Dev Sethi’s secret to success: learn, implement, share, teach, enhance and progress to next level (L.I.S.T.E.N)

By | Mon 11 Mar 2024

“I learn, I succeed and then I pass on,” said Dev Sethi of his current career mission. “My aim is to help 100 Entrepreneurs in Thailand to each generate 100 million baht within three years, totalling a combined revenue of ten billion baht.”

Big words and a mighty promise. But for this Thai-Indian-Australian 45 year old man, who has spent the past many years translating his success into others’, this Herculean goal fuelled by the success of his previous ambitious targets, is simply the latest which he has set for himself. If Dev Sethi’s name rings a bell with some of you (Sethi translates as wealth in Thai), it is because he is the son of the philanthropic Frank and Vanita Sethi, owners of Fashion King, the smiling couple always seen about town sponsoring a variety of local charities and supporting social events.

“It was my parents who have taught me that success can only come once you take care of your family and your community. That is their meaning of success and I am proud to follow in their well-trodden footsteps,” Dev told Citylife one cool winter morning in his hometown of Chiang Mai, with both parents proudly watching the interview and nodding along in agreement.

Dev has, to date, gained success in Australia and India, as well as amongst the many online business communities he has been a part of since he launched his career twenty years ago. Now, he is returning home, hoping to begin a new chapter closer to the family he adores.

Dev was fortunate to receive a stellar education, having been born in Thailand before being sent at an extraordinary young age to boarding school in India. He returned home to Bangkok to study business and computer science at the prestigious ABAC University before heading off to Australia where he received a scholarship to do his master’s degree. After receiving his residency in Australia, he was soon recruited to join the oldest Australian wealth management firm where he was put in charge of writing code for their system which managed 43 billion Australian dollars in annual funds.

“By the time I left this company, after seven years, I was in charge of the entire web development team,” explained Dev. “We had 60 people working full time on the system so I had to learn to work under pressure, manage emotions, and focus on fixing the process so that there could be no glitches or down time for the system. It was a very high pressure job. And I learnt so many lessons in how to manage people, time, systems and processes. After the 2008 global crash I was tasked with rolling over an entire new system, which I did so well the company soon decided to outsource its IT and that is when I got retrenched.”

For the first time in his life, Dev said that he felt that he had lost control.

“I was married by then and had just done such a good job for my company. Yet here I was with no job and no security. It really changed my outlook on how I wanted to manage my life going forward. I realised that I needed control.”

Even though Dev was only out of a job for a month and a half, soon hired by Toyota Finance Australia in a similar position, he said that this was his wake-up call. Dev decided to expand his portfolio and spent his down time researching real estate, mortgages, loans and other related topics, soon investing in four properties in Australia. Looking back, this was to be the template for Dev’s career development – the realisation of what he needed, the furious and complete mastering of the topic, success based on his accrued knowledge…and casting his eye around for the next challenge to better himself.

“Then I received a phone call from Bangkok that my dad was in ICU,” he said somberly. “After flying back and seeing that dad had a second chance, I had a moment of clarity – I needed to do more and move faster so that my family had security too. And that was when I decided that I needed to have my own business. But I knew that to have a business you needed to close sales and with no sales experience, I realised that I had to learn a new skill.”

“I had determination, desire and purpose and it was beyond me now, it was family. So I told my wife I would make it happen in 12 months and while working my job at Toyota Australia. I was working at least 90 hours per week closing sales, selling online courses, programmes, and such. I then realised that I was industry agnostic: as long as I could sell, I could sell anything. So I worked in real estate, coaching and more. I had to learn every industry I had to sell. It took me 18 months during which I did 4,000 calls, each lasting over an hour, and closed over a million dollars, earning very decent commission on top of my salary.”

Dev began to develop a name for himself as a closer, and soon the community of high ticket closers took notice and wanted him to share his success. In 2019 Dev was nominated, then won, sales champion of the year, voted in by an online community of 6,500 high ticket salespeople from 151 countries. Dev became the first Thai person to win this prestigious award.

“This shifted my mind!” Laughed Dev.

Quitting his job, Dev decided to head to Thailand for a break before offering his volunteer services to a company in Singapore which taught people how to speak in public, picking up his public speaking skills along the way. He had, by this point, decided to pivot and start doing business for himself online.

“So, I headed home to Australia to kickstart my new life, and a few weeks later Covid arrived and the world shut down.”

“The first year was absolutely terrifying,” explained Dev. “It took a toll on my self doubt. I had a salary for 15 years and now suddenly, it was all up to me…in the middle of a pandemic. It hit very hard but without the support of my wife Preety, and her constant belief in me, I wouldn’t have made it. There were many tears that year.”

