Bee Focus

Brisk Olive- Aims to transform India through ex-soldiers community

Incubees is carrying out a series of interviews with Col Sunil Prem, he currently owns 3 start-ups. To read the first interview, visit:

Col Sunil Prem-Winner of the President’s Gold Medal at the Indian Military Academy, topper in B. Tech (JNU) and M. Tech (IIT Kanpur), and Staff College from India and Australia. Col Sunil Prem had an illustrious first career in the Indian Army, he commanded an Engineer Regiment, served in the United Nations, and was Operations Officer of an Indian Strike Formation and what he calls as his 2nd Life, Col Sunil Prem is a successful entrepreneur; he has co-founded 2 other companies – Navyug Info Solutions (Software Services) and Arnima Ventures LLP (Anti-Terrorism and Counter-IED). Col Sunil Prem aims to transform India through the power of the ex-Defence community, while also ensuring amazing 2nd Lives for ex-defense personnel and families.

Incubees: Brief us about ‘Brisk Olive’.

Col Sunil Prem: Well, Brisk Olive is a unique concept that helps companies grow massively through India’s largest and most reliable Field Force of ex-soldiers and spouses. Brisk Olive also aims to transform the country, through the power and values of the ex-soldiers community.

The community of India’s ex-soldier professionals and spouses (the Army, Navy, and Air Force) is over 5 million strong and is present in every corner of the country. It is ethical, multi-skilled, and highly trained in operational tasks. Brisk Olive transitions and trains this community to provide large-scale operational Field Force services across India. These services include large-scale surveys, audits, investigations, projects execution, training, events, promotions, verifications, rectifications, etc. They are very good at these tasks, and nobody can match the scale, reliability, and cost advantage which they provide.

Through this, Brisk Olive also helps ex-soldiers and spouses to build amazing second lives for themselves. So it is a win-win-win model, where the country wins through transformative, quality work everywhere, across India, clients win through reliable services and soldiers and spouses win, by building fulfilling second lives after hanging their uniforms.

We also place ex-soldiers and spouses and provide team lease services.

On ground services include:

Incubees: Tell our readers about the recruitment of ex-defense professionals.

Col Sunil Prem: Yes, apart from operational Field Force services, we also place ex-soldiers and spouses in the corporate. You see, many ex-soldiers after retirement settle down in metropolises and larger towns, which is where jobs are. They are at a stage where they need money for resettling themselves, educating their children, buying a house, etc. So brisk olive trains them and offers them to the corporate world for recruitment.

Again, this is a win-win for the corporate and the ex-soldiers community. They are highly trained, stable, and used to serving. All they need is to transition well, so that they can translate the skills which they already have, to apply those to the corporate world. So we train them to understand different industries and functions in the corporate world. Then we place them.

Incubees: How do you think of new ideas?

Col Sunil Prem: To me, business ideas are born of observation and empathy. When you observe things, you notice what is there and what more is needed. For example, if you look, you cannot fail to notice how ex-soldiers and spouses suddenly find themselves at sea on retirement. From the proudest force in the country, they are suddenly turned into nobody’s, and that too at a time, when they need help the most.

And when you empathize with such a situation, you tend to look for answers. For example, in this case, one found that those in cities and larger places could be trained and offered to the corporate because the corporate world is always short of excellent and reliable talent. And for those who settle down in smaller places, where there are no jobs, the idea of the Field Force was born, because many companies are looking to grow across India, including into its villages and remote areas. What better force could be there, than a force of ex-soldiers to help them grow there?

But ideas are one thing, whereas execution is another. While ideas need observation and empathy, execution needs knowledge and perseverance. Anybody can get an idea. It is the testing and validation of that idea through actual work, and then the perseverance to take that idea from paper or proof-of-concept to an actual working model which matters.

Incubees: Tell us about the strategies that make your business unique from others.

Col Sunil Prem: A true differentiator is not just another shiny object, it has true value.

For example, in the world of recruitment services, most companies just collect resumes and match them with jobs to fill positions. Whereas, what actually is required for win-win recruitment, is that the candidate must actually love the position that he or she joins, and the company must actually get someone who adds value to that job. So, at Brisk Olive, we work with ex-soldiers and spouses to first help them identify exactly what jobs they want to be in. Then we train them for those jobs. We also take the help of companies to conduct this training, because they know exactly what they are looking for. This results in win-win placements.

Similarly, we don’t just offer any Field Force services. For example, we don’t offer feet-on-the-ground for sales, financial or legal tasks, because these are not the core strengths of most soldiers. We only offer operational services, because soldiers and spouses are the best at these services. They have been trained for these for years. So this is how we offer a unique service, which is India-wide, large-scale, and highly reliable.

Incubees: Tell us about the customer base and how you built it.

Col Sunil Prem: Our customer base includes both MNCs (Multinational companies) as well as MSMEs (Micro Small and Medium Enterprises). We believe that while our services help large companies, for MSMEs they could be transformative. For example, one ex-soldier employee in a key position, who understands processes and follows a “do-or-die” culture, can totally transform a small organisation.

