After 12 years in the States, Rashmi Verma and her husband moved to India to start MapmyIndia in 1992 as an IT services provider. In 1994, the company ventured into the GIS arena and has been a leader in digital map and data, GPS navigation, location-based services (LBS), GIS and related business intelligence solutions.
Born in the small town of Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh, Rashmi made it to an engineering college (IIT Roorkee) at a time when very few women took up engineering. With 34 years of experience in technology and management, Rashmi has spent almost 12 years in the US, of which she spent eight years with IBM. She has worked with high-end computer software. “I had a control over IBM mainframe technology. I was very comfortable with that technology. And at that time, such technology was very popular in India but gradually there was a shift towards PC’s and desktops. We had to reinvent ourselves and that was right in the beginning so most of us at that time, recognised that the technology area we would want to get in would be GIF mapping based area.”
It is because they wanted to start something that Rashmi and her husband moved to India. Furthermore, she wanted to start with a sector where she had some expertise. Rashmi takes care of map development and production and looks after recruitment too.
“Our map and data products are very extensive and cater to a wide variety of industry verticals and therefore they cover an entire gamut of applications, such as for e-commerce, automotive, tracking, transportation and logistics, and government, etc. This means that we have a multitude of layers and thousands of attributes. To build and maintain this data of highest quality is a challenge; new technologies and approaches have to be introduced regularly, so it is a very dynamic environment and we have been very successful in that,” she says with passion.
Keeping up with global players brings its own set of challenges. While on the subject, she reveals that for a company to stay at the leadership position it also needs to constantly think like a startup. “Innovation and evolution is a never-ending process and one needs to always know what the consumer wants or will want. I have found that companies — both startups and established players — who have this fire-in-the-belly attitude always stay ahead of the game,” she says.
With her long association with technology and working in the US, Rashmi shares one her biggest learnings. “One of the things that I learnt at IBM is that if you are convinced about something then you have to focus
and have to stay with it. It means not to give up at the first instance you face a problem. You have to stay with the problem, sole it, and have patience while doing so. Many a times I have seen people who run into difficulties and then they give up and go on to something else. You have to be resilient.”Another of her big learning over the years has been about innovation. “People were very comfortable with technology in the US. Technology would be used for application and not be just about bookish knowledge. They were able to quickly adapt it to some solutions or products.”
According to Rashmi, it was this bent of mind which has helped her and her team in finding solutions in India and helped the company to grow.
MapmyIndia has recently launched SafeMate, an app for loved ones to locate a user. According to Rashmi, SafeMate is primarily focussed towards women and children.
“What makes SafeMate unique is that it is not dependent on an app or a smartphone to function. It can even be useful to help monitor the safety and location of elderly parents who might get lost or disoriented while going for walks. Even schools can make SafeMate available to children, companies can provide SafeMate to employees, especially those who travel late at night or alone to unsafe areas, and local police departments can recommend SafeMate be used by residents, to improve the safety of young children, women, and people in general in local neighbourhoods.”
Work–life balance is one of the biggest challenges that Rashmi has faced. She used to work long hours
while her children were growing up, and at work they had customers so delivery on time was important. “One of the ways that I have been able to overcome this challenge is I had a very supportive husband. We took turns and he has been my backbone.”
On the big question if glass ceiling exists, Rashmi replies promptly, “I don’t think so. Not in MapmyIndia at least. If a person is found to have requisite expertise and skills, initiative and drive and I find that they can go to any level then there is nothing stopping them.”
The other side to Rashmi
Rashmi has an artistic side to her too. She is a trained dancer and has performed in her childhood and through college and even after marriage. As far as classical music is concerned, she does regular riyaz. “Although I have not performed, I feel reverential towards it and treat it as the highest form of meditation,” she says with a smile.