raining, or scorching hot. He never missed a game up until I graduated into the senior leagues at 17. His commitment to me and the sport during what should have been his weekends taught me a lot about persistence and competition while growing up.
Did you enjoy school?
Looking back it was one of the best times. I played sports like football, basketball and volleyball and that made me competitive. While I didn’t stay up all night studying, that attitude made sure I did decently well.
During my final year, I was part of a microdevelopment bank, which was a game changer for me. We provided loans to lower income individuals in the school community, like guards and mechanics. These people often had side businesses in their hometowns, and needed money to invest in things like farm machinery, so we provided working capital loans. It was amazing to understand their struggles and to be able to empower them sustainably. That’s what piqued my interest in the overlap between finance and technology, and how they could forge a platform for economic and social change with a real focus on financial inclusion.
What did you end up studying at university?
I went to Northeastern University because they had a programme that allowed you to rotate every six months between classroom learning and practical work experience. I majored in Information Science and Finance, and after the first year got an internship on a trading floor in Boston. It was surreal. Only 19 years old, I had been trained to act civilised, but here I saw phones ringing every 30 seconds, and people yelling at the top of their voices, often over each other. Swearing was almost encouraged!
Why did you end up switching fields?
As exhilarating as it was, the experience was deprived of the value creation that I desired. Trading is more value extraction, but I wanted to pursue the actual creation of value through finance and tech. My next placement was at Mastercard in New York. I was working on their prepaid team which builds finance products for the underprivileged in third world countries, so it was a lot more aligned with what I wanted to do. I then worked at a venture capital firm in Bangalore. With all of those experiences, I understood that I wanted to build or work in a company which generates both economic and social value. That’s why I chose Carro.
How did you become the CEO at such a young age?
After six months, we needed a new leader, so I was put into the position of interim CEO. At the time we had a few dozen employees, half of whom were five to 10 years older than me. The first month, a good number of employees actually quit, and a few even joined our biggest competitor. It was mentally and emotionally exhausting because I personalised a lot of those early battles.
How did you overcome that?
I sat and wrote down how exactly I wanted the company to look a year from now, and internalised the fact that everything that happened until that point was just a part of the journey. This simple mindset shift made me take challenges more in stride. Today we are three times the size we were a year ago, growing faster than I ever thought possible.
What are some other challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Crazy things, like corporate espionage! I had five interviews in three months, all sent by our competitor. I realised immediately that I wasn’t interviewing them, they were questioning me instead. Also, it was hard to lead people both older and more experienced than me, especially with Thailand’s culture of age being a big factor in corporate hierarchies. However, I adopted a learning mindset, where I was eager for them to teach me what they knew, and as someone who was then able to integrate information from each business function such as marketing, technology, accounting and so on, I was able to bring each team together to achieve a unified mission. It was not about ego; for me it was about working in conjunction with each person.
As well as this attitude, what life experiences led you to become a strong leader?
A country head must run the company here but also coordinate with the parent company. Diversity at school and travelling throughout university allowed me to understand and adopt other cultures, and really assimilate myself. At Carro, comprehending the cultural differences between the Singaporean mother company and the Thai work mentality allowed me to bridge the gap between them and work together effectively.
What advice do you have for other young people just starting out in their careers?
To be shameless in their approach to opportunities. I was initially just an interim CEO. I made a deal — if they set me goals and I was able to meet them, I wanted the position of CEO permanently. If I hadn’t asked, I wouldn’t have had this chance. Another thing I believe in is the concept of work-life harmony instead of work-life balance. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, and if you can combine them and bring your whole and honest self to work, it builds a better workplace culture, and leads to a better lifestyle.