Marketing In Times of Recovery

Marketing In Times Of Crisis has changed its name to Marketing In Times of Recovery. It's still a bi-weekly interview-led podcast series featuring inspirational built environment business leaders but more with a look to the future. We’ve had to weather crisis’ before and podcast listeners hear lively conversations, jam-packed with hints, tips and takeaways that you can apply to your business now. Hosted by Ayo Abbas, Founder / Consultant, Abbas Marketing. Subscribe now, rate, review and help us to spread the word.

https://www.abbasmarketing.com/mitc-podcast

subscribe
share





episode 11: Ep 11: Networking, Social Media and Running for RIBA with Sumita Singha [transcript]


Welcome to the latest episode of Marketing In Times Of Crisis and I’m your host marketing consultant Ayo Abbas. My guest today is the formidable Sumita Singha who is an architect, author and artist.  Earlier this year Sumita's industry profile was raised when she ran as a candidate for the RIBA presidency.

Key Takeaways

-       The opportunities for young practices to partner up with larger ones – particularly now

-       The importance of networking to win work and ideas on how to build that up

-       The advice that she gives to architectural students that she teaches who are entering the job market now
-      What she learnt running for the RIBA presidential election and what that taught her about marketing 

Resources

Ecologic Architects

Abbas Marketing

Marketing In Times of Crisis Podcast Home Page




share







 2020-11-05  21m
 
 
00:05  Ayo Abbas
Hello, and welcome to
00:05
the latest episode of Marketing
00:07
In Times of Crisis. I'm your
00:07
host Iowa bass and today is
00:10
Monday the 28th of September. My
00:10
guest today is Sumita Singha who
00:14
is an architect and author. So
00:14
he touches on her career in the
00:18
industry and how she got to
00:18
where she is today. She also
00:21
talks about the opportunities
00:21
that she feels exists for young
00:24
practices, particularly they
00:24
look to partner up with larger
00:26
ones. And in light of the recent
00:26
recession. She talks about the
00:30
importance of networking to win
00:30
work. And she also reflects on
00:33
what she learned marketing wise,
00:33
running for the recent rieber
00:36
presidential election. If you
00:36
like what you hear on this
00:39
podcast, please do subscribe,
00:39
rate us and review us because it
00:43
really does help us spread the
00:43
word. Anyway, I won't hold you
00:46
up any longer. So happy
00:46
listening. Hi, Sumita, and
00:54
welcome to the show. In terms of
00:54
what you're doing now, how's it
00:58
going? I see you're running your
00:58
own practice. And you're also
01:00
writing books. You recently did
01:00
one on healthcare design, how's
01:04
it all going?
01:05  Sumita Singha
Well, to be
01:05
honest with the practice that
01:07
hasn't much has, you know,
01:07
hasn't happened? Because, um,
01:12
you know, before the lockdown,
01:12
there was Brexit, and I lost
01:15
couple of jobs. Because of that,
01:15
yeah, my client died. And yeah,
01:21
so there was all sorts of things
01:21
happening even before the Covid.
01:26
And so I haven't done much with
01:26
my practice. And also I run a
01:32
charity, which does sort of
01:32
ecological work, and, and
01:36
community kitchen gardens. And
01:36
again, that has been very quiet
01:40
because I just, you know, we
01:40
just haven't been able to meet
01:44
because, you know, sort of work
01:44
we do is we meet we talk we work
01:48
together, you know, gardening or
01:48
something, you know, physically
01:51
we're quite close to each other.
01:51
So that hasn't happened. Writing
01:56
is easy to do, you know? Yeah.
01:56
And what else? I mean, all the
02:04
all my teaching has shifted
02:04
online. How are you finding out?
02:09  Ayo Abbas
Sorry, how are you
02:09
finding that teaching online?
02:11  Sumita Singha
Oh, that's a bit
02:11
weird. So it was my first I've
02:14
done. I don't know how many
02:14
webinars and seminars and online
02:20
stuff I've used with students.
02:20
And it was pretty weird. And
02:26
then actually, I like it now
