Shaper: Oday Abbosh

Show aired on 6th December 2014

Transcript

Elliot Moss
That was the mellifluous and uplifting Gregory Porter with Wind Song, a fantastic way to start the programme here on Jazz FM; it’s Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss, thank you very much for joining me. Jazz Shapers is the place where you can hear the very best of the people who are shaping the world of jazz, blues and soul alongside their equivalents in the world of business; a Business Shaper. My Business Shaper today is Oday Abbosh and he is the founder and CEO of a business called Better All Round and they are a household consumer goods business and they’ve just launched relatively recently an amazingly innovative product called Ora – O.R.A. – you will be hearing lots about that and lots about Oday and his business. In addition to hearing from Oday, you will be hearing from our programme partners at Mischon De Reya some words of advice for your business and as well as all of that if you can take it, some brilliant music from the shapers of jazz, blues and soul, including Art Blakey, Madeleine Peyroux and this from the one and only Dave Brubeck.

Rhythmic and wonderful, that’s Unsquare Dance from Dave Brubeck. It’s Jazz Shapers and as I said earlier, my Business Shaper today is Oday Abbosh, he is the CEO and founder of a company called Better All Round. You may not have heard of them but you might have heard of a lovely little product called Ora. Not so little actually because it is in five hundred I am told, Tesco Stores around the country and probably by the time you hear this, maybe even more, maybe over a thousand. Oday thank you very much for joining me.

Oday Abbosh
Thank you.

Elliott Moss
Before I go into your dim and distant past just give me a top line on what Ora is and what Better All Round is?

Oday Abbosh
Better All Round is a company that my wife and I have launched. We launched that in 2012 and the whole thrust behind Better All Round is to conceive of and bring new consumer products to market that are very much focussed on innovation and bringing new products that will add some more excitement to everyday household items for our consumers. And Ora is our first product that we have launched which is a kitchen towel. It looks very different from any other product on the market. It performs very differently and so far we have been delighted with the reception we have had from consumers.

Elliot Moss
And I urge you to go and look at this on-line; it’s Ora – O.R.A. – it looks like a rocket. Basically it is like cones, lots and lots of cones all in one beautiful package. Now it is quite difficult to do interesting things in the household and we all have to do everyday tasks and I actually interviewed one of the Joseph brothers, the Joseph and Joseph guys and they have gone and done that.

Oday Abbosh
They have.

Elliot Moss
Richard was talking about how innovation was critical, how the aesthetics was critical, how the technology is critical. It took them years to devise interesting things. Here we are two years after you launched and you have something which is genuinely innovative. It’s a kitchen towel that doesn’t look like a kitchen towel, apparently it saves on paper because you are using less of it, it’s more economical because therefore there is less people you know, lorries and stuff you know I imagine, all those things.

Oday Abbosh
Yep.

Elliot Moss
What made you decide to go into this world of creating interesting stuff for the house? You don’t just wake up one day and go I know what I am going to do, I’m going to fix things around the house unless it’s DIY of course. What made you do it?

Oday Abbosh
You are right, you don’t wake up one day and you certainly don’t wake up one day thinking I am going to innovate and design a new kitchen towel that’s absolutely right. I think…

Elliot Moss
Unless you are a strange kind of fellow.

Oday Abbosh
Well I am sure…

Elliot Moss
You never know, someone maybe has woken up but you obviously had a bigger vision than that?

Oday Abbosh
Yep so my background actually is in engineering so I did mechanical engineering many many many years ago and then moved into the corporate world, actually worked as a management consultant for a long time and I guess part of me has always been somebody who is interested in design, interested in products and interested I guess fundamentally in how things work and a long time ago I had the observation that if you use a paper towel, not necessarily a kitchen towel but just a regular paper towel and you dry your hands with the paper towel you notice that an awful lot of the paper specifically the corners aren’t used and all of the moisture is trapped in the centre of the paper and that just got me thinking as to why that wasn’t the case and I then worked with some fantastic designers at a company called Acumen here in London and we actually played around with the idea of what could you do with circular sheets of paper because that will be one of the first things you notice about our Ora product, they are circular sheets of paper, they are dispensed in a discreet fashion so they are not on a web, they are on a roll and then after we played around with that idea we then worked with a company called PA Consulting, another British engineering company and we started experimenting with the equipment to make the product.

