Ms. Lakshmideepa A is the Chief Executive Officer of YELDI, an NFC-technology company. Lakshmideepa is a graducate in Electronics & Communication Engineering from Anna University and a post-graduation in Advanced Photonics & Communications from the University of Warwick, England. While working in England for an international telecom company, her father Ra. Arjunamurthy (Founder & CMD, YELDI Softcom) shared his vision of building a global product company in Chennai. The father-daughter duo jointly conducted their research and arrived at a product idea that had the potential to touch a billion lives globally. In 2012, Lakshmideepa relocated to India and joined her father at YELDI Softcom.In this interview with Techstory, Lakshmideepa talks to us about her experience of running a company with her father.
What made you take the leap towards entrepreneurship? What was the inspiration? How did it finally happen?
I would say that entrepreneurship is in my DNA, or that it comes very naturally to me. My family’s a third-generation business family. I grew up watching my father (Ra. Arjunamurthy, Founder & CMD – YELDI Softcom) setting up various companies and run them. My inspiration to become an entrepreneur stemmed from there. After I finished my Masters Degree at the University of Warwick (U.K.), I wanted to start a company that touched a billion lives across the globe. I discussed this with my father and that’s how YELDI Softcom was born.
How is a typical day in life of Lakshmideep ?
I am an ‘Art of Living’ follower. My day starts very early with the Sudharshan Kriya (breathing exercise) and I am a mother until 8.45 am. I drop my daughter at school and head to work. My typical day at YELDI would be something that touches upon meeting the core people in the company to discuss ongoing projects, new projects, marketing, strategy and branding. In general, working with different groups to understand, contribute and direct at a group level.
After work, I do my fitness training (weights and cardio). Towards the end of my day, I tuck my child into bed and spend time with my sister on the phone. The last 3-4 hours of my day are spent in reviewing office-related documents and management books. Currently, I am reading ‘No Logo’ by Naomi Klein. I am also doing 3 online management courses from the University of Leeds. Over the weekend, I make it a point to visit friends or take my daughter swimming or on a play date. I also love going to the movies.
What are your top priorities for your company and for your people?
That’s an interesting question. When it comes to priorities, I would classify them as ‘External’ and ‘Internal’.
The topmost external priority for every single one of us at YELDI is to build a company, that touches the lives of a billion people across the globe and change the way they transact. By virtue of doing this – we will make YELDI, a global brand headquartered in Chennai. Our current product lineup is aligned to this vision.
Now coming to internal priorities. YELDI is not just an organization incorporated to yield profits in the balance sheet. Our priority is to make YELDI an opportunity, for every employee to recognize his / her potential and achieve it. We believe that YELDI as an organization will hugely gain from every employee’s drive for growth and excellence. Hence the organization is structured to foster and accommodate growth of every single employee.
Why do we see so few women leading technology companies?
Companies in the Technology space come with their own challenges. Working for a tech company can be demanding and challenging – you have product development, product launches, competition both within the company and marketplace, review meetings, offshore client meetings, international time differences and so on. Also, milestones in a woman’s personal life like marriage, pregnancy, childbirth, etc. place relatively more burden on women’s shoulders and make it difficult for them to achieve work-life balance. The pressures come from all corners – family, work and the society at large.
But I am happy to note that this scenario is evolving. Women have evolved to optimize their personal time so that their careers are not compromised. Menfolk in the form of spouses, colleagues and top executives have begun to realize the value women bring to the table. Hence work practices too are evolving to ensure that women are able to give their best output at work. At YELDI – we realized this very early and implemented global best practices for women employees. With this trend becoming more and more pro women – I definitely see women playing much larger roles in the technology landscape.
How was your experience of starting a company with your father ?
Yes, I am my father’s girl and will always be J. It’s natural to be influenced by the environment you grow up in. This is pretty evident in the more publicized industries like politics and cinema.
In my childhood – I spent most of my holidays and after-school hours at my father’s office. While other kids would have enjoyed children parks, cartoons and Disney feature films – I was exposed to product launch events and marketing campaign meetings at a very young age. I have silently witnessed numerous meetings in which marketing strategies, packaging designs and storyboards were presented to my father. I would intently observe how my father went about analyzing the presentations and gave his feedback. These meetings helped me pick up many vital business and management skills. And these experiences naturally made me want to join hands with him in business.
When I shared my intention of joining him in business someday, he said “Anything you want. Just don’t be afraid to change your mind later.” Well, I didn’t change my mind. While I was doing my Masters degree, I told him how I wanted to start a company that could develop meaningful technology to the unbanked masses. We started working on NFC Technology to provide cashless solutions without the need for a bank account. We nurtured this idea and formed YELDI in 2012.
Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
YELDI’s vision is my vision and my future is intertwined with that of the company. I see myself being a part of a global trendsetting and innovations company. I see YELDI as a household brand across all continents.
How has your experience been of being a woman entrepreneur? Today if you had to, what advice you would give your 20-year-old self?
The experience has been very positive till date. I am proud to mention here that YELDI’s employees and senior leaders are broadminded professionals of the highest caliber. For the last 5 years, I have been on a delightful path of exploration, self-realization and growth.
I would advise my 20-year-old self to learn how to manage time effectively. I would also advise her to master the technique of analyzing something objectively without an emotional bias.
There is a strong debate about whether women can have it all. Your comments.
The natural way to turn around this question is “Can men have it all?”. If you pore deeper for an answer…you will realize that ‘having it all’ should not depend solely on the person’s gender. Rather it should depend on the person’s merits. A person who is willing to make the greatest of sacrifices in search of excellence, has the ultimate right to ‘have it all’.
At YELDI – one of the many agendas we have is to build a meritocratic society. Where each person’s ability plays an instrumental role in his / her progress. I urge everybody to adopt this approach, for this alone can eliminate the many inequalities present in our society.