Shapers: Arjun Panesar and Charlotte Summers

Show aired on 20th January 2018

Transcript

Elliot Moss
That was Right Now from Mel Torme, a nice way to start the programme. Good morning this is Jazz Shapers, I am Elliot Moss here on Jazz FM. Thank you very much for joining. Jazz Shapers is where we put the people who are shaping the world of business, we call them Business Shapers, right alongside those people who are shaping the world of jazz, blues and soul from yesterday, today and hopefully tomorrow as well. My Business Shapers today are Charlotte Summers and Arjun Panesar they are the Co-Founder and CEO that’s Arjun and the COO of diabetes.co.uk a community which sits on line and provides information, education and support for those people who are suffering from diabetes. You’re going to be hearing about lots of really innovative stuff that they have been doing. In addition to hearing from Charlotte and Arjun very shortly you’ll also be hearing from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya some words of advice for your business and on top of all of that we’ve got some brilliant music from the shapers of jazz, blues and soul including Sarah Vaughan, Gregory Porter and this from the one and only Aretha Franklin.

That was Aretha Franklin with the iconic Think. Charlotte Summers and Arjun Panesar are my Business Shapers today. Arjun is the Co-Founder and CEO of diabetes.co.uk and Charlotte is the COO all these great C titles brilliant. Welcome both of you firstly.

Charlotte Summers
Thank you for having us.

Arjun Panesar
Yes thank you.

Elliot Moss
It’s a pleasure and we’re going to look each here so you will be listening and you’ll be going I wonder who he’s talking to it will be clear because what I will be saying is I’m over here looking at Arjun and Arjun will respond brilliant because when I say to Arjun hello tell me about how and why you founded diabetes.co.uk he will answer as if by magic.

Arjun Panesar
Yes well I started diabetes.co.uk in 2003 my grandfather had a quadruple bypass and as a result was left with certain dietary inflammation. As a result he wasn’t quite sure what to eat so we purchased a domain name diabetes.co.uk and we put up a forum. The first ever question was can I eat oranges which sort of gave an impression that people weren’t quite sure what to eat and then sort of fifteen years later we are now providing digital therapies as well as being the world’s largest diabetes community.

Elliot Moss
And at the beginning of the programme I talked about the fact that there is support there, there’s education and there’s information. At the beginning when you did this and obviously you talked about your grandfather’s health and that being a precursor to this, did you envisage it would become this?

Arjun Panesar
Never, so my background is AI, Artificial Intelligence when we were looking at the size of the forum it’s quite interesting because we could see trends and you know quite interesting patterns. At the same time we never thought we would have 600,000 users and 250,000 members of education that we are providing, not in a million years.

Elliot Moss
And Charlotte you joined the business a few years ago?

Charlotte Summers
Yeah I joined about five years ago now.

Elliot Moss
And in terms of you joining a business that is already created I mean you in your own right I was reading have been pretty instrumental in some of the disruptive stuff that diabetes.co.uk has done. Coming into a business that’s already been formed is there, how did Arjun and the team provide you with a platform to kind of be yourself and get on with these things?

Charlotte Summers
Yeah so Arjun and the rest of the team have been creating the platform and then also bringing in a lot of the data and so I kind of came in and saw the types of things that we were already doing and then looked at kind of gaps where we could fill and support people with diabetes a bit better and that’s where the education programmes came in.

Elliot Moss
And they’ve made you feel comfortable in the terms of that platform, and the platform for you to be yourself?

Charlotte Summers
Yes.

Elliot Moss
How have they done that? Was there lots of freedom that they’ve given you from day one?

Charlotte Summers
Yeah absolutely. It’s a really comfortable business, a really family orientated business so yeah there’s plenty of opportunities to come in and bring your own identity and flair so.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for more identity and flair from my Business Shapers today, that’s Charlotte Summers and Arjun Panesar and its diabetes.co.uk which is the business that Arjun was a Co-Founder of back in 2003. Time for some more music right now this is Sarah Vaughan with Fever.

The brilliant sound of Sarah Vaughan with her take on Fever. Charlotte Summers and Arjun Panesar are my Business Shapers today. Arjun is the CEO and Co-Founder of diabetes.co.uk. Charlotte is his important side kick, a COO – you may not be a side kick you may be much more, maybe you tell Arjun just what to do. What I find interesting about diabetes.co.uk Arjun you were saying it’s a community. When money isn’t, I mean I’m sure that, I want to talk about where the finances fit in it but your reason for being is a good one and I don’t mean that businesses are bad but you exist to help people. How have you kept the focus on helping people all through these years and not let the profit motive get in the way?

