Inspiring businesswomen have dedicated work ethics. Giving up is not an option for them, even during the toughest situations. They are very optimistic; they wake up every morning to take on new challenges and bring about major differences in the business. These businesswomen treat every employee as equals and believe in teamwork and innovation. They learn from their mistakes and always come up with out-of-the-box ideas and approaches.
One such prominent tech entrepreneur who is transforming the business with her dedicated endeavors is Marina Togneti, the Founder of mYngle.com. She has added a new standard to the definition of the word entrepreneurship. She is a keen language learner and speaks many languages including Italian, English, French, Dutch, and so on.
In an interview with CIO Look India, Marina shares about her journey, challenges, experiences, achievements, and much more. Following are the excerpts of the interview.
Describe your professional journey as an inspiring business professional.
I am a tech entrepreneur, founder of myngle.com, but the passion for entrepreneurship came later on in my career. When I graduated from University it was an era when entrepreneurship was not very common for academics. I therefore built first a successful career by large multinationals, Procter & Gamble, Philips, Sara Lee, The Boston Consulting Group and eBay; living and working in different Countries and got an MBA from INSEAD.
It was when working as consultant on a project on internet strategy that I first saw the potential of internet to disrupt entire industries and change forever the way we buy/sell/interact. I had to be part of that! That was the driver to start an innovative company as mYngle, as I knew I could make a real difference, putting in practice all I had learned in my career till then.
Who inspires you to wake up every day and keep making a difference in the industry?
There is not any single person that inspires me, but different people that have similar mind-attitude as mine: people who dare to push the limits, going beyond what others are willing to do; innovators who are able to think out of the box, adapting continuously to the changing environment and trends, but also people that idealistically look for ways to make their contribution for a better world.
Building a business from scratch is always challenging, building a tech start-up disrupting an industry as traditional as that of education, is exponentially more challenging (especially more than 10 years ago, when we started). Now online language education is setting the standards in terms of quality and flexibility. And we have been part of that. That inspires me every day.
As the Key Executive Personality of company, what challenges have you faced while running the business?
Being in an innovative business, I had to face many challenges. When we started, we were pioneering, amongst the first to provide one-to-one teaching of all languages over the internet. That meant that we had to bypass all sorts of resistances – those of a still immature market- especially the stereotypes that consumers had in their minds about education.
The biggest challenge was when we had to drastically change, ‘pivoting’ from the initial business model to a completely different one, which is the mYngle we are now.
We had launched mYngle as a marketplace, something I knew very well from my previous eBay experience. We thought we got it all: funding, lots of Awards and PR, a very motivated team. But something in the business model was not functioning as we expected. We listened to our customers and they gave us the new direction, from an open marketplace to a quality global online school, from B2C to B2B. That is the mYngle that you see now.
Brief us about the operations of organisation its mission, vision, and core values.
Our vision is to disrupt the traditional world of education by providing high quality, virtual language education at any time and any place. Now, with COVID, all has changed, and the world is embracing online education. Soon it will become the norm, setting the standards in terms of quality and flexibility. We saw that before many others did.
mYngle offers customized language training programs through video conferencing in 45 different languages anytime, anywhere. Our lessons are one-on-one, with highly qualified native coaches and related to the learner’s job position. Our virtual classrooms enable learners to take classes 24/7.
mYngle is the solution for busy professionals who need language training to be successful in their international business, and for Companies that want great learning results and a transparent and controllable learning process to make their investment a success.
How has the current pandemic affected your business and what steps have you taken to safeguard your employees while catering to your clients?
COVID-19 has completely changed the world as we know it, causing major disruption to many businesses. For the training industry, we are among the lucky ones, as our solution was already remote, so from that perspective things did not change much for us or got better. While many of the traditional offline players have been challenged by this sudden shift, rushing to find a quick fix to move their existing solutions online, mYngle was already in the “right place’’.
Regarding employees, work did not change much while moving to remote working. Many of our key processes were already done at distance so, as a company, we are used to managing remote teams.
CRM and programming have always been offshore, and our sales staff has always covered different geographical markets from one central location. I used to say when building our organization: “If our customers can learn a language at distance, we should be able to also run a company at distance.” So, in that respect, we were at an advantage compared to many other companies operating in a more traditional way.
What creative ways have you employed to make the work environment of company vibrant?
Innovation is achieved by stimulating a culture of experimentation and allowing mistakes. Innovation cannot exist in a culture of fear of consequences. We try to develop people that think and not only do ‘jobs.’ We look in our staff for entrepreneurs, people who do not keep the status quo, but push themselves beyond their comfort zone. If you try ten new things, some will fail, some will be OK, and one will make a difference. We are looking for that ‘’special one’’.
What got amplified now with COVID’s lockdowns, is that employee’s well-being is even more vital, and encouraging and supporting employees through this time is almost more important than productivity. It is about support, empowerment, empathy to keep a sense of belonging, let our people know that we are in this together. That means having a steady stream of communication, from the managers and between team members, in order to keep people updated on what’s going on and drive more virtual connectivity and culture.
According to you, what are the essentials of being an inspiring business leader or business professional?
In this era of challenging technologic evolution and, more recently, COVID challenging all the status quo, entrepreneur must redefine their role and draw on different sets of skills to be able to face the challenges ahead. If you step out of your comfort zone, you can fall. You need to trust your capability to be able to stand up again. When you have that trust, you can be an innovative leader.
This means having a strong vision, to set the direction and anticipate and navigate challenges, but at the same time being flexible, not be afraid of taking (calculated) risks, in order to anticipate trends and steer the company in turbulent waters, building an organization that is agile to respond to this fast-paced environment.
What would you like to share with the young generation of entrepreneurs who are looking to step foot in a leadership role in their respective businesses?
Change is all around us. Markets keep changing as a result of fast-paced advancement in technology. COVID fast-tracked many changes in a way that was sometimes unthinkable just a few months before. This influences the way we do business, for consumers as well as businesses. ‘CHANGE is GOOD’ as it forces improvements and continuous developments.
This means that to be successful, we must be able to adapt and shift the perspective, focus on customer-oriented strategies. Technology should be seen as an opportunity, as it opens directions that only a few decades ago seemed unattainable, creating new businesses that can disrupt entire industries.
In terms of future growth, where do you see yourself and your company?
I believe that the integration of information technology in education will be further accelerated and online education will eventually become an integral component of education. For mYngle, this means that we need to keep on innovating and pursuing the best possible quality and results, educating also the market on the difference between improvised solutions and years of expertise, so that we can keep on being ahead in this digital transformation.
We built on many years of experience and know that migrating existing classroom training programs to digital is not just the mere application of existing technology solutions. Rather, it requires a more fundamental rethinking of the total learning experience, from trainers to content, to the blended form. We will keep on improving this while aligning to this growing market trend.