Over the last few years, the low number of women in the workforce, especially in technology, and in leadership positions has garnered global attention. While there needs to be more dialogue on the topic to initiate tangible action by corporates and governments, it’s equally pertinent to understand the stories of some of these women who belong to that small but significant number.
The women who lead successful tech companies, what do they have to say about the technology ecosystem in India? What is their take on their businesses and why are they are optimistic about growing their business in India and globally? Here are some fantastic stories of women who journeyed from classrooms, cubicles and even hotel kitchens to boardrooms of tech businesses.
Having taken the entrepreneurial plunge in 2004 along with her husband, today Indu Aromal steers Carmatec IT Solutions as its CEO. From taking a hands-on approach Service Delivery or driving profitable growth and market expansion, Indu is the go-to person for the company headquartered in Bengaluru with branches in Dubai, Qatar and the US. In addition to being the boss at Carmatec, she is also a Mentor for the Indian Government’s Atal Innovation Programme and Atal Tinkering Labs.
Indu says, “In the last 15 years, we weathered economic downturns, realigned ourselves to the evolving technology landscape, while continuing to grow and stay lean. This journey has not been easy, but definitely fulfilling.”
Operating in a segment where competition is as huge as the market demand, the Carmatec CEO says, “The key is to differentiate and add value to the customer. We often compete with larger organisations when it comes to enterprise deals, but being agile and quick gives us an advantage. Our entire delivery team is quite close to the customer throughout the service delivery and the escalation matrix involving the CEO itself gives lot of confidence. I think the ownership and technical depth we bring to projects as a collaborative platform to create value differentiates us.”
Carmatec currently works with SMEs, startups and enterprises across 22 countries, helping them in their digital transformation journey, while steadily moving towards its dream of becoming a billion-dollar company. “In the last 15 years, we have covered 20 percent of that journey by creating a strong foundation. The next 15 years will see us achieving 80 percent of the growth and becoming that billion dollar business,” says the entrepreneur.
Shruti Sinha, the COO of Rehash Technologies, a four-year old SaaS AI startup, traces the roots of her entrepreneurial dreams to growing up in a teacher’s family in Patna. After doing her engineering and getting an MBA from IIM Bangalore, she worked for a while in India and Australia. “Armed with the necessary experience, I decided to take a plunge into entrepreneurship, a dream that I silently nurtured since childhood,” says Shruti.
Rehash Technologies works on Conversational and Transactional Chatter Bots powered with Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning & NLP and already has an impressive clientele which includes big names such as Panasonic and IFB. “Our highly intelligent Chatter Bots are designed to simulate conversation with consumers both before and after they purchase the product.” At the moment, their bot technology is focused on two verticals – consumer durables through My Smart Abby and Food & Beverages through ‘Hungry Chitti’.
With AI and ML technologies becoming the norm, the COO predicts, “There is going to be lot of automation in business processes. As an AI startup, what excites us more is the natural language processing that can fulfil a task or make a job awesome. Chat bots will automate and enrich consumer experience and will become vital for businesses. Today going online or digital financial transactions are a given, it will be the same with conversational transactions,” she says.
After working for her husband’s event management company in Dubai, and heading marketing for luxury lifestyle exhibition, Uma Bhattathiripad saw that digital was the only channel where she could clearly demonstrate ROI to clients. ”It intrigued me and I wanted to learn more,” says Uma, who heads, Xite Live , a 360 degree digital marketing agency, with branches in Dubai and Kochi.
She then moved to an e-commerce startup. “Here I got to learn all about the digital user journey. And I have been obsessed about digital marketing since then.” Realising her passion, her husband urged to set up her own digital marketing business, “As a mother of a six-month old, I had my inhibitions. So I began working on select projects. That gave me the confidence to venture on my own.” She co-founded Xite Live in 2014 in Dubai.
Xite builds and manages every touchpoint of a user's digital journey, from websites to SEO, advertising, social media marketing, etc. “Our digital marketing strategies are specifically developed for bottom line impact,” says Uma. She says that as a startup agency access to big league clients is difficult. But she also believes this: “When you are in a technology business, you genuinely tend to appreciate developments and growth even if it is from competitors. Also, as an agency we know where we stand, we are very clear on what we can do and we can't.”
Having left India a decade ago, it was only when Xite Live set up its office in Kochi that she realised how India is far ahead in the digital space when compared to other countries in the Gulf. “The e-commerce industry here, the sheer sophistication of UI/UX approaches etc. give me goosebumps” she says.
“I didn’t want to study engineering. I wanted to do something offbeat and fun. And after getting into one of the best hotel management institutes in the country, I settled for the chef’s hat,” says Preksha Kaparwan
She began working as a Sous Chef but shifted to teaching at a Hotel Management college and finally began marketing for a startup developing a tech-based solution for the hospitality industry. However, the startup didn’t do too well and with time, almost everyone left except Preksha and the founder. “At that point, I began watching the technology space more closely and soon started working on technology aspects – including the website and coding.”
The founder, Saurabh Verma, realised it was time to move on to a better startup idea and asked Preksha to come on board as a Co-Founder. “We set out to design an industry agnostic real-time dashboard app in 2015. Since then we have evolved and pivoted to the next logical tech advancement. We introduced voice and AI to make it really simple for users to interact with data and store unstructured insights created by knowledge workers.”
Alphaa.ai helps organisations with knowledge insights. Explaining its USP, Preksha says, “Existing business intelligence assets lack the fundamental basis of harnessing valuable business insights. While they capture numbers they fail to highlight knowledge Insights. This means while you can see your numbers, it doesn’t explain the ‘why’ and the ‘hows’ behind them.”
Headquartered in Noida, Alphaa.ai has branches in San Fransisco and London and is working with a number of Fortune 500 companies. “Our solution is ideal for organisations that are mature when it comes to adopting technology. Voice-based technology has become a game-changer. It is enabling adoption of advanced technologies and paving the way for transformation such as we have never seen before.”
Looking back on her journey, Preksha laughs, “I never had plans of becoming an entrepreneur, but today I am one. I didn’t want to do engineering, but I have built a tech solution. But, the journey has been beyond gratifying and I am excited about what’s in store.”
Today Indu, Shruti, Uma and Preksha are part of a community of women entrepreneurs who are scripting success stories and inspiring others. They are part of the SheLeadsTech programme, an initiative by Facebook that focuses on helping women entrepreneurs and women-founded startups go further in the startup journey by providing access to mentors, connect them to fellow entrepreneurs and give them access to tools, technologies and knowledge. Being part of this vibrant community has helped the women entrepreneurs in their journey. Indu says, “It helped me network and get to know the startup sector in Bangalore better and also know many women-led businesses.” For others, the programme has helped in tangible takeaways, Shruti shares, ”The sessions on marketing and sales was of immense help. We have tried to implement the learnings into our sales strategy. We not only got insights from market leaders but also a chance to have one-on-one mentorship from Facebook. Our chatbot has been published on Facebook and we are now exploring more avenues to market our product further.”
One unanimous reason why all these women entrepreneurs value a platform like SheLeadsTech is, in Uma’s words, “the feeling of community and being inspired by entrepreneurial journey of other women”.
Watch this video to see how SheLeadsTech programme supports women entrepreneurs building startups in India and why.