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Each year, we ask our readers to send in their nominations for TC's Most Influential Tamils List. We've narrowed down the nominations to 5 individuals who exemplify personal success, community involvement and act as an inspiration to others. We'll feature their stories weekly starting with Nelson Sivalingam, founder and CEO of OneMinuteLondon.com, below.
Nelson (left) with his brother and Tamil actor Rajini.
“Are you living a life worth remembering? Are you living a life that people are going to be talking about?”
Whether it’s the British accent or his probing questions in response to another, filmmaker and entrepreneur Nelson Sivalingam projects the confidence of a man well beyond his years. At the age of 26, he already has some impressive credentials under his belt; most notably heading the successful startup, One Minute London, a company that creates 60 second video clips to promote restaurants and bars across the city.
From cold-calling potential clients and starting as a one-man show, One Minute London has evolved with a dedicated team and a client roster of major players in the industry, with international expansion in the works. Google has named it one of the hottest food tech startups in the UK and Virgin Media included Nelson in its 3030 Vision event as one of the most innovative startup founders in the country.
Born and bred in East London, Nelson credits his city for being a major influence on his life. Although being Tamil is neither a source of motivation or hindrance in his eyes, he does add, “It is a bigger point to prove. Not that many people around me have done it, in terms of family and friends. You want to show that it can be done.” He particularly makes the effort to take up speaking opportunities where he can share his experience with young people and aspiring entrepreneurs. He has become one of the faces for Startup Loans, a British government scheme that funds early stage startups. He also relishes the rare moment he was given to share his views on the media and entertainment industry at 3030 Vision in front of Richard Branson – a great inspiration to him in university and thus, a key highlight in his career.
Still, he does not overlook the hurdles he faced along the way. “One of the difficult challenges was getting friends and family to understand what I was doing. For a long time, I was the unemployed guy who was still looking for a job because people just didn't consider starting a business as a viable career option. You also obviously experience financial challenges when you don't have the security of a regular paycheque. The process of starting a business can also be quite lonely especially during the early stage so you really have to be passionate about the idea and the reason why you've decided to take this journey.”
Relentless, he finds running a startup immensely rewarding. “You get to pick up the fruits for all the hours you put in which is not the case when you work for a big corporation. During the tough times, it's the little successes that keep you going when you have those moments of doubt.” He particularly recalls, with his trademark smirk, one of these successes being when he was featured in Anokhi magazine’s list of noteworthy South Asians - right alongside Miss America.
As the conversation progresses, it becomes evident that behind his suave persona, the wheels never stop turning and there is someone who feels that he has much more to prove. He explains, “There’s people who talk the talk and people who walk the walk. It’s the people who walk the walk that matter.” He’s walked quite the walk with his first love of filmmaking where at the age of 15, he co-founded Barking MAD Productions with his brother and even watched himself on the big screen in their short film Still Life. “The whole idea that excites me is creating something that lives beyond your time. Whether it’s the greatest film makers, musicians…the fact that they are dead and we’re still watching their films and listening to their music…how many people can do that?”
With the lasting impression he made in a mere conversation, there’s no skepticism that the future looks very promising for Nelson. As he continues to etch his name on a time capsule, this year’s influential list provides the obvious answer to his own question as to whether he is living a life people are talking about and most simply put – yes.
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