02:26
because it means you save a lot
02:31
of time not commuting. Yeah, I'm
02:31
in London is horrific with with
02:37
things, you know, just you never
02:37
know how long it's gonna take
02:40
you to get somewhere. So I'm on
02:40
quite enjoying it gives gives me
02:45
a bit of power to be working
02:45
from home. Yeah, and still be
02:50
able to communicate with people.
02:50
Yeah.
02:53  Ayo Abbas
It just takes getting
02:53
used to it, isn't it?
02:55  Sumita Singha
It is yeah, yeah.
02:55
I mean, the exams were a bit
02:58
weird, I have to say, because it
02:58
was my first time doing oral
03:04
exams using what was it
03:04
Microsoft Teams. And so you have
03:09
the system of rooms. So you go
03:09
into one room. That's weird,
03:14
Holly,
03:15  Ayo Abbas
that must be a bit
03:15
weird.
03:16  Sumita Singha
Yeah. And then
03:16
you have to come out of that
03:18
room, and then go into another
03:18
room to interview the student.
03:22
And then when you finish, you
03:22
have to be very careful to have
03:25
logged out of that room in case
03:25
they can hear you, and then go
03:30
into this other room to talk
03:30
about their marks and things.
03:33
But you know, we managed, and
03:33
I'm doing a lot of seminars with
03:37
students speaking to them
03:37
online, particularly part three,
03:41
the ones that are starting their
03:41
journey into architecture now.
03:46
Because it was just the way I
03:46
started my own practice, you
03:49
know, in the recession, so
03:49
they're interested in hearing
03:52
more about it.
03:54  Ayo Abbas
So what have you been
03:54
saying? What What advice have
03:56
you been giving those students
03:56
who are doing their part threes
03:58
and coming out now?
03:59  Sumita Singha
Well, you know,
03:59
I'm just trying to be, you know,
04:04
be cheerful. And I'm saying,
04:04
look, you know, you've got to
04:08
sort of accept it first of all,
04:08
you know, don't don't panic.
04:12
Yeah. And don't say it's not
04:12
happening, because it is
04:14
happening. And, you know, that,
04:14
you know, I think, bad news, I
04:20
think, and then you can think,
04:20
Okay, what can I do? So that's
04:25
what I say to them. And then,
04:25
you know, I'm just saying just
04:28
build up your CVs, do if you
04:28
can't get any work, do some
04:32
voluntary work. And, you know,
04:32
just just put things put skills
04:37
that you think might be might be
04:37
needed. So I was just speaking
04:41
to someone who told me that he
04:41
he's actually doing part three.
04:46
And he said, I can't write very
04:46
well. I get all mixed up and he
04:51
was actually asking me advice
04:51
about how to write. So I said, I
04:55
don't and he said, I can speak
04:55
very well when I'm talking. I
04:59
can put my together. So I said
04:59
did you know you have just the
05:03
right skill? For this situation
05:03
because you can do little
05:07
podcasts about, you know,
05:07
buildings you like or what you
05:13
don't like about a space and you
05:13
have them on YouTube. And and
05:16
people will like to enjoy that
05:16
because I'm not a very good
05:19
talker, I don't think. But you
05:19
know, I said you have a really
05:24
valuable skill use that.
05:26  Ayo Abbas
Yeah, and transcribe
05:26
them as well. right? Couldn't he
05:29
could just get those
05:29
transcribed. And there you go.
05:31
There's your written content.
05:33  Sumita Singha
Yeah, exactly.
05:33
And I mean, it's like,
05:36  Ayo Abbas
having the thought is
05:36
the key thing.
05:38  Sumita Singha
Yeah. But you
05:38
know, it's just so much more
05:40
exciting, because architects are
05:40
visual people. And if he's sort
05:43
of gone somewhere, and he's
05:43
standing there and saying, Oh,
05:47
this building is like this, or
05:47
talk about the history of that
05:50
building, or whatever, you know,
05:50
it's so much more nicer.
05:54
Because, yeah, in there, so he
05:54
doesn't even need to transcribe
05:59
it, I don't think. So get those
05:59
skills, you know, look at your
06:03
skills, what you have, and then
06:03
put it together use them now.
06:07
And there are the YouTube, for
06:07
example, if you go, I think if