Elliot Moss
But essentially what you are describing and we will talk lots more about this, is the desire to fix something and the engineering brain that said ‘you know what, we can do better than this’. That sounds about right?

Oday Abbosh
Sounds about right.

Elliot Moss
Sounds about right. He will tell me why it is not quite right very shortly. It is time for some music though before we come back to Oday Abbosh my Business Shaper today and this is Downtown from Rebecca Buchan.

The brassy sound of Downtown and Rebecca Buchan. Oday Abbosh is my Business Shaper. We have been talking about innovation I suppose and why an engineer gets a bit irritated that something isn’t working. You mentioned as you were talking before about your background Oday and if you weren’t listening, Oday is the founder as I said and CEO of Better All Round and they make stuff for the house, specifically this amazing thing which I am holding which I can’t wait to get home and try, it’s called Ora – O.R.A. – and it’s the all-round kitchen towel it says here literally on the packet which is very easy therefore for me to read. The thing you were talking about though before, your background, you were as you said a manager consultant, you were an engineer. Twenty years or so in that kind of world, must enable you to get quite well versed in how to analyse problems. Corporations work very differently to small businesses.

Oday Abbosh
They do.

Elliot Moss
What were the big things though that you really think you learnt that enabled you to then effectively and successfully set up your first business which is where we are now?

Oday Abbosh
I think the first thing that I would highlight is they are genuinely massively different, there is no doubt about it okay, and it is not to say that one is good and one is bad, they are just different okay. I think, actually I have a huge respect for large organisations having consulted for many of them and having worked in a very large one, you get to appreciate the complexity and so on. I think on the downside is that they typically lose agility and they lose the ability to innovate and that is driven predominantly because of the scale of the business and normally when you innovate you start with something new, it by definition starts small and when you are in a large corporation it is difficult to ensure the support and sponsorship for something that is relatively small and takes time to build because it doesn’t move the dial, doesn’t move the needle on the big mother ship.

Elliot Moss
But you don’t look like you are an agitated kind of fellow though, I mean you look pretty calm so I imagine that didn’t bother you as such. You weren’t, you haven’t left the corporate world because you were angry and irritated?

Oday Abbosh
Not at all.

Elliot Moss
So what made you make that leap from what sounds like a pretty cerebral, analytical and very pleasing place to work?

Oday Abbosh
Sure.

Elliot Moss
Which is you know, if you can go and solve big problems with complex situations and so on, what made you go, ‘I want to work for myself, it’s different now’? Did something – you woke up and felt differently? What was it?

Oday Abbosh
I don’t think there was necessarily a particular day when I woke up but I think the reality is I felt for a long time that at some stage I will do my own thing and in 2012 my wife and I adopted our first child which was a terrific experience and I took a six month sabbatical from Excentra at the time and during those six months as you might imagine I entered this completely new life and we have actually adopted our second son since then and so it has got even better.

Elliot Moss
You needed more kitchen towels.

Oday Abbosh
Even more of a requirement for kitchen towels.

Elliot Moss
And many other forms of nappies and so on and so forth.

Oday Abbosh
Yes. Well that’s exactly the next space in the baby arena but anyway we will get to that in the future. So I had six months really to just consider actually what I wanted to do next okay and that was after about twenty five years of management consultancy so it just felt like the perfect time. So at that point my wife and I decided if we are going to make a big change then now is the time to do it. We had the idea, I had the idea a long time ago but never really had the time to pursue it because that is one thing that – it is interesting to hear what you said about the Joseph Joseph guys – it does take a lot of time so sometimes it takes longer than you would like and in my case 2012 was the year to basically make the change and then we very quickly formed a company and assembled a team and you ask about what do you learn from the big organisations, it’s all about the team, it’s all about the people. Whether that’s the people that I could ask for help in terms of structuring a board of directors, the people I could approach to raise finance and then ultimately obviously the team that we are building ourselves. We have done everything in the UK with British groups and it has been great.

