Digital Lenders Association of India
January 9, 2020
Turning Points that cleared out paths and sharpened my focus
I don’t take the phrase “turning point” lightly for I am all too aware of the weight hidden in these seemingly casual words strung together. Oftentimes it takes more than one incident, one aha moment and one flare of inspiration for a dream/vision/idea to truly come together. There could be multiple “turning points” that clear out the path and sharpen your focus.
I worked in different domains including media, telecom and was even part of the early dotcom tide. But my foraying into payments was certainly the first turning point in my life— for working with a startup fuelled my aspiration to be an entrepreneur. These were early days for the payment industry and newer models were evolving. The areas that were hot at the time were recharge, payment processing and bill payments. The story was just beginning to unfold.
It gave me a first person perspective on emerging technologies and their impact. How they could be woven into solutions and the market landscape. How the challenge ahead was sizeable for any FinTech company— with India being a diverse, large, multilingual country with low penetration of financial services. A FinTech company stood to gain from the untapped potential, but it meant addressing these challenges to build scale. However life had different plans and I would come back to the FinTech drawing board later, as I would soon discover.
The turn towards entrepreneurship
I forayed into the most unexpected area when I ventured into my entrepreneurial journey with Shipra Bhansali; my Co-founder at Eatelish- a food service bringing artisan food makers across India directly to the doors of consumers. Over the last 5 years, the Eatelish team has established a supply chain that enables the sourcing of local food, organization of recipes, alignment of ingredients and doorstep delivery. Today, Eatelish has over 25 suppliers, and is in 21 stores across India. We exited after 7 years; sometime earlier this year.
During our journey of building Eatelish, there were crests and troughs and the one thing that we missed having —was a support system. We missed having an environment that was safe to experiment in and that would open doors for us.
My entrepreneurial journey gave me first hand visibility into the challenge areas and also the constant state of flux of a constantly evolving landscape. Having worked in FinTech had prepared me a little for the challenges and had given me an understanding of the space.
The next chapter
When the time came to ask myself what I wanted to do next, I realized that I wanted to work with early stage startups. I wanted to help them build the product, gain traction, establish company culture and raise funding by establishing a support network that the startups could leverage—and Afthonia was born- an incubator focused on FinTech. There are several key areas we focus on like providing access to capital, knowledge and corporates.
It has been a rewarding and fulfilling journey. In the last six months we have been able to work with really early-stage startups—in fact one of the startups we incubated was at an idea stage and another at prototype. In six months we have been able to get the one at idea stage funded and the other one has launched their service. So, much has to be learned, experienced, and challenged through the several turning points thrown at us as we push forward. And then we get to a successful and satisfying present reality.
I think Rumi encapsulates it perfectly when he says “Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?”