06:10
you have a thousand followers,
06:10
you get a bit of income through
06:13
it or something like that. And,
06:13
sorry,
06:16  Ayo Abbas
I have no idea.
06:19  Sumita Singha
So, you know,
06:19
there are ways you can do
06:21
online, you know, tutoring of
06:21
other students, you can to draw
06:27
the students. So what are the
06:27
things you can do online, and I
06:31
mean, I'm no good with
06:31
technology, but younger people
06:33
these days, they know
06:33
everything, they're much more
06:37
capable than I am. And, you
06:37
know, I was saying to another
06:41
woman, and I said, you know,
06:41
just use all your technical
06:44
knowledge. So that those are my
06:44
tips. And obviously, you know,
06:50
be prepared to be able to work
06:50
from home. I think it's good,
06:53
because, you don't you save on
06:53
travel, you know, on commuting,
06:58
yeah, and you can work whatever
06:58
time you want to, and if you've
07:02
got children, you can manage
07:02
that. And so there's there are
07:06
some good things, look for the
07:06
good good things and do this.
07:10  Ayo Abbas
So what would you
07:10
What advice would you give to
07:12
smaller practices, then who are
07:12
kind of trying to figure out
07:16
what they should be doing now
07:16
marketing wise? Because that's
07:18
the advice you give to your
07:18
students who are looking for
07:20
work? I mean, how what would you
07:20
give to SMEs who are looking,
07:23
you know, for more work, or to
07:23
make sure that they keep going
07:26
for the for the next year, six
07:26
months, a year?longer?
07:29  Sumita Singha
I think I think
07:29
this is a great opportunities
07:32
where smaller practices can and
07:32
can work with bigger practices,
07:39  Ayo Abbas
Oh okay. Yes,
07:40  Sumita Singha
yeah. So you
07:40
know, bigger practices can give
07:44
work that they no longer can
07:44
handle or, you know, share, they
07:50
can share projects together. So
07:50
all this online stuff creates a
07:55
kind of a digital platform for
07:55
people to be collaborating much
08:01
more easily together. So I think
08:01
this is an opportunity that
08:07
smaller practices can use. And
08:07
also, you know, I don't know, I
08:12
mean, it's possible that the
08:12
larger firms are actually
08:14
shedding stuff. Because, you
08:14
know, they are no longer getting
08:20
big projects, and they're
08:20
holding on to office space that
08:24
they no longer use. Yeah. So
08:24
it's possible. So they might be
08:28
relying on skilled staff from,
08:28
you know, smaller practices to
08:33
do the work for them. So it's,
08:33
you know, we can all share, you
08:38
know, it's like a big ecosystem.
08:38
There's the construction
08:40
industry, a big ecosystem,
08:40
everybody shares everything.
08:44
Yeah. Which would be nice.
08:47  Ayo Abbas
Okay, and are there
08:47
any other things you think
08:49
smaller practices can be doing
08:49
to kind of, I guess, use you
08:51
talked about networking earlier?
08:51
And how you needed to do that? I
08:54
mean, how could they build
08:54
networks? For example, what did
08:57
you do when you were starting
08:57
out? How did you get that going?
09:01  Sumita Singha
I just, my
09:01
husband used to joke that. I
09:04
went to the opening of an
09:04
envelope.
09:08  Ayo Abbas
You do it online now.
09:08
You can't go to that opening.
09:12  Sumita Singha
Yeah but you
09:12
know, you there's so many, I
09:15
mean, initially on the zoom
09:15
seminars, they were all really
09:17
great. And I attended so many of
09:17
them. And I was doing one every
09:21
Thursday or something, you know.
09:21
And then I got fed up. And I
09:24
think people are bit zoomed out
09:24
now with with a lot of online
09:28
stuff. Yeah. So I don't take
09:28
into reading stuff. And would
09:33
you which is great. And I think
09:33
teaching is a good option. Yep.
09:37
So there are a lot of
09:37
architecture students who are
09:40
looking for guidance, mentoring,
09:40
you know, smaller practices can
09:44
can do that. And, you know, and
09:44
I know that there's sort of a
09:49
small practice which is offering
09:49
and reduced price work for NHS
09:55