Elliot Moss
What I love about that last point and what you just described is an excellent exposition if you like of the movement from the corporate world to the more entrepreneurial world but you are really interested in British design and just thinking about the Dyson business and actually the Joseph Joseph business. The design quality in this country is fantastic.

Oday Abbosh
Yeah it’s second to none.

Elliot Moss
Second to none and I think that is a really important thing that you are investing in it but not through any altruistic thing but purely because it’s the best. A good message to hear for everybody. Stay with us here on Jazz FM, this is Jazz Shapers and it’s the latest travel is coming up in a couple of minutes and before that some words of wisdom for your business from our program partners for your business from Mishcon De Reya.

You are listening to Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss every Saturday morning 9.00am sharp here on Jazz FM. You get to hear me interviewing a really interesting and unusual sometimes, person from the world of business, someone who is shaping the world of business and has set up their own and is doing interesting and wonderful things. My Business Shaper today is Oday Abbosh and he is the founder and CEO of a company called Better All Round which has launched a product called Ora which is remarkably in a rather big retailer called Tesco and you were talking Oday before about all the different things you had to do to assemble your team at the beginning.

Oday Abbosh
Sure.

Elliot Moss
And you talked about British design, we talked about all the different things you had to pull together from the technology side and I imagine the big thing that comes up is one big thing, is funding and I want to talk to you about that and then I want to talk about the actual distribution piece. On the funding side I hear that you essentially went to friends and family and raised the money yourself. Is that correct?

Oday Abbosh
That is correct yep.

Elliot Moss
And if so, why did you do that and you are not the first person to have done that of the many people that I have been privileged enough to interview. The banks didn’t want to lend you the money? What happened? There wasn’t private equity? What was going on for you at the time?

Oday Abbosh
Slightly different actually Elliot. We decided from the get go that we were going to do this to start with with friends and family. That would get us so far and then we would need to go out and raise further funding. I think when you are talking about launching a start-up business going to banks and private equity and VCs and so on for me at any rate, that’s not really the right approach okay.

Elliot Moss
And how much are we talking about raising at that time when you first just started your business?

Oday Abbosh
We raised quite a few million.

Elliot Moss
Okay. Good so you went to the right friends it sounds like. You made some good moves.

Oday Abbosh
We are very lucky that we have some great friends and perhaps more importantly those friends had even better friends okay so it was just a case of people just trying to help. It’s been terrific.

Elliot Moss
And that money at the first hurdle I imagine went into product design, went into manufacturing, went into what else?

Oday Abbosh
Predominantly actually manufacturing and machine design because the product is as hopefully people will see and test it at home, they will see it is very different and as a result of that actually it needed unique custom engineering in terms of the machines to make it.

Elliot Moss
Now your background as an engineer – were you a mechanical engineer?

Oday Abbosh
Mechanical.

Elliot Moss
Right so relatively useful I would say that you were a mechanical engineer, you were able to talk with other engineers in obviously different disciplines?

Oday Abbosh
To some degree.

Elliot Moss
To some degree, of course you don’t want to get to know too much about a specific you know, nature of a piece of manufacturing equipment. But that background joking aside is critical I imagine when you are going to start creating products and stuff?

Oday Abbosh
Yes it is definitely very helpful, it is definitely very helpful but I will come back to what I said earlier about actually making sure you surround yourself with the right team okay and making sure you have got the right skills on the team and actually that is definitely for me, number one.

Elliot Moss
Now the funding happens, you get your first batch off, I imagine though you have to secure distribution before you can put anything in the machine.

Oday Abbosh
Absolutely.

Elliot Moss
How did you manage to land Tesco because Tesco is one of the most, the largest retailers, you know one in every ten pence is spent in the supermarket, in their supermarkets. What did you do to nail that contract because that’s one of the key things people talk about, I just couldn’t get the distribution working?

Oday Abbosh
It is interesting to hear that because actually my own experience with Tesco has been great. They have been massively supportive, I approached somebody in Tesco back in 2012, he very quickly put me in touch with the right category director for the household section. I met the guy within maybe four or five weeks okay. We had a fantastic meeting, we very quickly agreed this was something that actually fit what Tesco were looking for. They are very big into seeking innovation and actually one thing I have learnt is that there probably aren’t that many suppliers that truly go to Tesco and talk about innovation and I think that has been a real bonus for us so actually despite what people talk about, the big supermarkets in general I feel very lucky where we are with them.