Arjun Panesar
There’s a certain approach to the internet where people are able to have access to information quite freely. We simply provided a structured mechanism for engaging with that content for users and what we found was that when people were engaging with our content in particular, if they were coming back to our website or coming back to our app or coming back to our platform that their health would improve over time. We’ve only actually recently published some research with Royal Holloway University of London on how the forum is empowering patients. What’s really interesting by putting a community approach first by sort of wanting to improve patient health what we were able to do is become quite a refined and quite a niche platform and so sort of leading into sort of you know how we do make revenue is we’re in an extremely targeted platform for advertising. Although there would be no advertising in our education programmes or our education platforms, the website is a really precise way of people getting in touch with people with diabetes.

Elliot Moss
And Charlotte when you came across to diabetes.co.uk to work with the team what was the motivation? Was it because you wanted more purpose in what you did?

Charlotte Summers
Yeah so my background’s in psychology and I was particularly interested in what happens to someone when they get diagnosed with the kind of chronic and progressive disease such as type 2 or type 1 diabetes even and so I wanted to look at how we can improve their mental and emotional well-being of people in their day to day lives and their support network that’s created and facilitated by the diabetes.co.uk forum was a really nice place to start.

Elliot Moss
And does it, do you think about I mean obviously making money is important, making money, if you didn’t make any money you wouldn’t have a platform. How do you balance the two for you and I know you do a variety of things in your role but how do you think about it?

Charlotte Summers
From an ethical point of view I think we start there and what we want to make sure that we do is put the needs of the community before making any profit or anything like that so a lot of the education programmes that we’ve been developing has been made and funded by the revenues collected on the main website so if we kind of put the needs and the requirements of the community first then the kind of revenue will then follow.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for much more from my Business Shapers today that’s Arjun Panesar and Charlotte Summers, they’re both from the diabetes.co.uk community and as you were hearing then community first, profit second that must be right. Latest travel in a couple of minutes but before that some words of wisdom from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya for your business.

You are listening to Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss. Every Saturday I get to meet someone who is shaping the world of business or some people who are shaping the world of business. If you’ve missed any iTunes is your destination put in the words ‘Jazz’ and ‘Shapers’, CityAM is another destination – .com I should add. Also British Airways High Life there’s a few on that as well. Today Arjun Panesar and Charlotte Summers are my Business Shapers they are the Co-Founder and CEO and COO respectively of diabetes.co.uk, fifteen years young online and a great resource for those people who are suffering from diabetes. Arjun as you built this business up and this team what do you look for in the people that you’ve brought on board from the back end developers to the medical professionals in the community and so on. What is it that you would say characterises the kind of person that you want to be around?

Arjun Panesar
Creativity and innovation are two of the hardest things to find but when we manage to come across them we like to hold onto those people so we’ve historically hired a number of apprentices that have gone onto sort of become managerial in terms of their position. We have realised that being in the University of Warwick complex doesn’t necessarily mean that you know we would have you know creative, innovative people coming through the door constantly. We realise that culture is a really big part of the organisation too so having an appetite to you know change global health is something that is really intricate and difficult to find but when you do find people who have that kind of motivation they almost immediately within the first fifteen seconds are welcomed into the building with open arms.

Elliot Moss
And how do you ensure that it remains part of the DNA of the organisation for you? How do you ensure that every day and every meeting and every hour because it’s hard isn’t it when there’s just stuff to do.

Arjun Panesar
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
What is it that you do, do you think as the CEO to ensure that it stays?

Arjun Panesar
So it’s actually providing the support for people to become empowered you know to reach their or actualise their sort of creativity or you know their talent so we have a medical panel that will help train new staff on our processes, on our understanding, on our medical understanding as a lot of what we are doing is challenging the typical understanding of chronic and progressive disease but then also when people join and see what we’re doing, so when they see 600,000 people on the platform, when they see 250,000 in the low carb programme and then see the health outcomes they have its so inspiring and so rewarding for them in particular that I think through experience you know you become engaged and become immersed into what we’re doing.

Elliot Moss
And from your perspective Charlotte just briefly the trains need to run on time, the plumbing needs to work, how does that dovetail in with Arjun’s focus on culture not that you wouldn’t be focused on it but what do you do to support the sustenance if you like of what you stand for?

Charlotte Summers
So the way that we work historically is very fast and very organic and responsive so we kind of jump on trends or we understand that there might be a need for a focus on a particular subject or area to do with diabetes management and then that requires all of the team coming together and working towards shared goals and so we use a kind of solution focus approach to everything that we do within the organisation so that everyone feels a part of the project and they can all come together and see that through.

