[100 Emerging Women Leaders] Meet Shilpa Karkeraa, a techie who built vehicles as a child

In this feature of 100 Emerging Women Leaders, we feature Shilpa Karkeraa, Founder and CEO of AI and blockchain company Myraa Technologies.

[100 Emerging Women Leaders] Meet Shilpa Karkeraa, a techie who built vehicles as a child

Monday October 25, 2021,

9 min Read

Shilpa Karkeraa, Founder and CEO, Myraa Technologies, an AI and blockchain solutions company, is an IIM-Bangalore scholar with a degree in electronics and telecom engineering from University of Pune. 


Her company Myraa is a custom global industrial solutions company excelling in research developments using AI, blockchain, IoT, and mixed reality. 


Shilpa is CTO and technology advisor to several new-age companies, is committed to supporting the Renal Care Foundation and Breast Cancer Research, and provides blockchain-based initiatives that enable information delivery and research data for focused communities. 

Shilpa - 100 Emerging Women Leaders

Shilpa Karkeraa

She also mentors engineering students at Sahayadri College of Engineering and provides free advisory services to early-stage startups for software that can be used to help scale businesses. 


Shilpa was nominated by Computer Society of India as the Best CIO – Digital Transformation. She was also nominated as a Women Achiever by the Navi Mumbai Chamber of Business and Industries (NMCBI) and is part of the Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women Program.


In a conversation with HerStory, she talks about her journey into technology and building Myraa Technologies. 


Edited excerpts from the interview:

HerStory (HS): Tell us about your background. 

Shilpa Karkeraa (SK): I am the Founder and CEO of Myraa Technologies, an AI and Blockchain solutions and products company. I come from a family that fostered creativity and innovation my whole life. My Indian heritage further adds to that. The name Myraa comes from my great-grandmother Myréh who was an entrepreneur in action in her time. Her stories inspired me to break barriers, and work hard with honesty and compassion. I look forward to continuing this legacy for centuries to come.

All my childhood, instead of playing with toys, I had a mechanical bent of mind and broke down every gadget to peek inside. That continued with impact as I graduated from the University of Pune. I also built a vehicle that could move with the movement of the eye. 

Prior to Myraa, I held several positions at various companies. I was a Team Lead in the data engineering group at a Bay Area startup, lead technologist with top corporate financial service firms, and a principal architect at a Singaporean B2C company. I have also served as the CTO and technology advisor to several new-age companies.

HS:  Tell us about Myraa. How did you get the idea and what are its main aims? 

SK: Myraa Technologies started off as an AI solutions company focused on finance and human resources.  Today, it has evolved to innovate with purpose using its AI and blockchain-enabled solutions and products across six-plus countries, encompassing 11+ industries ranging from HR and arts to aviation, manufacturing, supply chain, and finance. 


The idea at inception was to solve problems to enhance quality of life. Our mission at Myraa is to reduce resource wastage and prevent cyberbullying. 

HS: What problems does it address, and why is there a need to do so? 

SK: We have three key offerings which address three separate problem areas. These products are:

  • Myraa Lens – to prevent resource wastage 
  • Myraa Blocks – to avert cyberbullying 
  • Myraa Superstar – to drive inclusion 


The problems that products at Myraa address are:


  1. Manufacturing jobs are usually labour-intensive, and not open to women due to hazardous situations. This creates disparity and exposes many lives to risk due to the strenuous conditions. Also, the process supervision is manual, creating room for error. This is where Myraa Lens addresses the problem of preventing resource wastage with AI automation and intuitive work assistance. 
  2. Centralised platforms like largely-used social media sites have become upsetting sources of polarity – sometimes unconsciously and sometimes intentionally. This needs to change. Myraa Blocks brings awareness to decentralisation of business processes to make trade safe and transparent using blockchain. 
  3. Filtering out people based on keywords is an unfair process when it comes to equal opportunity employment. Thus, Myraa Superstar, an AI-based HR tool, identifies talent similar to your star employee’s characteristics in unconventional ways. It helps significantly in driving inclusion and eliminating human biases that occur while filtering profiles. 


Though we started with solutions, we were aware of several industrial challenges. 


However, the training received from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Growth Fellowship helped us streamline the true purpose of our services. The design thinking sessions shaped our products.  The coaching sessions further validated our innovations.

100 Emerging Women Leaders - Shilpa

HS: What are the challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them? 

