Much has been written about women and their dominant roles in the business and the corporate sector. Of late, the focus has shifted to women entrepreneurs who have been cracking it within India’s startup scenario. Names like Richa Kar (Zivame) and Sairee Chahal (SHeroes) have become quite popular among Indians. These women and their startups in India have succeeded in creating ripples in the domain of business.
However, how often do we shift focus to Indian women entrepreneurs who are cracking it in the west? Well, not much I guess. But if we do, we will come across some successful Indian women entrepreneurs who are making great for themselves in the Bay Area of San Francisco, New York and other parts of the United States of America (USA) and even Canada.
Yes. It might come as a surprise but some Indian women are actually creating ripples in various parts of USA with their startups.
Let’s focus on their stories.
Pooja Sankar, Founder, Piazza, California
Pooja Sankar has proved that a strong-willed woman can definitely succeed in a male-dominated space. Pooja grew up in India and studied engineering at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur. She was one of the only three girls in a class of 50. She figured after the challenge of learning to take the test to get into IIT by herself and being in a school with so few women that anything could be possible. She went on to purse her Master’s Degree from University of Maryland and then worked as an engineer with Oracle and Facebook before leaving the latter to study MBA at Stanford.
It was during her stint at Stanford that she was stuck with an idea to launch her own business, intrigued by the ideas of several others at the entrepreneurial classes. She really wanted to create a support group for women who had a major in computer science. This led to the launching of her website Piazza.com. Her idea was to build something that can help students get through schools and colleges in a much easier way. She took baby steps and finally launched Piazza.com in 2009. Eight years down the line, Piazza.com has become a popular site with millions of young registered users who are leveraging the benefits. Piazza now has a team of about 13 engineers and designers, working meticulously to improve this new form of education and with the success it has received so far. Needless to say, hundreds of thousands of students across hundreds of campuses are leveraging the benefits of Piazza for their classes. Half of Stanford undergraduate students signed up in two terms, half of MIT in one. 15,000 students at Berkeley and 14,000 at Georgia Tech are learning on Piazza today.
Aarthi Ramamurthy, Founder, Lumoid, California
Aarthi Ramamurthy came to the public eye with her first startup venture True&Co, an online lingerie store that uses algorithms to guarantee a bra will fit perfectly. However, roughly two years down the line she left True&Co because she itched something to do with technology and photography.
Aarthi, who originally hails from Chennai; completed her engineering from Coimbatore and thereafter got placed with Microsoft. After a few years’ stint, she was transferred to Seattle, USA from the company. She met her future husband here.
While honeymooning with him in Hawaii, she came up with the idea of launching an online portal that would deal in renting and buying of all kinds of products and equipment related to photography.
This very idea, gradually led to the launching of Lumoid in 2014 (a Y-Combinator backup), an e-commerce site to help teach amateur photographers how to take better pictures. Here one can rent out or even buy all kinds of equipment related to photography.
Today Lumoid has an office in San Francisco with half-a-dozen employees and needless to say it is scaling greater heights with a revenue growth of 35-40 percent every month. In future, Ramamurthy wants to expand out to purely photography over time.
In 2016, the 32 year-old Aarthi had already made it to the list of top 50 most influential women in business within the United States.
Unlike Pooja or Aarthi who migrated to the US, Deepti was born and raised in Flushing, New York City. As a young teenager, she always craved for doing something different that would ensure help towards society and community. It was during her student days at Stony Brook University, she was struck with the idea of launching her own business. In her own words, “I was waiting on line at a food truck and I was waiting for about 30 minutes, and all I got was a peanut butter cookie. How is it that this is the only way for me to access what this food truck is selling?” This experience was enough for her consider starting off on her own.
She turned a trip to India into an opportunity to assemble a three-member entrepreneurial squad of engineers. Building on that momentum, when she returned to New York City she hired five sales agents and account managers who would eventually end up working with 50 food trucks and 700 restaurants. Thus, in January 2011, FoodtoEat was launched.
A first-of-its-kind, the platform is an online service that allows hungry citizens to pre-order from food trucks, restaurants and even street carts. It also teaches vendors (many who belong to the immigrant community) how to use technology in order to engage customers and grow their business.
A successful woman entrepreneur, Deepti has already made it to the prestigious Forbes list of under 30 CEOs, which singles out the 30 biggest innovators and entrepreneurs who are under the age of 30.
To be continued in the second part.