Elliot Moss
Sounds like the key was innovation. Lots more coming up from my Business Shaper Oday Abbosh. It is time for some music this is from Art Blakey and it is the quintessential track called Moanin’.

That was Moanin’ from Art Blakey. I have been talking to Oday Abbosh who is my Business Shaper today and we have been talking about innovation and distribution. The product itself and let’s just talk about that for a little bit, it looks very nice and you talked about your team.

Oday Abbosh
Yep.

Elliot Moss
And you talked about the packaging and things. The story that has been painted so far sounds pretty positive. I imagine two years in if I really dug a little bit and we are going to right now, I imagine there are some pretty dark patches where it was difficult? What kinds of things have you had to overcome to ensure that you are still looking like the calm happy man that you are?

Oday Abbosh
It is definitely tough. I think anybody who has started a business from scratch would recognise that in a heartbeat. I think in our particular case the hardest thing has just been getting the engineering right because actually what we’ve built is complex and it has never been done before. Now there are lots of good things about that but actually when you talk about where have the challenges been, I would say predominantly in the engineering space. Actually getting the distribution with Tesco as I described earlier, we have got a terrific relationship, it’s a real partnership so actually I couldn’t be more happy with that aspect. The marketing obviously if we had a lot more money we would do more traditional above the line type advertising and so much we can’t afford to do but that’s fine. You can do some pretty creative stuff on digital and social media today that you couldn’t do five, ten years ago so.

Elliot Moss
What you don’t sound is frenetic and that sometimes the people I talk to are super high energy, there’s a hundred things going on there, the world is falling apart, they wake up the next morning and thinks it’s all going to be okay again and off they go. Has your team remained the team. Did you think you chose well with your people because – or have there been people problems – I mean I feel like the therapist who is basically working out the guy on the couch doesn’t have an issue. I mean really has it almost been…

Oday Abbosh
No no, sure of course.

Elliot Moss
…apart from from the product design but that’s almost a left brain thing. The right brain cell has there been stuff where you have gone ‘whoa being a leader of a business is very different to telling clients what is wrong with theirs’?

Oday Abbosh
Well I think, I think that they are different to some degree but even in Excentra my previous place obviously I had responsibility for a bunch of people and so on so in many ways those skill sets are transferable. I think that the truth is leadership actually doesn’t really matter business you are in to a very large degree, a lot of the skill sets are exactly the same okay. In terms of the team, yes sure we’ve made you know, we’ve had some people that we’ve had to cycle out and so on, that’s just normal stuff okay but we’ve got a great team.

Elliot Moss
I now know you are a management consultant because you just said cycle out. Love it.

Oday Abbosh
Is that bad word?

Elliot Moss
No no, it’s good it’s just good. It’s just now, now his background is coming through. But I think beyond obviously those, joking aside on the language, you must have, there must be people you look at as you’ve worked through your long career before you became an entrepreneur and you go ‘they really helped me think differently’.

Oday Abbosh
Completely.

Elliot Moss
And who would they be? And what did they say to you? Are there things that stick or is it much more…

Oday Abbosh
Yeah I am certainly not going to name names and embarrass people but you absolutely do, I think that’s a good point in the sense that I try very hard in whatever I do to look at other people and try and learn a little bit, even, it doesn’t matter how small it is but try and see something that you can take away from every conversation, every person you meet okay. Whether those are with my clients, whether they are my partners in my previous life or people that you know, on the team – it doesn’t matter. I think you can always learn something from people and at the end of the day it’s, it’s about you know, we’ve got a great marketing director, she starts next week. We appointed a fantastic operations manager two months ago. We’ve got a great team all round okay. We had a fantastic team effort leading up to a big milestone earlier on in November where we took the number of stores that we are currently in at Tesco from a little over five hundred to over twelve fifty stores nationwide. So there has been an awful lot of concerted effort. Some long days, long evenings but it has been great team work.