“I realised that while I could sell, I had no business experience, so I went back to becoming a student and got some online business coaching. I was really focused and growing fast, when one day my coach told me that he now saw me as a competitor and couldn’t work with me anymore. This felt like a huge betrayal and I broke down at the shattered trust.”

But as Dev does, he shook it off and hunted around for a new coach and by early 2021, he was a whole new person. “I had to deal with managing my own emotions during a major crisis and as I climbed out of my low, I gained strength and confidence in myself. With that came a sense of power and a need to help other people who may be struggling in the same way I was.”

This time he decided to focus on India and started to teach online courses on sales.

I had zero presence on social media, so I had to start off by creating content on various channels and I ran 3-4 hour Zoom webinars for free, inviting people to sign up afterwards for fee-paying 8-12 week courses. I didn’t teach anything I didn’t know how to do, and slowly I began to attract hundreds of people who wanted to become sales professionals, growing my business by 600% by the end of the first year.”

Dev soon realised that the people he was teaching, like him, not only wanted to sell, but wanted to own a business. Since Dev himself developed a business through selling, he soon began teaching people how to build businesses.

“I soon realised that I wanted to work with business people, my heart by that time was in business,” he continued excitedly. “My new purpose was to help people achieve financial success so they too, like me, could support their family and give back to their communities. I realised that it had to be in this sequence. Once you have financial stability, you can then take care of your family and with that abundance also take care of your community.”

This is when Dev began to focus on helping people to transition out of their jobs into becoming business owners.

“My success motto was; You learn, you implement, you share, you teach, you enhance…then you move up the next level. This has been the successful formula from my playbook. Soon people were asking me to mentor them and offer consultancy, and so in 2022, I opened my own consulting business. At the end of the day though, it all goes back to three basics: care, connect, convert. Which is the essence of sales. It is a really simple formula.”

Today, Dev brings his vast wealth of experience to his multi-industry clients from India to Thailand, through to Australia and beyond. He now lives a well balanced life where he carves time for his family, is able to care for his parents and extended family and this is what he considers true wealth.

“Wealth is beyond money,” he continues. “So how to create wealth on command? It is about taking control of your life, your health, your family, your community. All of what I have learnt has lead to this. Funny, since that is exactly what my parents have always done!”

“Last year a new market opened up for me in Thailand. I was approached to train a sales team for a business and it was the first time I had to do it in Thai! It was a new challenge, but with every new level there is a new devil,” he laughed.

“I realised that as long as I was authentic, I cared, I was honest, I drew from my experiences and told it in a way which they could understand and relate to it, it worked. I not only really enjoyed it but it had potential. I began to do live events teaching outbound sales to business courses. I signed up my first consultation client, working not only on their sales team but their vision and strategy. After a six month run, I reduced his marketing expense by 50% and upped their lowest sales performer from 100,000 baht per month to one million. The client was happy and signed up for another year.”

And, again, Dev was off…

“This was when a new vision developed. All the flashback of my parents’ hardships, the pandemic, the sacrifices by my supportive wife, led to my new vision. I therefore set a goal to help 100 entrepreneurs in Thailand to each generate 100 million baht revenue within three business years. That is ten billion baht. I want to help people achieve that. I call this vision 10-billion.”

Today Dev does deep dives for many companies across Thailand. He looks at the business’s problems, where the bottlenecks are, he helps them to visualise the successes they want to attain, builds on their strength, fixes their weaknesses and takes step by step to help them stabilise and grow their businesses.

“How it works is that there is a one-off fee to start with. I come in and look at road map over three to four sessions,” he explains. “I develop a plan and give it to them and some people then need my help to guide them with clarity and direction. It isn’t about moving fast, but all about the right direction. I propose a challenge to be solved within a time frame, we figure out what is right and what capacity a company has. After a 90 day period, we reassess to see whether we are the right fit. If we are, then I want skin in the game. You make money; I make money. So there is a fixed fee plus a commission base. This is a win win as it means that I am not just a consultant, I have skin in the game and I am therefore an extension of your team.”

This hybrid system is Dev’s way of showing that he cares, that he is willing to take risks alongside a business.

“If we share a vision we can grow together. And for most people the end game is to exit. Whether it is to hand the business over to family, to go IPO, to sell it off, or to have team in place so you can step away, everyone wants to be able to exit on their terms. I find ways to help them achieve that. The only way you can exit is to have strong systems and processes which brings you cash and profit. With all of that in place, you can then focus on your family and your community. This is my consulting business.”

Line ID: @devsethithailand