From cricket to content to commerce, Unmish Parthasarathi has done it all

“We are on the cusp of change based on the five technologies of this decade: cloud, computer vision, machine learning, crypto blockchain, and alternative/mixed reality,” said Unmish Parthasarathi, Founder of Picture Board Partners.

Unmish Parthasarathi (left) at the Sports Tech Tokyo. He said he has worked in gaming and e-sports, which he never thought he would do. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@sportstech_en

Unmish is a sportstech entrepreneur who began his professional career in the media sector. He worked in print, radio, television as a content creator before switching to the digital media world and starting his own ventures.

“I realised that apart from the creative and content side, I wanted to be on the commercial and the technological strategic side. And I think that combination of what I call content, code and capital has stood me in good stead in my career,” Unmish said.

He said that his skillset – knowing content, code (technology) and commerce – was “an odd one, as it’s more common for folks to continue in a single function such as finance or legal or marketing or content”.

Unmish reminisced about how he learned some valuable lessons in newsrooms through the “apprentice model” of learning in the early days. After working for a decade in the content creation side, he went back to school and expanded his knowledge set to marketing and the commercial aspects of the content creation service.

“Once I became a commercial person, that understanding of how stories are told has stayed with me to this day. It seems very sequential and logical in hindsight, but there were moments [when] we had to pick ourselves up, but that’s the case in anything. I think the only thing I would say is, endear yourself to people when you’re in a service business, because they rarely remember what you say to them, but they always remember how you made them feel,” Unmish said.

Another perk of being his own boss was that the business has allowed Unmish to remain connected with one of his childhood loves: cricket.
Another perk of being his own boss was that the business has allowed Unmish to remain connected with one of his childhood loves: cricket. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@sportstechws

Mapping the trajectory of Unmish’s life, it is clear that the life lessons he shared with us have shaped his professional philosophy as well as his entrepreneurial ventures. His experiences helped him develop unique tools that could be applied to his professional services consultancy venture. He founded Picture Board Partners in 2015 to be “a growth practice” that accelerates topline sales, brand recall and equity appreciation in the gaming, education, media and sports (G.E.M.S) sector. 

His business could hardly remain unaffected by the pandemic, but the range of his skills and experience has enabled an orderly recovery. 

Touching upon the challenges and opportunities of entrepreneurship, Unmish said that in his experience, running a services business was a very different animal economically from building and operating a product-based business. But whatever the hurdles, his venture has taken him to unexpected and rewarding places. 

“I think the positive parts of working for oneself in a professional services business is definitely the fact that there’s a degree of autonomy and there’s a degree of variety in the nature of the work. I have worked in gaming and e-sports, which I never thought I would do when I began eight years ago. I have worked in financing businesses in the media, technology space and curated events in Saudi Arabia, which I never thought I would,” he said.

Another perk of being his own boss was that the business has allowed Unmish to remain connected with one of his childhood loves: cricket.

Unmish is a self-confessed “lifelong Cricket Tragic”, which is how extreme fans who follow the game almost religiously refer to themselves. He has played league cricket in Delhi, London, and Singapore, and also recreationally in South Africa and the United States. He first played in England as a 14-year-old for the Indian Gymkhana in the Middlesex League and took a gap year to play as a club pro in Leicestershire and Surrey when he was 19.

But it’s not all fun and games now, despite remaining connected to cricket. The flip side of entrepreneurship is the lumpy nature of remuneration and the fact that safety nets are few and far between. He shared a recent lesson which has helped him advance in the professional services space. 

“It helps to try and identify what are the challenges of your clients and partners and prospective clients? Because if you can feel their pain, then you typically should be able to find a solution to help them with that. That’s something which has been, definitely, a learning through COVID and that has led to a diversification of what we do, and that in turn has perhaps led to us being more solvent in the past three years,” said Unmish.

Picture Board’s clients range from blue chips such as Dolby, Twitch or the International Cricket Council to SMEs and startups such as Nodwin Gaming, Quidich Innovation, Vyu Labs, Proeme Analytics, GoodGame Nation et al. Their business model is “to provide a sixth and seventh day in the working week” for their clients’ C-suites.

Picture Board’s engagements range from four-to-six week deep dives to 12-month retained programmes for institutional change for their clients. Unmish also shared with us: “Fans have choices, so not taking them for granted is humbling for promoters and publishers alike. Being agile and forever flexible is key but not as easy as it seems. I often tell clients that ‘sentiment is sense with intent’, so distilling it into words helps to drive change and deal with ambiguity.”

Another piece of advice that he shared was to never get stuck in a comfort zone and to actively expand your work horizons. He said that exploring different aspects of any business, especially in the services sector, was a necessity in today’s world.

“No job is safe. So [if you] say that ‘I’m doing okay’ and take life for granted, it kicks you in the backside,” warned Unmish. Upskilling in various ways would be essential and accessible, he said, emphasising that advances in the technology and education sectors made it easier now for people to enrich their knowledge bases and diversify their skillsets.

It was becoming clear that Unmish’s work ethic and tendency to push himself must have been developed in his formative years – this was also the time when he developed his passion for cricket. So we set out to explore his early life.

Unmish spent most of his childhood in Delhi. His father was a scientist-technocrat who worked in electronics, scientific research and defence, eventually retiring as Secretary (Non-Conventional Energy) for the Government of India. His mother was the Principal of one of the capital’s most prominent schools, Sardar Patel Vidyalaya, from 1976 to 1999 before becoming the Chairperson of the National Commission for Women. 

“Delhi was a lovely city to grow up in – safe enough to cycle to school or to the National Stadium for cricket practice under Dronacharya Gurcharan Singh. Cricket was a big part of my life as the school I played for delivered six Test players,” he recalled. 

Unmish graduated from St Stephen’s College before earning his Master’s in International Relations from Cambridge. He also studied business in New York and London. Thanks to his life, education, and work, he is a true global citizen.

“I have lived abroad since 1996, although between a quarter and up to two-thirds of my work has been related to India, whether in London with IMG and the BBC, or in Singapore with ESPN STAR Sports, or since 2015, when I launched Picture Board Partners,” he said.

Unmish Parthasarthi, CEO and Founder, Picture Board Asia. Photo courtesy: LinkedIn

Finally, surprisingly for a man in his line of work, Unmish has a very small social media footprint. He readily confessed to being a “digital ignoramus” and said that most of his social media activity was on LinkedIn as part of his efforts to grow his business. And he has a very clear idea of how an entrepreneur can use the social network to engage with the right people and calibrate his/her own visibility.

“I tend to look at LinkedIn almost like going to a conference. At a conference, you can be on stage as a panelist or a keynote speaker. Or you can ask a question from the audience. Or you can do neither and just meet people over coffee. So if you’re posting something about yourself and your work and your peers, it’s like being on stage. If you’re asking a question or contributing a comment to a post, it’s like asking a question in the audience at a conference,” he said, signing off.