Elliot Moss
It’s a good story and it is only going to get better hopefully. We will have our final chat with Oday today plus we are going to play a track form Madeleine Peyroux – that’s after the latest traffic and travel here on Jazz FM.

That was Madeleine Peyroux covering Bob Dylan, I am sure you knew that, You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go. What a beautiful voice she has too. Just for a few more minutes Oday Abbosh is my Business Shaper and if you have been listening earlier you will know that he is the founder and CEO of Better All Round and they have got this rather natty product called Ora – O.R.A. – and it looks like a cone, a sort of robot cone that is about to fly up into the sky. It’s pretty cool and it is an all-round kitchen towel and we have been talking all sorts of things, very very positive from funding to distribution and so on. You mentioned earlier that you’ve adopted two children over the last few years and as I said, I don’t say this about everybody but you are like a really happy guy. Do you think that the home life choices you made in 2012, the sabbatical you took, gave you the head space and the emotional happiness to actually be a really great springboard for your business life? Do you think that made a big difference?

Oday Abbosh
Yeah I think there is no question about that. I think I also probably naively thought I would trade in the big corporate job before I started my own business and get a slightly better life balance and I am not sure necessarily that specifically worked out but I do, I do, I do feel very lucky that I, you know, I am at home way more often now than I ever was before, spending a damn sight more time with the boys than I would have done otherwise so no it’s worked well. It’s worked very well.

Elliot Moss
Whilst you are physically present I imagine and I hear this a lot from people I speak to, mentally you must have four thousands…

Oday Abbosh
Yeah, in other places.

Elliot Moss
…yeah another place and the weekend is not the weekend it just happens to be the bit between…

Oday Abbosh
The day is definitely, you no longer have delineation between week day and weekend but I mean to be honest, that’s very often the case for many people now and as long as you are reasonably disciplined you can balance it.

Elliot Moss
What are the sorts of things that worry you on those weekends when you forget it’s the weekend. Can it be anything? Can it be something to do with something going on in the manufacturing plant, can it be something to do with your marketing? Or are there specific hot buttons.

Oday Abbosh
How many times have you expected by your three and a half year to watch the same programme is perhaps quite high up on the list.

Elliot Moss
Ahhh. Are you still on Peppa Pig or have you moved on.

Oday Abbosh
We are on to cars at the moment.

Elliot Moss
Ahhh cars. Yes that phase we all go through. It’s okay there is lots more to come as well. What else do you think Government can be doing to help people like you? Have they helped? I mean do you feel that in the background the context has changed in this country for the better?

Oday Abbosh
I think, yeah I think that’s… I think we have been quite lucky in the sense that if you are truly creating a new engineering solutions or if you are trying to address new technological challenges then there is a whole part of the Government geared up to supporting you and the way of R & D tax credits and we’ve been very fortunate to be successful in securing some of those tax credits and I think that’s a very good way of the Government trying to encourage people to innovate in the UK, to look at science, to look at engineering in the UK and not be afraid to make some CAPEX investments in the knowledge that actually as long as you can really link what you are trying to, what you are investing in and how it solves things, then they’ll back you up in that regard.

Elliot Moss
Now the UK is obviously step one. Have you got global ambitions?

Oday Abbosh
We certainly do. We certainly do.

Elliot Moss
I thought you might. You look like that kind of guy.

Oday Abbosh
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
Where’s next do you reckon if you could wave a magic wand?

Oday Abbosh
Well if you look at our particular product today and you look at the top six countries in the world they account for about seventy percent of the worldwide spend on kitchen towels.

Elliot Moss
So let’s guess, Germany must be one.

Oday Abbosh
Germany is in there.

Elliot Moss
America is in there.

Oday Abbosh
America is in there.

Elliot Moss
Is Mexico in there?

Oday Abbosh
Mexico is not. America is actually number one.

Elliot Moss
Okay.

Oday Abbosh
And then you have got Canada, you’ve got the UK, Germany, France, Italy. So those are without going into too precise details but those are clearly the markets that we are focussed on.

Elliot Moss
And as you think about launching in those markets I imagine the marketing piece is a critical one. How do you ensure that you launch in an appropriate way in those different markets? Especially when you are small and you don’t have the resources of some of the really big companies that have local companies on the ground?

