[100 Emerging Women Leaders] Meet Tanul Mishra, an entrepreneur who is building a thriving ecosystem for fintech startups
A successful entrepreneur, Tanul Mishra, CEO of Afthonia Lab, a Bengaluru-based incubator, describes herself as a hustler, and rightly so.
With a broad experience ranging from being a professional in the corporate space and working in sectors such as media, sales, business, broadband, and telecom to being an entrepreneur, Tanul Mishra has had a fascinating journey.
Her entry into the startup ecosystem began with fintech after she joined PayMate, a financial services company, in around 2009-2010. From there, she went on to set up Eatelish, a startup focused on artisanal food products, with her friend and co-founder, Shipra Bhansali.
Elaborating on her journey post-Eatelish, Mishra says, “After we had an exit, I thought of setting up an ecosystem in India that would help startups grow faster and better.”
“When I looked at this three years ago, India had around 500 incubators and accelerators, most of them education and government-backed, but not that many independent private incubators. The idea was to set up a system where founders would be able to leverage global knowledge and global network access,” she adds.
Thus camein 2019.
With Afthonia, Mishra's area of focus is fintech, and the idea is to help early-stage founders to build on that.
Highlighting the team’s intent to promote entrepreneurship among women, Mishra shares, “We onboard startups of all genders and diversities, but we have a specific focus on women founders and women-led teams.”
At Afthonia, Mishra and her team have fought their way through challenges such as creating an accessible and personalised programme that would work for entrepreneurs and managed to get access to a global pool of mentors who help out with their work pro bono.
Mishra laments the existence of gender-based biases in professional spaces and tends not to engage with the perspectives of people who promote the same.
She says, “Subconscious biases are more dangerous than conscious biases. The first step is to acknowledge them because you cannot control the biases; it is not my domain to do so. I walk into a room with who I am, and if someone is biased, it is entirely their problem.”
Standing strong with an all-women team, Afthonia runs as a personalised programme. This includes onboarding startups, building their blueprint, providing them with access to mentors and a network, along with helping them raise funds.
Mishra says, “Each startup has multiple mentors, which keep changing depending on the stage they enter. At the product stage, you could be with a tech and a UI/UX mentor; moving forward, we will add on, for example, a go-to-market mentor who helps work on market access.”
“Typically, if you approach us at the concept stage, the incubation period is about 12 to 18 months,” she adds.
In the future, the team aims to grow the size of the startups they have and is looking forward to have a cumulative cohort of about 20 to 30 startups incubated by the financial year 2023-24.
“Our focus areas are insurance and women founders. And we were the leaders in the Web3 space, but we sort of incubated the startups first, and that is something we would like to continue,” she adds.
On women leaders, Mishra says, “It is going to be hard, but the fact is that nobody is better at running things and building things than we are. So, if you decide to do it, you just have to stick it out! Reach out to other women because sisterpreneurs are the best mentors and the best access pool you can have.”
Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti