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Women at the helm of India’s fintech space

This Women’s Day, let’s take a bow to some of the promising female entrepreneurs who are at the forefront of India’s fintech movement.

March 06, 2020 / 09:18 PM IST

Women, across the globe, have been breaking the stereotypes and the ubiquitous glass ceilings to emerge as influential leaders in their respective areas. India’s fintech sector, which is the third largest fintech hub in the world, has seen the rise and growth a number of women leaders in a short span of time.

Even as the debate goes on with respect to the role of women in the Indian economy being marginalised, more women are becoming a part of India's Fintech ecosystem promoting diversity and inclusion.

With India’s fintech sector seeing an exponential growth over the years, the number of startups led and co-founded by women is only increasing.

Here's a list of women pioneers (in no particular order), who are changing the face of India’s Fintech sector:

Upasana Taku, Co-founder, Mobikwik

Upasana Taku and Nipin Preet Singh founded MobiKwik in 2009 as a mobile phone based payment platform and digital wallet. Her strong background in payments came in handy in this venture and she focused on onboarding close to a million retailers on the payments network. An engineering graduate from NIT Jalandhar, Upasana completed her Masters in Management Science from Stanford University. She worked with HSBC in San Diego and with PayPal in the Silicon Valley as senior product manager.

Lizzie Chapman, co-founder, Zest Money

Lizzie Chapman co-founded ZestMoney in 2015 along with Priya Sharma and Ashish Anantharaman as a consumer lending fintech company. The platform caters to around 300 million households in India, who currently have no access to credit cards or any other formal financing options because of insufficient credit history. Lizzie moved to India from UK in 2011 to spearhead the India operations for digital lender She later moved to Development Bank of Singapore, before co-founding Zest Money. A CFA Charterholder and BSc from Edinburgh University, Lizzie started her career at Goldman Sachs in equity research and asset management.

She then became an investor for The Wellcome Trust, one of the world’s largest endowments, focused on financial services and Indian investments. She is an Investment Committee member of the early stage fund India Quotient and sits on the board of IndiaMart - India's leading SME marketplace and classified site.

Meghna Suryakumar, founder & CEO, Crediwatch

This tech-forward company is the brainchild of husband-wife Meghna Suryakumar and Sandeep Anandampillai.

An alumnus of Columbia Law School with a Certificate of Entrepreneurship from Stanford Business School, she earlier had her own international law practice in New York City and India. In 2013, Sandeep and Megha built a tool for the legal community to streamline and manage compliance, which is still used by many lawyers as a revenue model. Her prior experience of finding alternate sources of data to find risk information on M&A targets led her to starting Crediwatch.

At Crediwatch, she seeks to realise her passion for solving large complex problems by using technologies such as AI, ML & NLP to provide a dynamic “Trust Score” on the unbanked SME, an untapped opportunity worth billions of dollars.

Sayali Karanjkar, co-founder, Paysense

Sayali Karanjkar believes that credit should be accessible and available to everyone, especially the people who form the bottom of the economic pyramid. It was this conviction that led her to start Paysense in 2016 along with Prashanth Ranganathan. The company has built proprietary models that use data points to determine creditworthiness, irrespective of a customer’s social status, qualification, gender, or work profile.

This tech bent of mind is a result of her 14-year career in key operational and strategic consultative roles in the US and Singapore in companies including AT&T, AT Kearney and Sun Microsystems. An intrepid entrepreneur, Sayali also co-founded Outsy, a local event curating company and was also the business development lead with Final Mile, a behavioural science firm. An MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, she completed her Masters in Engineering Management from Northwestern University and Bachelors in Computer Science from National University of Singapore.

Hardika Shah, Founder & CEO, Kinara Capital

Hardika Shah founded this social impact company in 2011 to address financial inclusion for small business entrepreneurs in India. Kinara Capital disrupted small business lending in India by providing loans without taking any land or property collateral. Prior to launching Kinara Capital, Hardika spent two decades as a management consultant with Accenture, driving billion-dollar client projects across multiple industries around the globe. She has a decade of involvement in the social entrepreneurship field as a mentor with Santa Clara University, Stanford University, Accenture Development Partnerships, the Acumen Fund and Columbia Business School. An MBA from Columbia Business School and Haas School of Business, she completed her B.A. in Computer Science from Knox College in Illinois.

