How ‘The star in me’ is accelerating the leadership journeys of women worldwide
On a winter morning, Uma Kasoji and Mahua Mukherjee flew to Bengaluru to attend a pan-India leadership conference. On reaching the venue, they were surprised to see that they were the only two women leaders in the room amongst almost 100 attendees.
“We kept waiting to see if more women leaders would join, but there were none. We had encountered numerous such situations in the past, but this one struck a chord. And through the two-day summit, we had thoughtful conversations reflecting on this topic,” says Mahua.
This incident triggered their interest to understand the problem statement from multiple dimensions and became the spark that led to the inception of ‘The star in me’.
“Everyone acknowledges the visible disparity in leadership levels, but not enough was being done to bridge it. And given our 18 years of global corporate experience and passion for diversity, we felt we were ideally positioned to work on this problem,” says Uma.
A determined start
Fast forward to January 2020, ‘The star in me’ was launched as a global career advancement platform for women and a diversity partner for organisations. With a vision to accelerate the leadership journeys of women professionals, ‘The star in me’ offers a collaborative ecosystem of world-class coaches and curated career resources through a scalable data science-based technology platform.
The startup has grown rapidly over the last 12 months and currently has members from over 65 countries. It also works with several multinational organisations such as Infosys, Intel, Straive, AB InBev, JPMC, Cognizant, Electronic Arts, S&P Global, etc on diversity and leadership initiatives. The platform leverages over 90 global experts including former CXOs of Fortune 500 firms and Ivy League professors to deliver services to organisations and individuals.
In another positive development, the startup has secured a seed fund of $400K from two investors – US-based MN2P Holdings, LLC and DLabs at Indian School of Business (ISB) in collaboration with the Department of Science and Technology (Government of India). Beyond this funding, DLabs at ISB is closely associated in crafting The star in me’s growth strategy through its vast ecosystem of faculty, domain experts, and partners.
The venture has immense potential to scale and has come a long way since its inception. When Mahua and Uma transitioned into entrepreneurship during mid-2018, they encountered several naysayers. But they were determined to make a difference. Mahua is a graduate from IIT Kharagpur and Indian School of Business, while Uma is an alumnus and a board member of IIM Kozhikode.
Today, ‘The star in me’ addresses the challenge of lack of women in leadership roles via two routes. First, by providing on-demand services and well-researched customised resources for women professionals to scale up the leadership ladder. Second, by offering leadership programmes and consulting services on Diversity & Inclusion for enterprises.
Amplifying the potential of diversity in organisations
For years, organisations have spent billions of dollars on diversity programmes, only few of which have been effective. However, this has changed in the past few years. In current times, leaders at CXO levels are getting involved and allocating strategic resources and budget to make workplaces diverse and inclusive.
In line with the global spotlight on diversity, ‘The star in me’ partners and collaborates with organisations in designing and executing leadership programmes, delivering leadership coaching engagements, consulting on Diversity & Inclusion strategy and in boutique hiring of women talent at mid and senior levels.
The team aims to grow its enterprise network which already includes several large clients. “Most of our enterprise clients are repeat clients and we have built that relationship of trust through the last 12-18 months,” Mahua says.
The founders had a spark in their eyes when they shared a statement from one of their customers, who mentioned, “You were a big part of the success. Your guidance in the design and presence through the women leadership programme elevated the experience for the participants.” Another multinational client said, “Thank you for getting us off to a great start on our D&I agenda.”
“The corporate sector has been a huge win for us. Our personal credibility and networks got us the first few clients, but we now have strong credentials, and this is bringing in several new clients. Our idea is to grow our enterprise business in tandem with our other services,” Uma adds.
Paving the way for women in leadership
“One of our distinctive strengths is the incredible knowledge and experience of the global experts on the platform. Along with the experts, we leverage our international corporate experience of close to two decades to design features and services that power women on their leadership journeys. And when we hear heartfelt testimonials of members who have benefited through ‘The star in me’, we know we are on the right track,” say the founders.
Women across the globe sign up on the platform to avail career acceleration services including leadership programmes, mentor labs, coaching engagements, and expert connections to chart their leadership journeys. They also access a variety of unguided career resources such as live masterclasses, self-paced learning through premium content, career guidance, unique visual profile builder, and global professional networks.
The founders derive their inspiration to amplify the impact when they hear from happy members.
Karin Moldenhauer, Internal Control Manager – Oxford University Press, Brazil shares,
“The star in me provides a lot of resources and tools which have helped me become a better leader and reach professional success. It is good to be connected to such powerful women in the world.”
Vanishree Daruri, Assistant Vice President at a leading healthcare firm in India shares, “I was searching for assistance to overcome professional challenges and I was lucky to find ‘The star in me’ at the right time. This platform helped me land my dream role at a crucial juncture in my life.”
The road ahead
‘The star in me’ aims to scale its user-base by next March, along with making the platform more dynamic to achieve higher engagement and developing additional experiential learning solutions.
It also plans to create the first-ever marketplace for career advancement services, connecting women who are looking for accelerated career growth, organisations that want to hire competent talent and develop women leaders, and credible and vetted service providers that need access to both organisations and individuals.
Starting strong in 2020, ‘The star in me’ continues to thrive in 2021. Backed by a strong vision and unwavering passion of its founders and team, the startup is well on its way to increasing the leadership quotient of women talent.