[100 Emerging Women Leaders] How the founding member of WebMD and a UN youth leader joined hands to build SpaceBasic

In this feature of 100 Emerging Women Leaders, we feature Madhavi Shankar and Indu Narvar. Read how an opportune meeting in San Francisco got the duo to start hostel management startup SpaceBasic.
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When Madhavi Shankar and Indu Narvar first met, they instantly connected. They knew they could work brilliantly well together. 

“We understood each other well, and we were sure that we could work together. I had heard so much about Indu, and when I was looking to startup, she seemed like the best person to start up with,” Madhavi tells HerStory in a conversation. 

In early 2016, Madhavi was working in a startup in Australia, when her father introduced her to Indu, who was based in San Francisco, US. 

“I had been a part of the founding team of WebMD, and post that, I have worked with several startups in their early stages, helping them grow and expand,” says Indu. 

They met on a Friday afternoon at Four Seasons in Palo Alto, and within no time, the meeting pivoted towards a chat around startups and brainstorming ideas. A year later, in March, the duo launched SpaceBasic, a hostel management startup

“I thought it would be a social meeting. Now, we are co-founders,” says Madhavi. 

Indu had run logistics company Serus Corporation for 10 years until a successful exit in the Silicon Valley. She has previously worked at NASA in Moffett Field, California

On the other hand, Madhavi was named one of the top 30 women transforming India by NITI Aayog and the United Nations. In fact, she was also featured on the Forbes Asia 30 Under 30 List in the enterprise technology category. 

An active advocate of women empowerment, Madhavi was also among eight youth leaders chosen for the launch event of  UN’s One Million Youth Leaders, held at the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland. 

Meanwhile, the third founding member, Aiden Bingham, was juggling life as a freshman in college and entrepreneurship.

Venturing into hostel management space

SaaS startup SpaceBasic works towards digitising hostel management in India, facilitating seamless communication between all stakeholders involved — management, students, and parents.

While the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the hospitality and hostel management segment, Indu and Madhavi believe companies now are significantly looking to manage their hostel spaces more digitally. 

The duo says the pandemic has increased the importance of digitisation like never before. 

“What we tried to do with the application is automate processes, reduce wastage and costly errors, and streamline the entire communication process for easy access and collaboration,” Madhavi says, explaining the workings of the startup.

The challenges, however, were different for the entrepreneurs. “It is tough for people to believe that a woman can work in the hospitality space, and given my age, many didn’t take me seriously. But you simply have to keep at it,” says Madhavi. 

She adds that many asked her several redundant questions, and wondered if she was serious about the business. 

“It is a common belief, but my advice to Madhavi throughout and any women entrepreneur has been to keep at it. If you are good at what you do, the challenges will simply fade away,” Indu encouragingly says. 

The startup did its market research and looked at the different aspects of the hostel management space. The co-founders spoke to over 30 universities asking them their needs and requirements. 

The Bengaluru and San Francisco-based startup works as a plug-and-play model and a standalone application. SpaceBasics works with partner companies based out of both India and the US. It has over 150,000 users across 60+ Indian colleges, schools, and universities. 

Its partner clients include Manipal Global Academy, Reva University, Indus International Schools, DY Patil University, CMR University, and PES University, among others. 

Earlier this year, Shaan Varia, Product Head, Gauntlet Network, and Yousef Yacoub, a seasoned industry professional and early employee at Apple Inc and Sun Microsystems, invested in SpaceBasic. The startup now aims to grow and expand further.


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Edited by Suman Singh

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