staff, for example. Yep. So
09:55
there are people with lower
09:58
incomes but you know, you can
09:58
still market yourself by
10:04
offering good deals and through
10:04
the, through the use of the
10:10
internet, so they can literally
10:10
walk around the house, show you
10:14
stuff and you can say, Okay, um,
10:14
I think, you know, there ought
10:19
to be a shelf here or whatever,
10:19
you know something. And I think
10:23
people are doing a lot of DIY
10:23
stuff at home as well, you know,
10:26
they're doing home improvements.
10:26
So if we get an architect to
10:29
give them any tip about what
10:29
they can do, that'd be good. But
10:32
those are actually to be honest,
10:32
you know, they are very small
10:35
jobs. So, you know, it's not
10:35
that they're going to be able to
10:40
live on that alone.
10:42  Ayo Abbas
No.
10:43  Sumita Singha
So we need. So we
10:43
need in small practices need a
10:47
mixture of bigger projects, as
10:47
well as all these little jobs as
10:52
well, as well as doing other
10:52
things. So doing the whole sort
10:55
of having diversity of income?
10:58  Ayo Abbas
Yeah. I think I think
10:58
you're absolutely right, and
11:00
having a mix, and I guess it's
11:00
just knowing which, I guess what
11:04
to offer, but also, which tap to
11:04
turn on? Does that make sense?
11:06
Because it's like, which are the
11:06
ones that are actually viable
11:10
now? And I think that's the big
11:10
discussion that everyone's
11:12
happening is what can I be doing
11:12
now?
11:15  Sumita Singha
Yes. So I think
11:15
you can be creative, you know,
11:17
like this sole practice, which
11:17
thought about NHS staff. If
11:21
you're, if you're a specialist
11:21
in sort of low energy design,
11:24
that's another good place to
11:24
start. Because, you know, people
11:28
are thinking about saving money,
11:28
and they're sort of is it 5000
11:32
pounds for a household you get
11:32
it's like grant, isn't it? Oh,
11:35
well, you could you could go to
11:35
an architect who specialises in
11:39
eco friendly design, and ask
11:39
their views, and then you get
11:43
the grant so I think you have to
11:43
be kind of literally quite
11:47
creative. There is money
11:47
available? You have to see what
11:52
can I do to get a share of that?
11:55  Ayo Abbas
Yeah. Okay.
12:01
Okay, and one of the things you
12:01
have done this year was run for
12:04
the RIBA president. And what did
12:04
that teach you about marketing
12:07
and running campaigns?
12:10  Sumita Singha
Okay, so that was
12:10
very interesting experience.
12:14  Ayo Abbas
I can imagine.
12:16  Sumita Singha
Yes. And I did. I
12:16
had no idea about social media,
12:23
for example. Yeah. And so I was
12:23
looking at a screenshot
12:29
yesterday, actually. And I saw
12:29
that I had 45 followers in June.
12:37
This is when I was thinking, Oh,
12:37
shall I go for this or not?
12:41
Yeah. And so 45 followers, and
12:41
now I have over 1000? I think
12:47
it's about? Um, I don't know,
12:47
1100? Something? Yeah. And yeah,
12:53
so it's, you know, June to July,
12:53
July to August. So, I mean, in
12:57
the space of two and a half
12:57
months, I've got so many
12:59
followers, and writing and
12:59
publishing that publishing
13:04
opinions, has given me a sort of
13:04
exposure, which I wouldn't have
13:10
had with those 45 followers. So
13:10
I think social media can be used
13:20
for good to promote stuff, and
13:20
talk about social issues. You
13:25
know, it matters to me, for
13:25
example, how women are treated,
13:28
how women from black and ethnic
13:28
minority backgrounds are
13:33
treated, you know, because I
13:33
have faced that. So I've used
13:37
that platform for advocating for
13:37
them for for small practices.
13:42
And I've made friends, you know,
13:42
I'm collaborating with other
13:46
small practices, on projects.
13:46
Yeah. And I met them online on
13:52
through social media. So that
13:52
was my second benefit of meeting
13:57
like minded people. And so that
13:57
that probably wasn't related to
14:03
running for the president, but
14:06  Ayo Abbas
Was that a byproduct
14:06
that came out of it
14:08  Sumita Singha