To get clients, we offered our clients to first taste the pudding to see whether they liked it. We did not bother about revenues, as in Brisk Olive, we feel that we are on a mission to transform the country for the better. So revenue is important, but it comes later. The first step is to solve the client’s problem.

Once we were able to solve problems for some clients, our name began to spread as a company that was different, and which meant what it said. So clients began to follow.

In addition, we also work on the concept of “evangelists”. Brisk Olive Evangelists are those partners who believe in our mission and spread the word regarding our services. Most of them are ex-soldiers and spouses, but many are soldiers at heart who might not have worn a uniform but believe in what we are doing. So we have many people across India speaking about the work we are doing.

Our recruitment clients today include Amazon India, Welspun, Hettich India, Hindalco Industries Limited, PharmEasy, Renew Power, Bajaj Electricals, Gilbarco veeder Root, Zen Technologies, TCS, Global Fashion, AKA Consultant, AgNext, AT Technolegal Pvt Ltd, Art, and Craft, Bharti Realty, Presto Group, etc. We have placed 1000s of veterans with them – from supervisors to top management.

We are also providing field forces services to many large and small clients. Some examples include:

  • Surveys & Audits: An earthquake-related survey across Meghalaya and Manipur, Survey in 1894 cities/villages for Crimson, Survey across Rajasthan for Coca-Cola, Audit of stores for IFFCO, Sitare Foundation, etc.
  • Projects: Solar project in Uttarakhand – Hans Foundation, Literacy project – Katha, etc.
  • Events & Promotions: ArtKonnect, Leads Connect, etc.
  • Training: NTTF, etc.
  • Driver verification forms rectification: Varuna Logistics, CredOps, etc.
  • Team Lease manpower: TCS Ion, overseas firms, etc.

Incubees: Being an established Entrepreneur, what do you enjoy the most?

Col Sunil Prem: I enjoy the satisfaction of having tried something new. It does not matter whether my trials succeed or fail but I do not want to live with the regret of not having tried something that I believed in. When I was doing very well in the Indian Army, I quit because I felt that my field soldiering days were over, and there were better people than me to lead the armed forces by rising to senior levels. I felt that my next mission lay outside, and I wanted to see that too in this life. I started a technology company with a friend, even though I did not know the software because I felt that India needed an edge in technology. Then I started another company with some more friends because I felt that India was at the forefront of counterterrorism and counter-IED operations, and needed an Indian company in the field and not imported equipment and solutions. Brisk Olive too was born of the need to see the ex-soldiers community find its rightful place in the civilian world. So this need for trying new ideas keeps me going.

I also like to train. I do not consider myself a great trainer, but I try my best and compensate with passion what I lack in terms of skills.

I also like to keep learning all the time. There is just so much to learn, that one lifetime is too short for it.

And I also love to write. Again, I am not a great writer, but I research a lot and try to pack in maximum value for readers. My about-to-be-released book, “Soldier 2.0: 19 Steps to a Soldier’s Most Amazing Second Life”, is about guiding soldiers and spouses to build amazing lives for themselves through knowledge and timely preparation for their military-to-civilian transition.

Incubees: How has your experience been with interviewing ex-defense personnel?

Col Sunil Prem: Ex-defence personnel have led charmed lives. They have lived in a military world that held them accountable to simple, universal codes of conduct like honesty, integrity, discipline, leadership, humility, and professionalism. They have also served in many places, with diverse people across India and the world, and handled diverse responsibilities. So interviewing ex-soldiers and spouses is always a learning experience. Each one of them has so many talents and stories to tell that you only need to listen and learn.

So whether I interview a soldier for a job placement or for my book, or for – a website for transitioning soldiers and spouses – it is always a learning experience.

Incubees: Why do ex-soldiers need transition, training, and preparation?

Col Sunil Prem: As per me, the only thing that holds soldiers back in the civilian world is a lack of knowledge about what the civilian world is, and timely work to prepare themselves for it. You see, the military is a world unto itself, where you remain cut off from the rest of society. You live in cantonments or military stations, geographically separated from the rest of the world. You mostly interact with other soldiers and rarely with government authorities and even more rarely with people outside. You learn many things, but you also remain unaware of many, like sales, marketing, money and finances, legal aspects, and many corporate technologies. You also do not understand the industry verticals in manufacturing and services, and the functional horizontals that exist outside. Most of all, you do not understand corporate jargon. In short, you might have many skills, but you do not understand the civilian context in which to apply those.

A soldier therefore sorely needs transition assistance. At Brisk Olive, every month, we hold training sessions and workshops to transition soldiers and spouses. Those who attend these sessions are often many months or years away from their actual transition. I believe that this is the ideal situation because soldiers are very diligent and adaptable. Once they know what is required of them, nothing can stop them from filling their gaps and sharpening their saws to take on the new world.

I believe that a well-trained and transitioned soldier or spouse is an asset for the country and for any organisation which that person joins.

This is why I say that Brisk Olive has the power to transform our world through the values and power of our ex-soldiers community!

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