The glass ceiling does not exist for technology and innovation driven Roopa Hungund

By Tanvi Dubey|15th Sep 2015
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The freedom to ‘be’ and pursue self-defined goals has been the foundation on which, as a person, I have completely grown from and into.

Roopa Hungund grew up in a woman-centric household with four sisters and her mother. From childhood, Roopa and her siblings were taught just to ‘be’. “There was not one thing that we were schooled to follow just because those were considered norms. This has been my life’s biggest lesson. Avenues will remain unexplored only if they are less worthy to pursue and not because the expectations says so.”

HerStory spoke with Roopa about her long career in the corporate world, her move to India from USA and her startup, Gito.me that she is currently nurturing and relishing the challenges that she faces as an entrepreneur.

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Formative years

Roopa did her schooling from Mysore. She earned her engineering degree from Sri Jayachamarajendra College of Engineering.

She loved academics but was equally involved in social activities. Even today in addition to work she dabbles in multiple activities. Her focus is on both — the mind and the body. She is a voracious reader and is into health and fitness activities.

India and startups

After 13 years in the US, Roopa moved back with her family to India. The shift she says “Was driven by personal factors,” and she and her family moved back to India.

Roopa joined hands with fellow engineers Sanjay and Bharat to start Gito.me. The trio comes from a sales and technology experience with retail being their common ground of interest.

“We came together to form this product which we believe, simply put, will constructively help offline traders to ‘grow’ omni-channel. Towards that goal, Gito.me offers a comprehensive trade commerce platform that facilitates traders to sell through a multitude of sales channels (online, offline, merged, across other online marketplaces, peer-to-peer).” According to her, Gito.me is not just an ‘e-commerce’ trade enabler but a commerce product where full-fledged trading (B2C, B2B, B2X) can be instantiated and scaled. “Small and medium business owners within India are all potentials to come aboard Gito.me platform. They can start their own online trade and participate in an ever-growing trade distribution network.

The team comprises of 21 employees with the balance tilting towards a larger R&D workforce.

“Given that we are now in growth and scale mode, we are looking to increase our sales and marketing teams rapidly,” shares Roopa.

Technology and R&D

Technology was and is Roopa’s continued focus area and passion. This, along with her continuous desire to innovate ensures that she resides very close to Gito.me technology stack.

Along with technology Roopa has been associated with the R&D sector too in her previous roles.

R&D and innovation is a crucial key for growth according to Roopa. It is something she has experienced over her years of work experience. Talking about innovation she shares, “While disruptive innovations are often lauded, constructive innovations very frequently are not acknowledged. What the past success patterns indicate though are those players who are and continue to be constructively innovative and have architected products/platforms that leverage an existing premise and have morphed that premise into a format that has yielded huge consumer adoption.” Here she cites the examples of WhatsApp which has taken traditional IPC (interprocess communication) and wielded a social twist that makes it immensely popular and Stripe that has taken the GPRS device concept and made the entire payment process “pocket” friendly.

At a personal level, she feels

That often R&D is misconstrued in our regional context to be mere programming/development activities. While it indeed encapsulates the ‘development’ part of R&D, my callout would be on the paucity in the research and innovation part of R&D.

According to her, “The current trend of multitude of enterprises trying to ride the hottest wave (Examples : hyper-local delivery, F&B aggregators etc.), the true possibilities of creating products and/or platforms that can address foundational root-causes (that need to be addressed) is being given a massive miss.”

Learning from Corporate roles

Roopa has worked across three continents: India, the Middle East and USA. Her longest tenure has been in USA where she says,

I have been fortunate to work for some of the best examples one can think of, when it comes to exemplary employers. Oracle, Cisco and Dell are where I was educated on work principles and integrity. The thoroughness of thought and a driven approach to conclude work, are two of my biggest takeaways.

When Roopa started Gito.me, she based the product roadmap on these very principles.

Challenges

As an entrepreneur, she has been happy fielding the usual challenges any startup faces. Be it hiring and scale to stand out from others in the ever-growing community of startups or keeping the focus on scale

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even while running the investment treadmill that is much needed to scale.Her biggest challenge she says, “Was a self-defined one, actually. I was always of the opinion that one person necessarily cannot embody technology and sales. One excels in technology or astounds in sales, was what I opined for the longest time. Starting Gito.me challenged this assumption from the get-go. And, while I cannot claim by any measure that sales successes happened from day one, I must say I quite surprised myself by getting into the sales rigor with no pain whatsoever. Now, I absolutely relish all client interactions. Given the time and opportunity, I involve myself in sales and pre-sales dialogues.”

Women and gender

According to her, globally, the gender imbalance is improving gradually. “We all have read about and perhaps also personally know so many awe-inspiring women leaders.” With so many women leaders closer home—her mother, her friends and peers, she believes there are many women around us who are good role models to learn from and emulate. “They are warriors of their own kind, having circumvented such hurdles and have glowing accomplishments galore.”

Roopa does not believe that a glass ceiling exists.

I will go to the extent of saying that being a woman entrepreneur in India has been a very heartening experience. There has not been a single instance where my gender played a role, negatively or unduly positively. Every interaction I have had with various constituents, be it our prospective clients or our employees or with our current and potential investors, every milestone achieved by Gito.me has been from the vantage point of equals moving the needle further for overall gain of all concerned.

Motivation

“The fact that Gito.me is creating a mind-blowing platform that can encompass the trading community’s needs the globe over keeps me up and running,” she says with a confident smile.

The fact that they are helping existing clients realize their dream of scaling omni-channel and the immense potential they have to be a true global platform gives her immense joy.

She is looking towards a future where she and her team will enable high-volume and international trade exchange on Gito.me so that she says, “Every trader holds onto her/his brand equity and grows omni-channel in the truest sense.”