my very good, but
14:08
and that stayed on, you know,
14:11
despite losing the elections
14:11
stayed on. Yeah.
14:15  Ayo Abbas
But it's funny, isn't
14:15
it? But I, I think there is,
14:18
there's so many different
14:18
communities online, and once you
14:21
tap into the ones that are
14:21
matter to you, it's lovely, and
14:25
like, we can't get out of me
14:25
necessarily, at the moment. But
14:28
actually, you've got all these
14:28
online communities, I connected
14:31
with somebody who is actually,
14:31
you know, she's a writer, and
14:34
she's actually based down the
14:34
road from where I live. So, you
14:37
know, at some point we went for
14:37
a walk on the common, you know,
14:40
we actually met, you know, but
14:40
it's things like that you can
14:43
kind of build those
14:43
relationships and it's, it's
14:45
really nice, and I think when
14:45
people are talking about social
14:48
media, it's you know it can be
14:48
though brain drain and this and
14:50
that and the other but I think
14:50
there's a lot of positives from
14:53
it as well as you as Yeah,
14:55  Sumita Singha
I mean,
14:55
you do you do meet nasty people
14:55
online. You know, But I think
15:01
they're not busy attacking other
15:01
people. So
15:05  Ayo Abbas
you're off the hook
15:05
now love
15:07
Yeah
15:10
is the most important thing.
15:13
So I guess I mean, you you
15:13
touched on quite a few kind of
15:16
recessions that you've been
15:16
through and and learnt from I
15:19
mean, what would you say your
15:19
biggest lessons are from
15:23
recessions? And going through
15:23
them? What would you say to
15:26
other firms who say might be
15:26
tackling it for the first time?
15:31  Sumita Singha
So a lot of lot
15:31
of the people that you see are
15:33
big practices we all kind of
15:33
started at the same time, you
15:37
know, I'm guessing that Simon
15:37
Allford who won the elections,
15:42
his firm is quite big. I think
15:42
he also started at the same time
15:46
as I did. And I can think of so
15:46
many of these firms that there
15:51
was this wave of people that
15:51
started around that time. So
15:56
there is no good time. It's like
15:56
they say, there's no good time
15:59
to have a baby.
16:00  Ayo Abbas
True, just get on
16:00
with
16:03  Sumita Singha
just get on with
16:03
it, they just come and you just
16:07
have to have them really. So
16:07
it's like with practice, you
16:11
know, you just, if you want to
16:11
start it, you start it anyhow.
16:15
Yeah. And so I think this online
16:15
thing is quite a boon. Because
16:22
you can put all sorts of stuff
16:22
online, people can view it, and
16:27
decide, and, you know, when I
16:27
started, I had to carry around
16:31
this huge portfolio, really
16:31
heavy, paper stuff, and show it
16:38
to them. Now you can, you know,
16:38
talk to people online, they can
16:42
go on your website and have a
16:42
look. So I think, I think there
16:46
are some advantages now which
16:46
weren't there when I started,
16:50
and that's, that's a good thing.
16:50
And, and also, there are so many
16:55
schemes around. So, you know,
16:55
the one was called the
17:00
Kickstarter scheme from the
17:00
Government to to have more part
17:04
ones included in the firm, as as
17:04
employees to take for
17:10
architecture firms to take on
17:10
employees, there are some grants
17:14
available. So all these things
17:14
weren't really there when I was
17:18
starting out. So they you know,
17:18
just make sure you're keeping up
17:23
to speed with what's available
17:23
and taking advantage. The other
17:27
thing that people talk a lot
17:27
about is this research rant
17:32
architects can get research
17:32
grants. And there are so many
17:35
areas that you can do research
17:35
in. So you know, it could be
17:40
something to do with climate
17:40
crisis. It could be something to
17:44
do with healthy cities or
17:44
healthy people, sorry of places.
17:50
Yeah. So you can pick up your
17:50
thing and use this time and use
17:54
the grant. I think it's not a
17:54
grant Actually, it's, it's a tax
17:59
free scheme as needed, get some
17:59
tax credits or something. Yeah.
18:02
