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Business News/ News / India/  Women's Day: ‘There is need for female role models in tech-dominated fields’

Women's Day: ‘There is need for female role models in tech-dominated fields’

Schools and colleges must stress the importance of entrepreneurship and, most importantly, the inclusion of women in it, said Puja Srivastava – CTO and Co-Founder of spocto Solutions

Puja Srivastava – CTO and Co-Founder of spocto SolutionsPremium
Puja Srivastava – CTO and Co-Founder of spocto Solutions

Promoting women's participation and representation in entrepreneurship requires a multifaceted approach that addresses systemic barriers, changes people's attitude, and provides support and resources, Puja Srivastava – CTO and Co-Founder of spocto Solutions.

Srivastava, along with her husband, founded spocto in 2017 breaking social barriers and making a mark in a space where we find fewer women.

Spocto is a debt support and risk mitigation platform. It was launched with the vision of making collections, simpler, faster and easier with diginity to the borrower.

On the International Women's Day, she spoke to Mint's Rakshita Madan on challenges that women face to pursue entrepreneurial journey, and what can be done to ease out the issues. Edited excerpts:

1. A recent Nasscom report showed only 18% of Indian startups have at least one woman founder or co-founder. Clearly, we are far behind. How do you think we can change this?

Women, in general, are subjected to many societal barriers right from the schooling age. There are still instances where a woman must settle down for her family's sake and not pursue any career path after graduation. In India, entrepreneurship may be sparkly and appealing in the professional space, but not with families. Most of us, coming from conservative families, either would want our daughters to settle for a salaried 9-5 job or get married and continue their PhDs.

When a learned woman comes out into the light and says she wants to take up the entrepreneurship journey to do what she loves and simultaneously change society, her family labels her as a rebel. So, yes, it starts from home. And for families to be convinced that entrepreneurship for a woman is also a bright path and the need of the hour for nations growth, the education system must implement programs that include both boys and girls to get educated the right way.

Also read: This Women’s Day, let’s aim to adopt some of these investment mantras

Schools and colleges must stress the importance of entrepreneurship and, most importantly, the inclusion of women in it. Additionally, encouraging more women to pursue STEM education and careers can help bridge the gender gap in entrepreneurship. Women entrepreneurs should be provided mentorship and networking opportunities to help them gain the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to succeed, along with financial support, such as loans or grants, etc. Government can also play a crucial role in supporting women entrepreneurs by implementing policies providing them equal opportunities and access to resources. Such policies can include tax incentives, procurement policies, and training programs.

Promoting women's participation and representation in entrepreneurship requires a multifaceted approach that addresses systemic barriers, changes people's attitude, and provides support and resources. Doing so can create a more inclusive and diverse entrepreneurship ecosystem in India.

2. Since you are someone who is in a space where one can find very few women and even fewer at the top, do you think it is the lack of opportunities that has created this divide? Any other reasons why we see fewer women in tech-dominated fields?

Women are generally underrepresented in leadership positions worldwide, including in India. According to a 2021 report by Grant Thornton, Indian women held only 29% of senior management roles. There are ample opportunities out there. But there are even more reasons for a woman to hesitate. Gender stereotypes are one of the classic ones. People associate certain jobs with certain genders backed by no plausible reasons but pure social stigma. Likewise, when it comes to automobiles or technology, it is always attributed to men and not women. Also, the need for visible female role models in tech-dominated fields is important for women to pursue careers in these areas.

According to Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Women now control 32% of the world’s wealth. And it is expected to rise at a compound annual growth rate of 5.7% to USD 97 trillion by 2024. But one must not rest until we can witness a proper balance in opportunities and success.

Overall, addressing the underrepresentation of women in tech-dominated fields requires a concerted effort to address these barriers and create more inclusive environments. Things are changing, but we need a more robust and rapid transformation of such ideas.

3. What are the challenges faced by women entrepreneurs?.

According to the latest available data from the Sixth Economic Census in 2016, women entrepreneurs comprised around 14% of the total entrepreneurship activity in India. However, there has been a surge in the number of women entrepreneurs in India in recent years. According to a report by NASSCOM, the percentage of women-led startups has increased from 8 percent in 2014 to 13 percent in 2019. Still, there is an unmatchable gap due to various reasons.

There are two important aspects to starting your entrepreneurship journey: One is funding, and the other is team-building. Both of which are major challenges for women. They need to be recognized as someone who can manage finances and a team. Women entrepreneurs face several challenges that can hinder their ability to start and grow successful businesses, like Access to funding, creating a work-life balance (as they often have caregiving responsibilities to manage), and so on. Women entrepreneurs must devote significant time and energy to their businesses to constantly prove themselves.

According to The European Investment Bank’s report Funding Women Entrepreneurs, we could see a potential increase of 26% in annual global GDP and USD 160 trillion of human capital wealth by implementing a gender diverse workforce. With more women entrepreneurs, business performance is expected to increase by 15%. Therefore, as a global community, we must help women overcome these challenges.

4. What does spocto Solutions do? What is your expansion plan for next year?

spocto is the world's leading debt support & risk mitigation platform. We enhance collection mechanisms, providing banks and consumers with advanced repayment opportunities through our platform. We are driven by the concept of restoring dignity and respect to the debt collection space. From regional borrowers to top-end banks, we make sure all aspects of debt collection are firm with humanity.

With a solid team and high customer demand, we have already forayed into the UAE, Middle East, and North Africa markets. And in a very short time, we have almost captured 40% of the banks, and have been able to build relationships, have conversations, and sign up with the top five banks in UAE. We are already being sought after by customers from countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and many inbound queries are coming from large banks, even in the US. However, we will remain a company that will create solutions, develop, engineer, make, test, implement, and create value for India first before we impress and serve the world.

5. AI is the new tech trend taking companies by storm. How is that integrated in your model? Do you see any shortcomings to the tech?

We have leveraged multiple technologies for our unique product offerings. We have harnessed the power of AI, ML, NLP, and other new-age technologies to innovate debt collection solutions. Our chatbot ‘Bhaasa’ is powered by AI and uses NLP to hold conversations with borrowers, helping them in the process of loan repayments. The main innovation in Bhaasa is that it can converse in 20+ regional languages and 80+ dialects.

Any technology will have shortcomings since it is man-made, but the possibilities are endless with the right amount of human supervision.

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Published: 08 Mar 2023, 12:51 PM IST
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