At the young age of 31, Rupen Philloura was promoted to Assistant Director of Operations at Tampa International Airport. An airport that handled 19 million passengers per year. When he left, after a career spanning 15 years, he was leaving a professional safety net to pursue entrepreneurship and to push his own boundaries, to make a difference. The resulting business was MeSpoke, a consumer software technology company that now comprises of 20 employees and is valued at between US$5-7 million. It is a next generation social media app for fashion that Rupen explains was devised after he realised he was witnessing the demise of brick and mortar stores in the USA.
“Walkability in malls were on a downturn and customers were quickly embracing a more digital shopping experience as opposed to going to malls.” He says, “So we created an app which answered the three fundamental fashion-related questions being asked everyday by people; Who makes it? Where did you get it? Where can I buy it?”
It’s a nifty app, based on a hub and spoke system that keeps the user at the centre allowing them to dictate what works and does not work for them, hence democratising the space and giving them social capital. On the front end, MeSpoke has created a new sales and advertising channel for brands and retailers, where consumer engagement also takes place. On the back end it provides a robust dashboard full of data and analytics that can be sold back to brands and retailers, so they can improve their bottom line and focus on their product inventory and demographics.
“Within a year of launching MeSpoke, we were able to get recognised by Gartner for being 1 of 5 cool apps in the world!” Rupen adds proudly.
INFORMATION IS KEY
MeSpoke has proven to be invaluable to a number of brands and retailers by accelerating them into the digital ecommerce space along with consumer engagement and the all-important analytics.
“In our roadmap, we are also working closely with several other brands and determining their needs for the future so we can include them in our technology. AI is big, so we are also incorporating that. I like to say that what Amazon is to merchants, MeSpoke will be to fashion.”
Rupen adds, “We would like to be a one-stop shop making brand champions out of authentic users and not just celebrities. We believe that influencer marketing is flawed and on its way out.“
Rupen is a man who knows the value of analytics and makes decisions and plans based on data, not speculation or hope. As such, he confesses that, as a rule of thumb, he spends 15%-30% of his day making use of social media.
“It does depend and varies from project to project or in which direction we are headed at a particular time,” he says, “But in the digital age, media brands are built and destroyed via social media and we see the fundamental importance of it, so we have to pay attention, monitor trends, be sensitive to certain topics, or current issues and promote and inform our demographic.”
This being said Rupen, is quick to point out the dangers of what he calls “social media sensory overload”, which happens when you try to be present on every social media platform at the same time.
“I thrive on LinkedIn as I prefer the genuine professionals from across the globe whom I can interact with.” He says, “I also like Instagram because of its captivating visual aspect. For example; I like modern architecture, so I like to look up buildings, structures and homes. You can find ideas about travel and fashion and many other interests that you might have.”
“MeSpoke is one of my favourites, of course. WhatsApp though; that is more of an app, but it’s worth mentioning because I travel abroad quite often and can use it universally. “
You won’t find Rupen on Twitter, Snapchat or Facebook however.
“What is happening in your personal life affects your professional life as well,” Rupen says, “So you absolutely have to find the time to devote to both.”
His free time is devoted to his wife of six years Ashley and their five year old son Avi. But he still finds time to indulge in his other passions. Photography, poetry, riding motorcycles, spinning vinyls and sketching are some of the hobbies that Rupen has practiced for many years, as well as spending regular time in the gym and occasionally playing soccer.
“A good diet, physical exercise and taking the time to commit to downtime are all important for being alert, agile of mind and a good team player.”
He also reads a lot on a wide range of topics, “Mostly, I read about travel, space, wildlife, cultures, lifestyles and world news,” he reveals, “The latest book I’ve read is Love, Freedom and Aloneness by Osho.”
A seasoned traveller, Rupen treats himself occasionally to business class but generally opts for premium economy. He also prefers chic boutique hotels in city centres, as he doesn’t like to drive when he travels. He says, “I use Uber a lot; it’s efficient and affords me thinking time. Plus, who wants to drive in the city anyway?”
Of the best hotels he’s stayed at Rupen names the Fontainebleau in Miami. A stunning highrise hotel in Florida overlooking he bay and providing it’s own majesty to an already breathtaking scene.
“The Fountainebleau in Miami is iconic and nested right on the sugary beaches of Miami. In the midst of all the action this luxurious hotel is perfect for a “live, work, play” mindset. The staff is courteous and ready to attend to all your needs. They have a variety of restaurants with exotic cuisines. A beautiful pool and spa area all overlooking the atlantic. Not to mention the nightlife provided in the hotel is stellar where almost always you will run into celebrities. The hotel has been around forever and always manages reinvent itself and stay ahead of the game.”
Travelling takes up a large amount of Rupen’s time. From 2017 and 2018 he was living in San Francisco and commuting often to his home base in Tampa, Florida. He has travelled to Hong Kong, Toronto, New York City and Washington D.C. In the beginning of 2018, he also took a trip to Dubai and India.
I did ask Rupen what his favourite location was to visit. He explained that it was a tough and even unfair question for a lover of travelling to have to answer:
“I have favourite aspects about every city I visit; hence why I visit them. Hong Kong for its cosmopolitan lifestyle, skyscraper living, great shopping and customer service. NYC for its versatility of things to do and many eclectic neighbourhoods with distinct characteristics, and above all; fashion. I like DC for its monuments and high concentration of intellects but Dubai takes the cake. Our trip there was the first time my wife and son experienced such opulence.”
Finally, what is exciting this entrepreneurial highflying traveller this year?
“I have a new business venture that I launched last year, which I am very excited about growing. And I’ve found the perfect school for my son, who is an endless source of joy for me.”