Born in the Indian city of Agra famous for the iconic Taj Mahal, she grew up in the capital city of India, Delhi. In the early 1980’s growing up in an Indian middle class family meant experiencing patriarchal culture first hand. However, her parents were liberal and instilled confidence in her and her sister so that they always felt at par with boys.
Her passport and the ID’s had only her first name as her dad refused to give the girls his last name; he preferred to be known as their father than the other way around. They were supposed to carve their own identity.
Starting off as a lawyer, she later made a switch to finance (hedge funds, private equity, and venture capital) and fintech. An explorer by nature she decided to join the bandwagon to ride the fintech wave in early 2017.
When you work on borrowed vision, passion dries out fast so she decided to quit the corporate world to create a level playing field for women. With a mission to flatten the curve- FemTech Partners was born. The Holy Grail is to empower women and make our world more inclusive for all.
Can you share with us about your current business and activities?
To boost presence of women in the fintech sector and drive financial inclusion, I set up my own consulting firm in 2018. The goal was to create a platform that would give women the impetus to come forward and work in the fintech sector. I mentor young women, on a pro bono basis to help them to find opportunities in fintech.
I am also the Team Lead for the Financial Services and Intellectual Property (FSIP) Programme; it’s a component of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), United Kingdom’s Prosperity Fund, a £1.2 billion portfolio of programmes over seven years. As the Team Lead I am supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as the 2015 UK Aid Strategy by promoting growth and prosperity in developing countries. I work as a financial inclusion consultant for the Voluntary Service Organisation (VSO). With the VSO, I visited remote areas of Bangladesh to meet women and youth and understood how they access money, mobile technology. I made recommendations to enable faster and cheaper access to finance using mobile money, e-KYC, alternative credit scoring mechanisms. I am also a speaker at global forums addressing issues around Women in FinTech and Financial Inclusion.
What was your trigger and motivation to get into this?
To leave a better legacy for the next generation of women and create a level playing field in the field of Fintech. Inclusive Finance for women is achievable through Digital Financial Services. I want to see all the young girls achieve their dreams and never let lack of money be the reason they quit their journey.
What have been your experiences running this business?
You don’t need to know it all before you start. Just start with what you have and where you are. I was scared of losing the monthly pay check and managing it all – being a rain maker and executing projects all alone. With zero experience in running business, I was probably the worst person to do this.
Now, I strongly feel that god plants a dream only when he knows you are capable of achieving it. So my key message is to be shameless and knock on all doors to boost your business. Never take an opportunity as small; you never know the breakthroughs coming from it. Use social media wisely and have mentors early on to guide you. Lastly, blessings of your parents play a key role make that phone call.
Which are the important factors that keep you going?
I thrive on challenges “always see obstacles as an opportunity” Marcus Aurelius’, “Meditations “The Obstacle Is the Way.” With outbreak of Covid-19, women are adversely affected – rise in domestic violence, increase in household chores and lack of funds with locked up remittance channels for women entrepreneurs in the small towns / villages. I strongly feel that technology is a huge enabler. It will help women empower themselves especially in the current landscape – ensuring availability of funds and providing a platform to sell their products online. Digitization is self empowerment of the 21st century.
Any obstacles that you have faced and any specific challenges because of being a woman?
Getting lesser pay check than my male colleague was the toughest reality check. I remember wearing a wedding band when out for networking opportunities and still being asked to be dropped off to my hotel.
I am sure most of the women have gone through this in one way or other however it has only made us stronger and iron willed to achieve our dreams. I strongly believe in the concept of Amor Fati: Learning To Love And Accept Everything That Happens. So, let’s try to make of every situation without holding regrets. On this occasion I am reminded of Maya Angelou’s poem “I Rise”. You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I’ll rise.
What is your source of inspiration?
The greatest assets for success are willpower, decision-making and discipline. I find inspiration from my mother who’s a great example of self-discipline. I think it’s important to surround yourself with people who improve and constantly push you. My mentors help me stay true to my path and my family and friends lift my spirit on a bad day. Challenges inspire me and I thrive on achieving what people say I can’t do.
What is your proudest moment so far?
I’ve had moms asking me to bless their girls so that they grow up to be like me. This is indeed the most humbling and gratifying feeling. I hope to fulfil the aspirations I set for myself as a young girl- to be fearless and fierce in achieving my maximum potential. I also hope my work inspires younger generation to try little harder every time they fail.
How would you define success ?
Success for me is to achieve my highest potential, staying humble and giving it back to the society. I don’t define it in terms of material wealth but accumulating some enriching life experiences such as teaching at a Tibetan monastery, and enjoying the rain. Basically to be able to enjoy the little things in life, and keeping the child in me alive, spending time with my loved ones and enjoying the slow dance/pace of life.
What advice do you have for other aspiring Entrepreneurs, especially women?
Push the envelope as great things of life are on other side of fear. Remember to use your energy to imagine a better and fulfilling future than waste it on self doubt and mindless chatter. I think it’s important to take care of physical and emotional well being to win any battle so I start my day with meditation and set the intention to give my best and say yes to every opportunity no matter how small it seems. Be a rainbow in someone’s cloud, it’s true in Fintech and in all walks of life.
Create your own wings because when the going gets tough you’d not regret having your own wings and freedom to take off. Make sure you have a tribe of women who you look up to professionally and personally. Have them as your sound board and mentors. In tough moments, I find solace in this quote: “What if I fall?” Oh but my darling, What if you fly?” Say yes and never regret anything that made you smile. Create your own destiny and success story.