Elliot Moss
Speed, focus and delivery. You heard it here first.

Charlotte Summers
Yes.

Elliot Moss
With Arjun Panesar and Charlotte Summers my Business Shapers. Stay with me for much more from them. Time for some more music this is Gregory Porter with Be Good.

That was Gregory Porter with Be Good. I’ve been talking to Arjun and Charlotte and I’m going to drop their last names just because, Co-Founder and CEO and COO respectively of diabetes.co.uk. Just picking up on the agile point Charlotte we were talking about before speed is critical online and if we were talking thirty years ago and you were you know a phone delivery service or you happened to be in a village doing this it just wouldn’t be like this. Does speed also get in the way though? Do you think sometimes you rush to do so when actually a bit more time thinking about the nuances of delivery would be worthwhile and if you have made those mistakes how have you adjusted accordingly?

Charlotte Summers
Yeah there’s been a number of occasions as an organisation we kind of have a focus on failing fast and we would kind of see how a project rolls out and if it’s not working we would re-group and re-attack whatever problem or project that we’ve got in front of us.

Arjun Panesar
I think because we have such a large community that we quite often have sort of 1000, 2000, 5000 people in something that we will have just launched and within 24 hours so that kind of real time feedback helps us fail fast and learn fast.

Elliot Moss
And I imagine failing is no bad thing right, I mean again part of a culture of an organisation like yours especially where you’re trying to crack really important problems around disease and this is a good thing.

Charlotte Summers
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
Medical advancements happen through trial and error that’s the nature of experiments I imagine.

Charlotte Summers
Yeah it’s a really great learning opportunity so anything that we’ve done that hasn’t gone exactly as we thought it would it’s a real opportunity to kind of re-assess to see the way that it’s kind of rolled out and then go from there rather than sticking to the way that we would like it to be or if a particular project kind of goes slightly off course it’s not necessarily a problem we don’t try and get it, crow bar it back into the course that we originally wanted it we kind of go with wherever it takes us.

Elliot Moss
And again I imagine in terms of people you must encourage people in the teams to try stuff and if you’re counselling someone in your team Charlotte, how do you ensure that your teams know that it’s okay to fail what do you do, is it just simply saying try stuff if it doesn’t work it’s not a problem or is there something more sophisticated than that or is that all it needs?

Charlotte Summers
I think often that’s all it needs it just requires a space for someone to be able to see that they have the opportunity to trial a few different things and it’s done in a safe way so that we would maybe test things out on a small level first and then gradually increase it.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for more from my Business Shapers today that’s Charlotte Summers and Arjun Panesar they’ll be talking to me in their final chat with me very shortly plus you’ll be hearing two choices from our Business Shapers because there are two of them after all, one will be from John Lee Hooker with Carlos Santana and the other one we will wait til the end to reveal. That’s all coming up after the latest traffic and travel here on Jazz FM.

That was John Lee Hooker with Carlos Santana and that was called The Healer and in fact Arjun I’m looking at you because it was your choice. Why did you choose that track?

Arjun Panesar
Well what we’re doing with the platform, what we’re doing with the communities you know the research that we’re showing that’s empowering patients, the low carb programme, the fantastic results we’re getting its really healing people and so that’s a word, that’s a term and a sentiment that we see quite a lot on our platform so thought it was particularly apt.

Elliot Moss
Perfect choice which brings me neatly to the future really and what’s going on in terms of you, the macro stuff that you’re doing to address diabetes and handling how people can help themselves. Tell me a little bit Charlotte about the low carb programme and what you’ve been doing.

Charlotte Summers
Yeah so two years ago we launched the low carb programme. It’s an evidence based digital therapy. It’s completely online intervention for people with type 2 diabetes. It’s now been expanded to incorporate people with pre-diabetes and people that are obese or experience some symptoms of metabolic syndrome. It’s really going to change the paradigm around the approach to type 2 diabetes management but also incorporating the idea that we can go some way to actually put type 2 diabetes into remission and it isn’t a chronic and progressive disease as we once understood it to be and by changing the approach to going back to the idea that it’s a sugar intolerance we can really go some way to actually put type 2 into remission and avoid long-term diabetes related complications.

Elliot Moss
Arjun just tell me at the back end of that obviously I imagine you’re capturing a lot of data and there’s a lot of information that you can then use which will then advance other methodologies as you look to tackle these diseases is that right?

