As founder of Vu Technologies, Devita Saraf has a lot of fun breaking the rules. Here's the young entrepreneur's best advice for modern women looking to set up a multi-crore business.
Growing up, I always knew that I wanted to be a leader or businesswoman. I was extroverted and expressive, and enjoyed having a variety of extracurriculars rather than hiding behind a pile of books. Beneath white canvas school shoes, I always wore red nail polish on my toes. I even had a rebellious bob that was not very popular with the school authorities — the principal once called up my parents to punish me for colouring my hair.
Coming from a predominantly business-oriented family, I have grown up surrounded by incredibly intellectual and entrepreneurial people. But I happen to be the first woman in the family to start a company on her own. Vu Technologies is currently are a Rs 750 core company, so I think I've done decently well. Despite that, many of the challenges I face today are the same as what I faced when I was starting out.
You have to spend the first 10 minutes of every meeting establishing yourself as the decision maker, while people are waiting for an imaginary old white male boss to walk in. Being young and feminine doesn’t fit into the stereotypical image of a technology entrepreneur, but that's what makes success so much sweeter as you are paving the path for so many smart and talented girls after you.
My vision for being a lady boss has been shaped around my business, literally. I started a company known for sophistication, quality, innovation and trust, and these are traits I value in people and myself. The product and company are an extension of my personality, which is why I decided to start modelling for it, a decade after founding Vu.
When I featured in the first newspaper ad for Vu's Iconium TV two years ago, the international edition of Forbes magazine carried an article with the title 'India's Devita Saraf Steps Out To Become A 'Model' CEO'. It was that surprising to see a young woman in a pink Ted Baker skater dress as the founder of a nationally-known television company. Unfortunately, this is what the general perception is. If we were to pick up any issue of any business magazine, the power women or women business leaders are either portrayed as man-eaters in pant suits or motherly in traditional attire. For me, to be successful is being true to myself and my persona. Young women today enjoy dressing and experimenting, and it is unfair to underestimate them or pass them off as dumb because of their sartorial choices.
I always joke that I make money in the tech industry and spend it in the fashion industry. Fashion and tech has always been my interest, and I am equally knowledgeable about brands and trends in both these domains. The 21st century woman needs role models who are ultra-feminine, intelligent and full of pleasant surprises.
At times, women set barriers for themselves or they're often waiting for a mentor or a manager to help them fulfil their dreams. Many a time, they pass on these opportunities to their spouses or children. If it's your dream, it's important to keep up the belief in yourself. Grab it and make it happen yourself.
Devita Saraf's 5 point plan for becoming a young female entrepreneur
1. Find a gap in the market and a market in the gap. Luxury in technology was an oxymoron when I started out, but today Vu is defining this equation.
2. Join the family trade if you can. Anyone can do with a ready platform and funding, even if it means starting off by listening to the elders in the family. Always remember that you can buy out your shares when it is profitable.
3. Have your own sense of style. You can't make a million bucks without looking and feeling like a million bucks.
4. Try setting out on your own; maybe without a business partner. The thought of setting out by yourself can be scary and terrifying; but the freedom to make your own decisions without a fall back is dangerously fun.
5. Attend as many events on business as you can in your early years. It's all about knowledge and networking in business 2.0.