Alisha Dattani

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Alisha Dattani

CEO & founder, FMXA

Tell us something most people won't know about you

I'm a dreadful singer. I mean, really terrible. At school we had a choir, which was supposed to be open to all, regardless of ability. However, I was so bad that my teacher took me aside and asked me to pretend to sing so that I didn't drown out the rest of the choir. I was mortified but heartened by the fact that I could leave the choir and pursue my other latent passion: drama. That wasn't to work out either, however: I turned up to the first drama class only to be told that the class would have a special focus that year: musicals. I was fated never to make it as a music or film industry A-Lister - so thank heavens the channel has its own A-List.

What has been your highlight of 2018 so far?

That's easy: making the shortlist for the CRN Women in Channel Awards in the Entrepreneur of the Year category. On a personal level, it's great to receive recognition in this way. Setting up a company is one of the most rewarding things I've done in my life and I can't recommend the experience enough to anyone who's up for taking risks and thrives in a dynamic work environment. The awards themselves also chime with another of my passions: helping to attract a greater number of women into the IT channel. My goal is to become a role model for women contemplating a move into the industry - proof that it can be done with hard work and dedication.

Who would play you in the film of your life?

Good question. I think the Bollywood actor Kajol is probably the best fit. After my failure in the school choir dancing became my ‘thing' - especially Bollywood dancing as there's no singing required! There are a loads of great Bollywood actors but they're often ‘girly-girls'. Kajol's different: she's independent and unafraid of challenging social norms. I loved her in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai; the way she wore jeans and sneakers and challenged the boys in her school at basketball - she smashed the Bollywood mould. She's also really funny, which I appreciate. Having a bit of a laugh during the day is hugely important to me, and I think Kajol would be able to capture that side of me well.

Which tech firm (other than your own!) do you most admire?

Facebook. On the business side of things, I'm in awe of how Facebook has helped rewrite the rules of marketing. We now use Facebook as an integral component of many of the campaigns we run here at FMXA, and we've delivered some strong results for clients using the platform. Along with the other social media giants, Facebook has completely transformed the marketing industry and that's an impressive feat.

From a personal perspective, Facebook is essential for how I communicate with my family. I'm from a huge family - there are 500 of us spread across the US, Africa, Dubai, Singapore and the UK - and it's not possible to stay in contact with everyone using traditional methods. Facebook has allowed us to all keep track of what the others are doing so that when we do all meet up we can pick up from where we left off.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

Cheese, particularly Epoisses, accompanied with a bold and deep Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

What is the most irritating tech buzzphrase of 2018?

OK, it's been around for longer than this year, but it's getting used so frequently now it's lost all meaning: ‘disruption'. Maybe 10 years ago we were seeing true disruption, but today the term's little more than a marketing buzzword. Every tech company says they're launching a disruptive new product, or disrupting whatever industry they're in. If everyone's disrupting, then by definition what they're doing isn't disruptive! I think tech businesses need to be clearer about their propositions and take the time to outline their differentiators, rather than trying to dazzle them with the ‘disruptive' tag.

What would be your first act if you were made Prime Minister?

At the risk of stirring up a hornets' nest, I would have to say that I would look into reversing Brexit. This isn't for any ideological motive, and I'm sure there are many reasons for why leaving is a good idea, but when it comes to the tech channel it raises some real concerns. Most of our vendors are based in the US or Israel and they've traditionally seen the UK as their sales gateway into Europe. Brexit endangers this enviable position. What's more, the prospect of Brexit has already badly damaged the pound, which increases the cost of buying tech from abroad. If the pound continues to fall post-Brexit then firms might reconsider where they place their IT purchasing teams, an eventuality that could badly damage the UK IT channel. At FMXA we're doing what we can to mitigate against this: we're positioned as a truly European business (which we are) and we're invested in getting a strong foothold on the continent.

What's the biggest untapped opportunity facing the channel?

I think the B2C cybersecurity market is hugely under-exploited. More connected devices than ever are entering our homes - from smart speakers to Wi-Fi cameras to connected toys. As this trend accelerates, people are going to become increasingly concerned about securing these devices to protect their families and their personal data - not to mention their professional data as people work from home more and more. Indeed, FMXA is launching a B2C cybersecurity division to help firms position their products for this important market - we've already carried out some successful campaigns in this space and we're actively looking to persuade some of our core clients about the scale of the opportunity at hand.

What is your most treasured possession?

My running medals. Over the past six years I've become a passionate runner and I've kept the commemorative medals I've been presented at the end of each event: from my first ever 5K all the way up to the London Marathon. I keep them all in a shoe box and go through them as I plan my races for the year ahead. They serve as a reminder that through hard work and commitment I was able to start from nothing and work up to completing one of the world's biggest running challenges.

What does your family think you do all day?

I asked my youngest daughter about this the other day and she said: "You wear high heels, see the London Eye and play on your computer." My eldest daughter thinks I sit in meetings all day (true) and tell people off (not true… most of the time). As far as my husband's concerned - I don't think he knows what I do.

Who has been your mentor in business?

I've had lots of good bosses in my time, each one of which has contributed to my management style and how I run FMXA, but there's no one I'd consider a true mentor. But playing make-believe for a moment: if there's anyone I'd have loved to have been my mentor it's Sheryl Sandburg. I'm hugely inspired both by her journey to her place on the Facebook board and her ability to balance her family life with her career. Her example has in part inspired me to write a book on how to be a successful female entrepreneur and how to blend family and work lives for maximum productivity. My dream is to finish the book and get it published on International Women's Day - so watch this space.

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