Oday Abbosh
We need, we need to be very thoughtful and very smart in our choices okay because you are right, you wouldn’t necessarily want to launch in each and every one of those territories all on your own, you might look for local partners, strategic partners and you know, we’ll see. The next twelve to eighteen months are certainly going to be very interesting let’s put it that way.

Elliot Moss
And other products from your company? I mean people set up these you know, the Better All Round name is there now.

Oday Abbosh
Yes.

Elliot Moss
It is obviously a kind of business to business name but…

Oday Abbosh
Absolutely.

Elliot Moss
…where else are you going to be looking Oday to make your mark?

Oday Abbosh
So we have focussed – we’ve defined some very clear principles that we want to adhere to in terms of products that we launch okay. I talked earlier about innovation being high up on that list okay. Consumer products is the next one okay. We do actually have some ideas that we are playing around with at the moment in the medical space okay but we are trying to be very, very considered, very focussed on making Ora a big success for our shareholders, for Tesco, for the consumers out there and then we will follow that up with the next two or three products.

Elliot Moss
So there is this question isn’t there? The perennial question – is the focus really going will that be the big buck or actually is the dispersion and the slightly different, you know, tangential places?

Oday Abbosh
And it is all about timing, it’s all about timing and actually as long as you have the right people focussed on making all of the success that we are intent on achieving in the next little while then we can in 2015 start looking at product number two and product number three. The good thing is that actually we have no lack of ideas and no lack of products that we want to bring to market. So now we just seem to be disciplined in how we, how we achieve that.

Elliot Moss
I think you’ve got it all sorted. Well really good luck and just before I let you go, what is your song choice today and why have you chosen it?

Oday Abbosh
My song choice today is My Baby Just Cares For Me by Nina Simone and the reason is because I just think it is a fantastic track. I heard that I don’t know, thirty, thirty five years ago or whatever, a long time ago and it has been with me for ages.

Elliot Moss
Brilliant you have been a fantastic guest, thank you very much for joining me today.

Oday Abbosh
Thank you.

Elliot Moss
This is your song choice and it is Nina Simone.

That was Nina Simone with My Baby Just Cares For Me, the song choice of my Business Shaper today, Oday Abbosh. A very happy man, very very happy, how nice is that to hear. Calm too, unbelievably structured in his thinking and also someone full of ideas and I am sure we will be hearing lots from him in the future. Do join me again, same time, same place, that’s next Saturday 9.00am for another edition of Jazz Shapers where I will be talking to another spectacular shaper in the world of business. In the meantime stay with us here on Jazz FM because coming up next it’s the one and the only, Nigel Williams.

Oday Abbosh

Oday Abbosh graduated from Imperial College with a degree in Mechanical Engineering before qualilifying as a Chartered Accountant with KPMG. Oday then became the Global Managing Partner of Accenture’s Media & Entertainment business, where he worked on many world renowned entertainment brands across the world. Following that, he moved on to be the Global Managing Partner of Accenture’s Management Consulting business for the Comms, High Tech and Media industries. Finally, he ran Accenture’s Analytics business in Europe, Africa and Latin America.

With Better All Round, Oday wanted to conceive of and bring new innovative customer products to market , which add excitement to everyday household items. Better All Round’s first product, Ora, is a kitchen towel with a difference.

Follow Oday Abbosh on Twitter @Ora_Home

Listen live at 9am Saturday.

You don’t wake up one day thinking I am going to innovate and design a new kitchen towel.

I have always been interested in design.

I have a huge respect for large organisations, but they typically lose agility and the abilty to innovate.

In 2012 my wife and I adopted our first child. I took a six month sabbatical from Accenture at the time and I entered this completely new life.

It’s all about the team, it’s all about the people.

We have some great friends and those friends have even better friends, so it was a case of people trying to help. It’s been terrific.

I feel very lucky that I am at home way more often now than I ever was before, so it’s worked well.

If you are trying to address new technological challenges then there is a whole part of the Government geared up to supporting you.

The next twelve to eighteen months or so are going to be very interesting let’s put it that way.