Arjun Panesar
Yes absolutely so we’ve had 250,000, 260,000 members in fact to the low carb programme over the last twenty three months that’s obviously producing a tremendous amount of data so we generate you know a good few hundred thousand points of data a month. Looking at it from a population level we are really able to see sort of behaviours, patterns, we are able to see the spread of conditions such as the flu and influenza through the symptoms people are tracking but not only that what’s sort of more exciting is that based on the results that we’re getting its helping to influence clinical understanding and academic research.

Elliot Moss
You both sound like you’re passionate which is good and that’s really important it isn’t just about the data is it it’s about actually believing that this is a fixable or at least you can manage this disease and that’s fantastic to hear. I’ve really enjoyed talking to both of you, thank you. Just before I let you go Charlotte it’s your turn now, Arjun’s has had his what’s your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Charlotte Summers
I’ve gone for California Dreamin by Baby Hughie and The Baby Sitters on the basis that a lot of the work that we’re doing and the concepts that we’re working within are kind of very Silicon Valleyesque so we’re dreaming of California Sun currently.

Elliot Moss
Keep dreaming that you’re really in Silicon Valley. Brilliant, here it is just for you thank you both so much.

Charlotte Summers
Thank you very much.

Arjun Panesar
Thank you.

Elliot Moss
That was the song choice of one of my Business Shapers today Charlotte Summers, it was Baby Hughie and The Baby Sitters with California Dreamin. Really good stuff from Arjun and Charlotte right behind a fantastic community to set up to tackle the problem with diabetes. Do join me again, same time, same place, that’s next Saturday, 9.00am sharp for another edition of Jazz Shapers. Meanwhile stay with us coming up next it’s the one and only Nigel Williams.

Arjun Panesar

Arjun is CEO of the award-winning (Lloyds Bank National Business Award for Positive Social Impact 2016) patient forum www.diabetes.co.uk, Europe’s largest diabetes community with members from over 200 countries.

He joined Diabetes.co.uk in 2010 as a Director specialising in CTO and Conversion. Since assuming this role he has grown the market-leading Diabetes.co.uk community to over 3.6 million page impressions with 2.2 million UV per month and over 475,000 members.

Arjun launched digital campaign ‘#Bloodsugarselfies’ in 2014 to highlight World Diabetes Day and in 2015, he launched the online 10-week Low Carb Program offering free diet and lifestyle education to people diagnosed and living with type 2 diabetes.

Follow Arjun on Twitter @arjunpanesar.

Charlotte Summers

Charlotte is COO of the award-winning (Lloyds Bank National Business Award for Positive Social Impact 2016) patient forum www.diabetes.co.uk, Europe’s largest diabetes community with members from over 200 countries.

She helped launch digital campaign ‘#Bloodsugarselfies’ in 2014, to highlight World Diabetes Day, and was instrumental in introducing universal diabetes healthcare app DiabetesPA which was created with the help of 20,000 members of Diabetes.co.uk.

Charlotte has been named as a British disruptor, entrepreneurs who are innovating within their respective industries, by the Sunday Times Maserati 100 List 2017. She is currently a finalist for the First Women of Healthcare from First Women Awards and has been selected by Management Today as one of their “35 Women Under 35”.

Follow Charlotte on Twitter @CharlieSummers_.

Listen live at 9am Saturday.

AP: “The first ever question was, ‘Can I eat oranges?’ which sort of gave an impression that people weren’t quite sure what to eat…”

CS: “It’s a really comfortable business, a really family orientated business so there’s plenty of opportunities to come in and bring your own identity and flair.”

CS: “I wanted to look at how we can improve the mental and emotional well-being of people in their day-to-day lives, and the support network that’s created and facilitated by the diabetes.co.uk forum was a really nice place to start.

AP: “Creativity and innovation are two of the hardest things to find; when we manage to come across them we like to hold onto those people. We’ve historically hired a number of apprentices that have gone onto become managerial.”

AP: “A lot of what we are doing is challenging the typical understanding of chronic and progressive disease.”

CS: “If a particular project goes slightly off course it’s not necessarily a problem. We don’t try and get it, crow bar it back in…we kind of go wherever it takes us.”

CS: “… by changing the approach to going back to the idea that it’s a sugar intolerance we can really go some way to actually put type 2 into remission and avoid long-term diabetes related complications.”

AP: “We are able to see the spread of conditions such as the flu through the symptoms people are tracking but what’s more exciting is that, based on the results that we’re getting, it’s helping to influence clinical understanding and academic research.”