How this woman entrepreneur started a multilingual expert learning platform
Expert opinion has never been more in-demand due to the rise of entrepreneurs and tech-enabled opportunities.
Deepshikha Kumar says it was remarkable that the Indian market was looking for and is willing to pay for experts, something beyond Bollywood or cricket. She saw promise in building an expert network platform and co-founded SpeakIn in 2016.
The Delhi-based startup connects experts across industries with those seeking the right insights amid an information overload to promote upskilling and skilling collaborations.
A multilingual learning platform, her idea is winning the confidence of industry veterans. Three months ago, Speakin secured an undisclosed amount of fund from former KPMG CEO Richard Rekhy. In September 2019,South Asia CEO Aditya Ghosh-backed Homage Ventures also infused an undisclosed amount of funds into the venture.
Deepika says having these investors on board, along with their contribution in guiding on strategy, execution, and envisioning has been a major milestone for the company.
Focussed on corporate companies, Speakin began by organising physical forums to connect businesses with experts and thought leaders, and migrated online for a wider reach.
After building a “strong supply of experts”, SpeakIn has prioritised one-on-one client relationships and relied on word-of-mouth to establish the platform’s credibility. At present, the platform features experts from 12 countries.
The business learning platform earns revenue from the transaction fee charged for engagement from companies. While one can get registered as an expert for free, they go through an extensive 45-day review before joining the network.
Offering live sessions, the startup is looking to associate with companies that are interested in training employees or engaging their customers through interactive sessions.
"One can learn from the people who have been there and done that. This involves intense exposure to experiential industry experts in their respective genres and can talk from a position of strength and experience,” says Deepshikha, who is also the author of 101 Lessons to be a Damn Good Speaker!
The startup believes its offering of live learning as opposed to e-learning and the diverse network of expert sets it apart from peers like, Coursera, learning, and Tigerhall.
Deepshikha shares the venture has an asset light model and initial capital requirement was low.
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, she says skilling, building, and expanding further in the new normal has been a challenge.
“Every step we take, we think of the future, which is common for entrepreneurs as we learn from our experience and work on them to get a better result,” the entrepreneur adds.
However, Deepshikha says the team remained tightly knit, hired more people, and doubled the team.
Being a ‘woman’ entrepreneur
Deepshikha is a first-generation entrepreneur. Raised by a mother who was an equal financial contributor to the family with both parents working for the government, she grew up learning the importance of financial freedom in practice.
“It has instilled a spirit of independence and made me a doer and a hard worker. Moreover, my mother who is engaged with multiple stakeholders throughout the family and her professional network is my entrepreneurial role model,” she says, having learnt the hallmark quality of entrepreneurship from her.
At the same time, Deepshikha has no qualms about being a woman entrepreneur and says the challenges are the same, regardless of gender.
“Being a woman might attract more empathy, but we need to constantly think big and build our finances and work on financial planning to ensure strategic development in terms of company investments and expenses,” she adds.
This year, Deepshikha was named among the Top 100 Women Entrepreneurs by the Ministry of MSME, Government of India. She also won the Asia Women Icon Award Singapore for two years in 2017 and 2019.
For aspiring entrepreneurs, her advice is to be resilient and keep going. An MBA graduate from Indian School of Business, Deepshikha says while the journey may not be easy, balancing everything including self with resilience and a can-do attitude can make all the difference.