Be assertive — Women are often self-conditioned into a subservient mentality where they constantly go above and beyond to deliver on unrealistic expectations. Assert your role and communicate deadlines or deliverables with realism. Women employees should project timelines to clients and only agree to deliver if requirements are manageable in the stipulated time frame. If not, say ‘No’. It’s better to know your limitations as opposed to being told what they are!
As a part of my series about “Lessons From Inspirational Women in STEM and Tech”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ravina Mutha.
Ravina Mutha is the Co-Founder of Enterprise Bot and heads the company’s business and marketing division. As a passionate entrepreneur, she excels in understanding clients’ needs and providing suitable and high-quality solutions within a limited time. Due to her profound knowledge in the tech field and charismatic personality, Ravina has succeeded in signing multiple contracts for the company. She draws her experience from founding and leading several successful startups in the past, through which she was able to build a strong network of connections. She was featured on the Forbes list of top women-led startups globally by Women Who Tech, Washington and was one of the finalists for the top 10 women-led startups across Europe in 2018.
About Enterprise Bot
Enterprise Bot is advanced communications software that creates AI-powered chatbots, email bots, and voice bots to automate customer interactions and provide enterprises with a readily accessible digital agent. Through Enterprise Bot’s unique technology, the overall customer experience is enhanced, while operational costs can be reduced by up to 40%. It operates as the only plug and play, enterprise-ready solution with omnichannel support. Enterprise Bot currently has 20 clients and employs 50 people between Switzerland and India. The company is on a trajectory to generate €2 million in revenue in 2020, with over €4 million predicted for 2021. Follow Enterprise Bot on Twitter: https://twitter.com/enterprisebot and visit the website: https://enterprisebot.ai/
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
The fascination for advanced technologies and a genuine interest in creating something that helps people more than just being a retrofitted solution without justifiable cause is what initially stoked the flame. As I started learning more about Artificial Intelligence (AI), I immediately knew this was for me. My first venture with Pranay Jain, co-founder of Enterprise Bot, was a B2C Conversational Bot that could be integrated into a P2P Messenger platform like Whatsapp. The application used AI to enhance the overall User Experience (UX) by linking suggestions and shortcuts based on the conversation.
That didn’t go very far, as it started to dawn upon us that people didn’t want an AI intruding into their private conversations. However, our experience in AI helped us pivot quickly and we immediately set out on a mission to build a lean B2B product that provided end-to-end solutions for business intelligence. Like every story, ours started with an idea that lacked a lot of clarity, yet helped us understand where we went wrong and what needs to be done going forward.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
I’m not very confident that this story I’m about to tell you qualifies as interesting, but it surely is intriguing. It happened during the initial days of setting up Enterprise Bot. Pranay and I had just relocated to Switzerland from the United Kingdom and we had both given our passports to receive the Singapore Visa since we were scheduled to meet a potential client over there. Also during that exact time, we hadn’t received our Residence Permits for Switzerland either. Amidst this critical timing, we were asked to meet the senior cadre of Afterpay. They were in the final stages of being onboarded as our first client. However, it was explicitly mentioned that the final formalities could only be completed face-to-face. As the only Co-Founders in the European region, Pranay and I sat up till 4 am one morning contemplating whether or not we should board the flight to Amsterdam without any ID or personal documentation.
After informing a mutual friend of ours in PwC to be ready to bail us out if things were to go south, we embarked on this journey. Surprisingly, we gained a smooth passage into Amsterdam without any hassle, went to the eventful client dinner and secured Afterpay as our first! What intrigues me the most about this entire escapade, was the fact before that incident we were always checked during transits across Europe. Yet for that one exact moment of glory, we were given a lucky break.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I can’t be completely honest with you. Irrespective of the degree of humour that accompanies a slip-up, every mistake has the potential to cost you gravely. A misspelt name in an email or sending client proposals without an attachment might seem funny at the get-go but eventually turns into serious errors. While you may argue that it’s important to not let every transgression affect us, I firmly believe that every ‘funny’ or serious mistake comes with immense potential to learn and improve.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
The diversity amongst us founders is the primary aspect that helps us stand out as an organization. Coming from different backgrounds with individualistic expertise, we’re constantly bringing new ideas to the table. What starts as differences in opinions and objections eventually pans out as an innovative idea that addresses a wider range of requirements. The result of this diversity is also seen in our products. We constantly look to detect new challenges and business gaps, come together to brainstorm and successfully churn out products that cater to diverse client needs.
