Celebrating women as catalysts for change with Amagi Co-founder Srividhya Srinivasan
In 1998, Srividhya Srinivasan was only 24 years old when she founded her first startup Impulsesoft with her two friends, Baskar Subramanian and Srinivasan KA. After it was acquired by SiRF, a NASDAQ-listed semiconductor company, the trio went ahead to build. Today, Amagi has become one of the most highly valued media-tech companies in the world. Recently, it also made headlines by becoming the 15th Indian unicorn.
Srividhya looked back at her journey as an entrepreneur at a time when women were considered to be outliers of the tech industry, during her conversation with HerStory, at the Women on a Mission summit.
“When we began with Impulsesoft, our focus was on the market and how to build the company and whom to recruit. One of the first employees that we onboarded was a girl and her father had visited the company on her first day. He saw me and was assured that it would not be difficult for his daughter to work there,” said Srividhya.
Srividhya shared that she had always focused more on the real problem and less on her gender as an entrepreneur. She described herself as being a “tomboy” for most of her life with a fascination for creating something new.
Overcoming gender bias with the help of family
Srividhya recalled that one of her earliest experiences of facing bias against women was during her college days in Coimbatore.
“Back in college as a computer science student, I used to live in a hostel that had a time restriction of 6:30 for all the girls. It was very painful for me because here I was using a computer for the first time in my life. My friends, who are my co-founders, Bhaskar and Srinivasan, were facing problems in learning software languages like Cobalt and Fortran because they knew how to do it. I was struggling to learn them but I had a hostel restriction to follow. One day, I reached late to my hostel and the warden asked me very embarrassing questions like if I had gone out somewhere instead of college,” Srividya recalled.
It was her father who moved to Coimbatore so that she could stay with him and continue her study without the restrictions hampering her. Soon, two of her friends joined in to stay with her at her home and study in college till late at night.
Like her father, Srividhya’s mother-in-law has also played a key role in her life, she continues to support her actively in her career.
“I lost my mother at a very young age. My father also passed away about 10-15 years ago. It was my mother-in-law who became my pillar of growth and continues to do so. People need to understand that a supportive family can help you massively in your growth. Similarly, you need to help them in their times of need. This is the beauty of Indian culture,” she said.
Empowering women in tech
Srividhya expressed that tech companies need to walk the extra mile to address the dearth of women in the industry.
“I have my own example: I have two sons and sometimes I feel I am being selfish and focusing only on my career and not doing enough for them. Many women in this industry have to balance between family and work. They have similar thoughts and often end up leaving their careers for family. At that time, the HR and managers should work with them to figure out a solution. I strongly believe that a company should walk the extra mile to understand the problem of each employee to help them, rather than just follow the company norms and offer 15 days of paid leaves,” said Srividhya.
Srividhya described herself as a “doer”. She has always preferred learning something by doing it herself. However, she has observed that the current generation prefers confining themselves to their syllabus and textbooks.
“The other day, I had a conversation with my nephew who said that he had a lot of time left while studying electronics and communication, so he wanted to prepare for competitive exams. That made me wonder if they really understood the subjects that they were learning. Did they try to practically do what they were learning? I figured that they were not doing so; they just confined themselves to certain lab experiments mentioned in their syllabus.”
For Srividhya, learning something by applying it practically is a better way to learn. This also holds the scope of innovation and doing something different.
Advice for women leaders
Srividhya added that women in tech need to voice their opinions to become leaders in the industry.
“Many women feel scared to speak in front of a team. There are too many second and third level derivative thoughts that keep women mum. Just stop those thoughts, be yourself and express your opinions politely. You need to showcase your leadership abilities to help you succeed,” said Srividhya.
A shout out to the sponsors of Women on a Mission Summit 2022, an Initiative by HerStory, by YourStory - BYJU’S, the presenting partner, and other sponsors - Kyndryl, Sequoia Spark, Zilingo, Atlassian, Akamai, Freshworks for Startups, and Netapp Excellerator.
Edited by Ramarko Sengupta