I am Shankar R. Santhiram and This is How I Invest

I am Shankar R. Santhiram, I am…  

I am a management consultant, leadership coach, author, newspaper columnist, radio personality, and an entrepreneur. I started my career in 1994 as a law lecturer in a private institute of higher learning, and pivoted to establish a specialised consulting firm, EQTD Consulting, in 2002. Since then, I have trained, consulted, and coached some of the best-known corporations in Malaysia, and around the region. Having spent 10 years as a contributor on BFM89.9’s Enterprise segment, I now have a daily radio show on Lite Malaysia, called The Right Perspective with Shankar Santhiram. Since 2016, I am also a weekly columnist in the Business Section of the New Straits Times. Apart from EQTD Consulting, I currently own The Fire Grill, an Asian-inspired grill restaurant. I co-founded the Crackhouse Comedy Club Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s first dedicated stand-up comedy in 2014. I am also the Managing Director of Asia Paws Holistic Veterinary Practice, and a partner with my wife in a boutique hotel in Austria.    

1. What is your best investment and worst investment? 

My best investments and worst investments have both been in my businesses! As I have grown financially, and even in my management as well as leadership skills, the businesses that have yielded real profitability have been those that I have a substantial stake in, where I can influence direction. The worst business investment I have made has been in a small but glamourous fashion boutique in partnership with an Italian textile producer. I had a small stake, but being the local partner, huge liability. It failed, and I was saddled with all the accumulated business debt. My partner absconded, and I lost more than RM300,000. It was a bitter lesson, but now I only invest in businesses that I can control.   

2. What was your first-ever investment (and how did that go)?

Aside from investing in entrepreneurial undertakings, my first “traditional” investment was in a property in 2003. I partnered with my father, and bought a condominium in Mont Kiara. I flipped it after 5 years, and we both nearly doubled our investment. From an investment perspective, it was good. But from an emotional standpoint, it was rough. Going into partnership with a family member requires a specific set of skills. 

3. Your investment no-nos (why not and what happened)  

After getting burnt with dabbling in the fashion business, something that I had negligible knowledge of, I needed to discipline myself to never part with my hard-earned cash in ventures that I don’t have enough proficiency in. But I guess certain tendencies, like getting over exuberant, lie latent in me. I still need my wife to stop me from going into hairbrained projects. Although as I hit my fifth decade, these instances are becoming fewer and far in between.    

4. What do you invest for?

I am lucky because my investment portfolio is shared completely with my wife. I do not invest without her. So, everything is done jointly. But this affords me much leeway, as we divide the purpose for investment. She focuses on directing our resources for our future security and health. I, on the other hand, concentrate on wealth creation through being relevant, and investing in businesses that solve problems.

5. Shankar’s investment philosophy and approach

As cliché as this sounds, the most fulfilling investment has been in myself. Putting out money to travel, to curate experiences, to attend courses, and to share fulfilling times with my wife, family, and close friends have yielded the greatest profitability. Our current asset base comes from the income we both derive from our professional work. My work as a management consultant and leadership coach, and being an author, newspaper columnist and radio personality; and Susanna’s work as Malaysia’s only full-time holistic veterinary doctor. Our earnings fund all our investments. We have both become subject matter specialists because we re-invest in ourselves through travel, re-education, meeting new people, and learning from these experiences. In short, invest in yourself, in what you understand, and in what you have control over. And of course, invest in the right life-partner!    

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