Beauty and brains: Meet the serial woman entrepreneur who is also Mrs India Universe
Shruthi Cauvery Iyer is flush from her win at the Mrs India Universe beauty pageant held in Gurugram last month. And now, she’s all set to showcase her talents on the international stage as the Mrs Universe pageant kicks off in Seoul in October this year.
With no experience in modelling, ramp walk, or the beauty pageant, Shruthi entered the pageant on a lark. She also won ‘Best National Costume’ for her Coorg inspired costume and Mrs Intelligence.
Shruthi Cauvery Iyer
Lakshmi Seshadri, Mrs India Universe 2016, and last year’s winner, Ayessha Wadiwala, are her friends. They encouraged her to participate, and the rest as they say, culminated in a win. What attracts her most to the pageant is the focus on fighting domestic violence, a cause she espouses.
But it’s not only beauty or the Mrs Universe pageant that defines Shruthi. The mother of two is also a serial entrepreneur – who ran a successful commodities business in Indonesia and Hong Kong, a skincare startup in Boston, and returned to India in 2016 to start, a global impact and advisory firm with Sachindra Rudra in 2019.
Shruthi has a degree in environmental engineering, and went to business school at Wharton, following which she also pursued a Master’s in Public Administration at Harvard.
“I lived in southeast Asia for many years where I was a commodities trader, which was a very profitable venture at that time. But I also wanted to change my career path, and moved to the US,” she says.
Along with her Dean of Innovation at Wharton, Shruthi launched Blend8, a skincare brand.
“We wanted to democratise the skincare segment and deliver high-quality products to women seeking unbiased information, clear guidance, and quality products at reasonable prices. I had to wrap up the business in 2016 when I had to move to India unexpectedly but being pioneers in the field, I learnt how to build a D2C brand ground up,” she says.
Once she returned to Bengaluru, she got talking to Sachin, her friend and co-founder, on starting an investment advisory firm. Sachin was Chief Investment Officer of the Acumen Fund in New York and both believed that enough capital was moving into the impact space.
“My pain point was that entrepreneurs, especially those working in the impact sector, needed handholding with approaching investors but also fund-raising. We wanted to make a difference in moving the needle towards impact and roping in more family offices, more funds and HNIs to invest in this space. This led to CaHa Capital,” she says.
The aftermath of the pandemic
CaHa Capital started with a few important clients and more in the pipeline when COVID-19 hit.
“Honestly, I was optimistic that the situation would change in two months. We never thought it would drag on for almost two years. A lot of companies we represented were doing so well pre-COVID. For example, one of them in the F&B space, their operations came to a standstill, and they could not raise funds. On the other hand, tech firms have been doing well. Overall, as a young company, we were motivated enough not to be deterred by the challenges and are now doing pretty well for ourselves,” she adds.
Shruthi admits when she moved back to India in 2016, the startup ecosystem was not as mature as it is today.
“It’s heartening to see a large number of investors and also unicorns. Back then, there were very few exits, and startups were not able to pay huge salaries to Ivy League graduates. I have no regrets moving back to India, I knew it would be a rough landing but the decision paid off,” she says.
As mother to daughter Leia, 13, and son, Luka, who is two-years-old, Shruthi has her hands full juggling work, home, and preparing for Mrs Universe. It’s not easy, she says, being disciplined certainly helps.
“I don’t use social media on my phone, and as a family, we do not watch television and that gives me enough time to spend with my family. My husband, who is an impact investor with Omidyar, is very supportive and it’s an equal partnership. We have a strong support mechanism as well that helps me fulfil my roles with ease,” Shruthi says.
She has also begun preparations for the Mrs Universe pageant supported by a team who has put her on a strict and disciplined lifestyle regimen.
So, does she think a woman can have it all?
Can a woman have it all?
“I definitely think so,” she says, adding, “It’s not been easy for me. I have had to overcome a lot of roadblocks, professionally and personally. I think to be successful, there needs to be a constancy of purpose, and I think women can do that if we don’t compromise or let go of our dreams.”
“I want to be a role model for my children and that motivates me a lot. I love my life and journey, and there’s still so much to do,” she adds.
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