Or for using up your time to do
18:02
the research. So if you're doing
18:06
all that work, I think there is
18:06
there is money available, you
18:10
can you can make yourself an
18:10
expert
18:13  Ayo Abbas
Well that's the thing
18:13
you can kind of choose your
18:15
specialist area, can't your
18:15
really hone down into it? And
18:19
then actually, that gives you
18:19
reasons to get out and talk to
18:22
people. Right?
18:23  Sumita Singha
Absolutely. Yeah.
18:23
And then you know, you find your
18:26
community online as well. So you
18:26
can find students online, you
18:31
can find colleagues online, you
18:31
know, specialist help as well
18:38
online. So there's a lot you can
18:38
do now.
18:42  Ayo Abbas
That wasn't there
18:42
before I completely agree. Yeah.
18:44
Okay. So I guess I'm during kind
18:44
of lockdown, no lockdown,
18:52
whatever happening at the
18:52
moment? And what would you say?
18:55
Are there any kind of standout
18:55
marketing or certain
18:58
communications that you've seen
18:58
of late that really captured you
19:02
captured your attention or
19:02
anything like that? During this
19:04
period?
19:07  Sumita Singha
Any any
19:07
marketing?
19:08  Ayo Abbas
Yeah, and you kind of
19:08
campaigns or you thought? Oh,
19:10
that's really, really good, or
19:10
really resonates with me or
19:13
anything like that?
19:14  Sumita Singha
Yeah, I mean, I
19:14
mentioned this before, you know,
19:17
the thing with NHS staff, you
19:17
know, getting a discount really
19:21
resonated with me, because a lot
19:21
of shops, were doing that for
19:25
NHS staff. And I thought, wow,
19:25
you know, architects are doing
19:28
that and they can they can make,
19:28
you know, these hard working
19:32
people, you know, they come back
19:32
home, they can make their homes
19:36
a little bit better. Yeah. You
19:36
know, that that's great. I think
19:40
that was a great idea. And I
19:40
can't I can't think of anything
19:46
else.
19:47  Ayo Abbas
Okay, that's cool,
19:47
don't worry.
19:52  Sumita Singha
And onto my final
19:52
question, what one tip would you
19:55
give to an architectural
19:55
business leader at the moment
19:57
about how to market themselves
19:57
at the moment, during this
20:00
crisis and global pandemic.
20:03
How to market themselves?
20:05  Ayo Abbas
Yeah.
20:05  Sumita Singha
So I think
20:05
wherever you are, whether you
20:09
are new starter or already have
20:09
a practice or in the middle of
20:13
it, I think the one tip you have
20:13
to be and I say this to
20:17
everybody literally is you have
20:17
to be true to yourself, you
20:21
know, you have to think, what
20:21
are my skills? What, what can I
20:25
do best? What is it the world
20:25
needs from me? So, you know, if
20:31
you're offering something that's
20:31
of no use to anybody, I don't
20:35
know if you know, this tale
20:35
about a man who goes to another
20:39
country and says, Well, I'll
20:39
sell you shoes, and they said,
20:42
We don't wear shoes. You know,
20:42
we walk barefoot. You know, that
20:46
sort of thing? Yeah. Those like
20:46
selling sun in the Sahara. I
20:50
don't know, whatever.
20:55  Ayo Abbas
So we don't need
20:55
this. This basically it
20:57  Sumita Singha
got the other one
20:57
cold being coal to Newcastle.
21:00
That's another one isn't? Yeah.
21:00
So I think you've got to think
21:04
what is it the world needs? What
21:04
is it that I can do best? And
21:09
how can I then market that?
21:12  Ayo Abbas
Yeah, absolutely.
21:12
Makes sense. Thank you so much
21:15
for your time today Sumita. It's
21:15
been really, really good fun.
21:17
Thank you.
21:24
Thanks for listening to the
21:24
latest episode of Marketing In
21:27
Times of Crisis. If you liked
21:27
what you heard, please do leave
21:30
us a review, as it helps us to
21:30
spread the word and put more
21:33
people to get to hear about us.
21:33
If you want to know more about
21:36
things mentioned in the episode,
21:36
do look at the show notes which
21:38
will give you more information
21:38
about where to find us and also
21:41
about our show website. In the
21:41
meantime, I hope you enjoyed it
21:45
and have a great day. Bye