By Bhaswati Ghosh
There are not enough South Asian entrepreneurs in Canada today (or maybe, not enough with visibility and recognition).
We are also looking to expand desiFEST into a week-long celebration in Toronto and we hope we can get the support of the city and our fans to make this happen.
There is also a HUGE negative connotation around FAILURE in our community.
Sathish Bala is not an unknown name in Desi community of GTA and beyond. More commonly known for his work with desiFEST, Sathish is the CEO and Founder of Blueband Digital, a communications agency based out of Toronto and Montreal.Newage Inc. was the first business he launched in 2000. It was his second business out of school.
Born in India, Sathish grew up in Singapore for most of his teenage years and moved to Canada in 1989 “and loved it instantly!,” he tells Generation Next.
Here’s our correspondence with Sathish Bala for our reader’s interest:
Were you born in Canada or immigrated here? What has been your Canadian journey like so far?
I really love this country. Coming from Singapore, for me this is freedom. As a young kid in Singapore, I felt very constrained by the various “rules” and was constantly in some sort of trouble. In Canada, I felt that I was able to express my creativity and find others that helped shape my confidence and personality. This is an on-going love affair between Canada and I. J
5What have been some of your biggest accomplishments as an entrepreneur? What are some of your toughest challenges?
As an entrepreneur, the biggest accomplishment for me is to build a level of confidence that I can accomplish anything that I am 100% passionate about. This confidence took many years of making mistakes, winning a little and making more mistakes. I have also learned a lot about who I am and what I define as successes to me. These lessons have enabled me to build 4 amazing businesses in the last 15 years. Each one of them has contributed to the success of many clients and each business had a vibrant employee culture.
Some of the toughest challenges for me were learning how to become well rounded in all areas of business. Marketing/PR/HR and finance were not easy things for me to learn and it took a lot of my patience to get better at these things and I am proud of my level of comprehension.
Why do you think a company such as BlueBand—an ethnic marketing agency—is important in the Canadian context?
As consumers, our choices are influenced by many factors. One of these factors is our ethnicity and our cultural values. We wanted to understand this better. We also wanted to see how culture is defined, by different generations and people from different regions of the world. Blueband’s ethnic division works with select clients to implement programs to engage and connect with South Asians across Canada.
In your observation, what is the level of readiness of South Asians in the field of entrepreneurship in Canada? What are we lacking in?
I think there are not enough South Asian entrepreneurs in Canada today (or maybe, not enough with visibility and recognition). Part of it can be that our parents and their preference for their children to follow the traditional paths after completing higher education. There is also a HUGE negative connotation around FAILURE in our community. We tend not to take too many risks and follow our passion and dreams. I think we need to encourage our next generation to “BE BOLD” and to follow a path that can challenge them and help them discover new traits about themselves. Business for me is the ultimate process for self-discovery. Its only when we truly know ourselves that we can help others.
As a growing community across Canada, we need more South Asian in various public and private sector businesses. As South Asians, we need to take a more proactive role in helping to shape Canada.
Tell us about desiFEST. How did you conceive the festival, what has been the experience like so far, what do you want to achieve in the future?
desiFEST started as an outcry on behalf of our arts community. Too many talented South Asian artists were being ignored by mainstream and South Asian festivals, Radio, TV and Print Media. We wanted to help bring visibility to these artists, develop a network they can benefit from, expose them to media and hopefully inspire them to stay in Canada and continue to produce amazing music. Over 200 artists have benefited from desiFEST media exposure and coverage. New collaborations, increased bookings, distributions deals and records deals are some of the benefits that we have helped create. This is just the beginning.
We want to continue getting all of our communities involved across Canada. We want parents to actively encourage their kids to participate in the arts program. We want kids to express their Canadian stories through music. We want desi music to be part of the JUNOs, Canadian Music Week, Much Music, MTV, MMVA’s and much more. We want urban music by South Asian artists to be heard on Radio and TV! We need more TV shows, Radio shows and festivals. As you can see, the list goes on and on…but we feel that to truly be a part of this country, we need to help shape the country.
Share with us some of your favourite musical influences and why they are important to you.
My ipod usually has a mix between Hip-Hop/House and Tamil classical music. I also enjoy other desi and non-desi music, but when in doubt, nothing beats my tamil music.
What are some of the current projects you are working on?
We are looking to continue on our growth path. US is an attractive option and we are looking into its feasibility. We are also looking to expand desiFEST into a week-long celebration in Toronto and we hope we can get the support of the city and our fans to make this happen.
What can we expect from you in the coming year or two?
Two years is along time to forecast at the pace we move and changes that can impact choices! I really enjoy the opportunities that are in front of us. Canada is a truly magical place for people that have the passion and drive to make an impact. We hope we can continue to help artists, our communities and the next generation of South Asian youth across Canada. It has already been an amazing ride and we are not ready to stop!