SK: We started with very basic infrastructure and had to gradually build our office spaces, set up operations, build the team, and overcome barriers of perception surrounding my years of experience, whether I am from the industry or not, and whether I understood the pain point or not. 


To overcome these:

  • I studied really hard. I toiled night after night to get all my facts right
  • I spoke to people and asked the right questions
  • I built relationships to contribute effectively
  • I gave back to students and others to make sure nobody else has to suffer the same

HS: Did you face any conscious and unconscious biases? How did you work around those? 

SK: Unconscious bias is always prevalent for anyone who attempts to break barriers. So yes, I did face unconscious biases of perception, mistrust and ignorance.  


Coming from the financial industry, I would like to give an analogy. The unconscious bias is like an interest you pay on a loan. 


However, you have to find your people with similar skills and calibre – these can be your assets and these self-investments or investments in people who believe in you yield higher returns making it a fruitful journey - not just for yourself but in any avenue where your efforts are invested. 


So I kept working on, no matter what anyone had to say by creating proof of my works, speaking about it actively, contributing to the ecosystem, and by aiming to learn, relearn and unlearn. 

This way, I broke barriers, and was welcomed by 11+ industries across six countries to solve challenges successfully 

Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women Program supported me with a wonderful entrepreneurial community. So when you fight such biases, you know you are never alone. I have 100 strong fierce women entrepreneurs with me to fight back, take advice from, thrive with, and empower one another.

HS: How does the product work? What is the business model, and what sets it apart from the others?  

SK: The three products at Myraa have three different purposes and cater to different industries. 


Myraa Lens - AI based visual inspector for industrial automation

It automates manual work and quality checks that require visual supervision in factories using computer vision. 


Myraa Blocks - Blockchain awareness programme

We worked with financial institutions, factories, and communities to bring awareness to why we need decentralised finance, shared ledgers for transparency, and smart contracts that enable fair trade. I authored a book Unlocking Blockchain on Azure to educate others about industrial use cases in finance, maritime, retail and 10 other industries. We have conducted over 500 knowledge sharing initiatives for blockchain. 


Myraa Superstar 

The purpose of this product is to drive inclusion and diversity through an unbiased AI-driven tool to clone superstars in your organisation. 


Myraa Superstar clones the characteristics of your star employees and helps improve discovery of talent. It also aids in eliminating human biases that occur during filtering resumes and enabling similarity as a measuring metric. 

  

We serve everyone who comes with a challenge. Conventional business models reject diversifying and focus purely on developing solutions that do not scale. 


However, our products have evolved with this problem-solving mind-set after surveying 500 businesses during our solution-delivery journey.  Moreover, our products are subscription-based, and enable customers to enjoy profitable outcomes. 

HS: What advice would you give young women who want to start on their own and for women in tech? 

SK: Nurture your ecosystem wherever you are and whatever stage you are in If you are working in a job, perform like an entrepreneur. If you are a student, lead college events and projects like an entrepreneur. Live it throughout. 


Keep it lean - Starting on your own might not always require large capital or workforce. Find clever ways to experiment with your ideas. 


Strengthen your relationships at work, university, and around - In my first job, Dr Ashwin Rao inspired me to dive deeper into research and yet maintain its relevance for people to enjoy technology. Mentors like Prof Sunil Handa that I met during the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Program at IIM, Bangalore, transformed my mindset towards scalability. 


Prof Gayatri Das, who also mentored me during Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women Ambassador Program at ISB, helped me grieve through a huge personal loss and still rise as a compassionate leader all while getting through this pandemic.  So thrive, and pay it forward.


You are never alone, find your tribe - The Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women Program gave me peers that went through similar hardships that come with being an entrepreneur.  There is always so much to learn and pay forward. Engage in such communities actively.


Unapologetically break barriers- Once you have identified your skills and passion, follow them aggressively.  Even if they break notions, rules, or societal expectations. 

HS: What are your future plans?

SK: We are currently waiting for our products to run in full automation, so that I can dive deep into Usha Renal Care Foundation (URCF), an initiative that I started to drive my mother’s legacy and desire to fight renal failure. 


I want to enable many with medical innovations that can change their lives. Hence, I wish to go deeper into building a blockchain platform called NeuroBlocks that will connect clinical trials to the right patient profiles. URCF ultimately envisions to connect donors, donations, and donees with increased medical discovery. 


While the work has started, to do it right I want it to be driven as a community, for the community. I now look forward to build a healthier future together with technology. 


Edited by Teja Lele