Priyanka Kanwar, Co-founder and CEO at Kite

Passionate about helping people from all backgrounds access modern finance, Priyanka launched Kite in 2017 to empower businesses and their workforce with innovative and low-cost payments, credit, and financial services. With a vast experience in finance and technology, Priyanka has been recognized as one of India's top 5 women in Fintech. The idea for Kite first came to Priyanka at age 17, while shooting a documentary film on the plight of microfinance borrowers in India and globally. Subsequently, at Yale, as Tobin Research Fellow at the Department of Economics, she continued conducting development research on the sustainable delivery of financial services in Honduras, Mexico, Uganda, Bangladesh, and India. Her thesis was among the first studies of the impact of the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) system on service delivery in India.

She has previously worked at HSBC and Accenture and also founded a not-for-profit Global Undergraduate Economic Forum (GUEF) with support from the World Economic Forum and the Abraaj Group.

Saru Tumuluri, CEO, Khosla Labs

With over two decades of experience in entrepreneurship in India and the United States, Saru is focused on bringing new technology-driven opportunities to entrepreneurs, with an aim to solve large-scale problems through their businesses.

Having received her B.Tech degree from Gujarat University, Saru went on to pursue the Management Programme for Women Entrepreneurs at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. She began her professional journey in San Jose, California as a Software Engineer with CyberBills, a payment startup which was later acquired by a bank, post which she started her own talent acquisition company, RightCareerMove.. RightCareerMove was focused on credentialing and placing of registered healthcare professionals at various international hospitals.

Saru envisions Veri5Digital as the largest private identity player in India, with services spanning all Tiers of India’s population.

Mabel Chacko, Co-Founder and COO, Open Financial Technologies

A serial entrepreneur with 13 years of experience in the financial technology space, Mabel Chacko co-founded Open, Asia's first neo-banking platform for SMEs and Startups, along with three others in 2017.  Previously she was the Head of Marketing & Growth at PayU and Citrus Payment Solutions.

Passionate about start-ups & entrepreneurship, Mabel has co-founded many startups, including the mobile payment startups Neartivity Wireless & Cashnxt to become the ‘Top 75 startups in India to bet on' by Dare Magazine (2010 ) and 'Top 10 Product Technology startups in India' at Headstart 2009.

Mabel is also the recipient of ‘Woman Leader in Fintech’ award at the India Fintech Awards 2019 (IFTA) organised by the National Payments Corporation of India (NCPI) and the Fintech Forum for her contributions to the fintech space.

Sucharita Mukherjee, Co-founder & CEO, Kaleidofin

Sucharita, who is passionate about access to financial services for all, and one who believes in “finance for freedom”, co-founded Kaleidofin in 2017 in Chennai. As the former CEO of IFMR Holdings, she had also conceptualized and set up IFMR Capital, building capital markets access for financial inclusion and IFMR Investments, an alternatives fund management platform focused on informal sector finance.

Named amongst India’s top 20 fintech change makers in 2017, she is also the recipient of IIM Ahmedabad, Young Alumni Achievers Award, 2017. An MBA from IIM, Ahmedabad, she completed BA (Econ) from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University. She led the origination and structuring effort in credit derivatives for corporates at Morgan Stanley in London and was also part of the credit derivatives team at Deutsche Bank in London.

Chitra Chidanand, Co-founder, Simpl

Chaitra Chidanand had a keen interest in payments, and it was the topic of her dissertation at Stanford. After a brief stint in Japan, she worked with various companies in Silicon Valley. There she was introduced to Nityanand Sharma. After hashing out their first product idea, she decided to take the plunge and move back to India to start Simpl in 2015 along with Sharma.

Simpl is a technology company that works with merchants and financial institutions to enable a world where every monetary interaction is effortless and transparent. The mantra of Simpl is 'Making money simple'. With an MBA from Stanford University Graduate School of Business, Chitra has done her BE from Visvesvaraya Technological University (VTU).

Swati Bhargava, co-founder, CashKaro

Swati Bhargava is the Co-founder of India’s largest Cashback & Coupons site. She was recognized as amongst top 10 women entrepreneurs in India, by and is also a Social Media influencer. She also made it to the Fortune 40 under 40 list in June 2019.

Swati is an alumnus of the London School of Economics and has worked at Goldman Sachs in London for 5 years before starting UK Cashback business Pouring Pounds along with her husband & Co-Founder, Rohan.

She has also represented India at the coveted Blackbox Connect – Female Founders Edition - powered by Google in Silicon Valley, California and is an active keynote speaker in India and internationally.

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first published: Mar 6, 2020 09:18 pm