28-year-old Sneha Thakker, founder of Thakker Technologies, talks to Aparna Sundaresan about the challenges of being a young, female and first generation IT entrepreneur
Sneha Thakker started her business in 2009 at the age of 23 without a business background and no external funding. Five years on, her company Thakker Technologies sees an annual turnover of Rs. 5 million. In 2012, she received the Priyadarshini Award from the Federation of Indian Women Entrepreneurs.
What prompted you to quit your job and start your own company?
It was to challenge myself because during my job I never got a chance to prove myself. Rather than helping me grow, my seniors were diluting my work and holding me back from realising my potential. More importantly, there were certain services in the marketplace that I knew I could successfully fulfil if given a chance. So after doing a job for couple of years, I told myself, it’s enough. One fine night I talked with my father; fortunately he agreed.
With what vision did you start Thakker Technologies?
Honestly, I just started my venture in the ambition to learn something new and deliver something new and open source to the market. But now as we have grown to international levels my vision is to get my company listed in the top IT companies of the world.
What difficulties did you face in starting your own enterprise?
The very first problem any entrepreneur may face is money. I have started my business with my pocket money and zero capital. As I did not have a business family background, [the big problems] were attracting and retaining customers, keeping an eye on cash flow, creating a good team of people, finding the right business location, dealing with competition, etc.
Where did you draw inspiration from to keep going?
My parents. I grew up seeing them doing hard work. Parents and family members always inspire me to focus on my goals. They inspired me to take a risk. Also my venture greatly stimulates economic development in the community and creates new jobs for many people, which motivates me.
What is it like being a female entrepreneur in the male-dominated tech industry?
You walk into a crowded seminar and can count the number of women there on one hand. In business, you deal with different kinds of men and women – some are more honest than others, some are hard-nosed and aggressive, whilst others are easygoing. You have to put on a front to protect yourself and compensate by adopting the typical male attitude in the business world – that of being aggressive, competitive and even harsh. With female owners, men think they can be dishonest or give her a bad deal because she’s a woman – something they probably wouldn’t try with another man. So you always have to be alert and not emotional while dealing for a business.
How welcoming is the industry of young, twenty-something entrepreneurs?
When you are in your twenties, you look more like a collegian than an entrepreneur. You have to impress leaders with your skills and ability. You have to create contacts. If you are a budding entrepreneur, you do not have space to stand with the industry leaders. You have to prove yourself at every stage to create your own space in their circle. [Initially] they were sceptical about me; now they are happy to work with me.
In a country where dynasties prevail in politics and business, what is it like to be a first generation entrepreneur in your family?
It’s your own battle with a one man – oops – one woman army! If you are from a business family, you would get exposure and experience while growing up which can’t be taught in B-schools. Being a first generation entrepreneur is a double-edged sword and it can be challenging yet rewarding. You have to create contacts, raise capital, balance finance to survive, etc. Sometimes you lose a deal not because you are not capable enough, but because [someone else] has good references.
What is your typical day at work like?
I don’t really think there’s a ‘typical’ day. You’re always putting out fires. Hopefully you’re having fun, but you’re also under stress. You’re doing a hundred different things. You’re wearing all these different hats. It’s exciting. It’s nerve-wracking. You never know what the next day is going to bring. You’re basically just running from one thing to the next. I know I was working 18 hours a day and Monday through Sunday. I loved every minute of it.
Has success changed the way you work?
When you get rewarded and recognition for the work you do, it always boosts your work style and keeps you going to achieve more.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
(1) Connections count: build your network
(2) Do what you love and know what you want
(3) Take risks, no matter the circumstances, but keep your ears open
QUICK BYTES WITH SNEHA
Your role model
One thing about entrepreneurship you learnt the hard way
You can’t do everything on your own. Get the right people with the right talent for the best deliverables on the particular segment.
If your employees were to describe you as a boss, what would they say?
Let’s read the words written by one of my employees: “A person who cares for her employees no less than her cl ients.”
Your success mantra
Keep running until your goal is achieved, no matter how long it takes.
How you de-stress
By spending quality time with family and friends.
Volume 3 Issue 9