Some of our current products exist as a testament to our differential mindsets. For the sake of perspective, our hyperautomation tool called Blitzico was created as a result of this very mindset. Sandeep Jayasankar (Enterprise Bot CTO) brought in his technical prowess, Pranay produced strategic foresight and I travelled to Italy to meet a client and understand how such a product could benefit their business. All of these learnings came together to forge a single product.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
What excites us as is our continued progress towards ensuring every product that we create aligns with a client’s Hyperautomation goals. The reason behind referencing Hyperautomation, on the whole, is because we are constantly looking at different ways through which we can automate various functions and processes across an enterprise. Each product is created with a dedicated functionality, to uplift verticals that are struggling with real-time problem resolution.
Apart from that, our virtual assistants can aggregate different customer touchpoints from diverse platforms onto a single-engine to create a customer profile that is unique to an individual’s needs or desires. This form of an omnichannel customer experience is helping organisations retain existing customers as well as engage with them 24/7.
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in STEM? What specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?
It is impossible to ever be content because women feared to stray from their quintessential societal roles till the late 1960s. Up until the great movement, women were kept in the dark. Whilst women have come a long way since the uprising, it is rather unfortunate that the destination to the ‘Promised Land’ still lingers on in the distance. When we were chosen to be a part of the Startupbootcamp FinTech London 2016 initiative, what surprised me the most was the fact that I was the only female Co-Founder amongst the lot. However, I believe we’re on the right path going forward. The level of education available to women across distributed communities has improved significantly. With the change in upbringing, women are also encouraged to pick up STEM courses with zero hesitation.
Even in conservative societies like India, we are moving away from traditional ideologies that focused primarily on educating sons instead of daughters. What changed? Understanding. Parents and educators have realised that women predominantly come with an ‘attention to detail’ skill-set, which has allowed us to excel in the workplace and demand our seat at the decision table. While women are now empowered with the mindset to explore various possibilities, we must never be afraid to fail. Failure is that important step all of us must encounter before tasting success.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women in STEM or Tech that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts? What would you suggest to address this?
It’s next to impossible to generalise such a complex issue because every single woman out there fighting for her place amongst a group of her male peers faces unique challenges and hurdles. However, it all originates from a rather sexist mentality that most people come pre-programmed with. Inappropriate comments, gestures and conversations are all precursors to their core judgements about women in the workplace.
I would start by addressing the issue from a magnanimous position. We need to educate our male counterparts with sensitivities that help create a conducive work environment.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a woman in STEM or Tech. Can you explain what you mean?
Like I mentioned before, women have been constantly discouraged from pursuing core streams and laughed out the door while trying to pursue a career in Tech. The biggest myth for women in my field of work is that Tech requires intrinsic Math and Coding efficiency, which are a man’s strengths, and that women are better off handling the analytical side of things.
This is far from reality. Women are equally, if not more, skilled at core technical capacities. Business leaders need to forge a mentality where they can depend on women to deliver exceptional results in traditional technical roles.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience as a Woman in STEM or Tech” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Be assertive — Women are often self-conditioned into a subservient mentality where they constantly go above and beyond to deliver on unrealistic expectations. Assert your role and communicate deadlines or deliverables with realism. Women employees should project timelines to clients and only agree to deliver if requirements are manageable in the stipulated time frame. If not, say ‘No’. It’s better to know your limitations as opposed to being told what they are!
- Become a good listener — When building products for business excellence, client requirements trump everything else. We need to be able to listen to our customers and market, understand what they need and how your business can help them. Catering to growing enterprise demands helps B2B organizations like us become relevant in the global market. At Enterprise Bot, we built a system that relies on customer feedback and requirements.
- Empathize more — When working across cultures and continents, it’s important to be empathetic and not just rely on impulsivity. We need to be able to look at situations from the opposite perspective to prevent misgivings. For example, I’ll quote an instance from my past. When I was working for this big Fortune 500 firm in Switzerland, a colleague greeted me and another Indian in the room with an over-enthusiastic ‘Namaste’. In any circumstance, such a form of cultural appropriation would be an instant HR write-up. However, we chose to not react. Over time, we came to realize that this rather offensive colleague was a very nice human being who was just trying to fit in. Food for thought.
- Taking care of people around you — This instinct comes naturally to all women and it transcends across boundaries. Even in the workplace, I’ve realized that over time I have become more accustomed to being sympathetic to our colleagues, as compared to my male counterparts. I engage with them 1:1 and try to provide respite to tricky situations that they might find themselves in. Even during these COVID times, every employee feels comfortable to reach out to me as a first approach, because I immediately jump in to help them manage the crisis.
- Encourage growth in others — Coming from the startup background and with our growth from ‘Nothing’ to having all of this success today, it comes naturally to me. I’m always on the lookout to help others achieve their prime potential and excel. I remember an employee who had just started at our organization. She was a strong resource but was shy. She stayed away from being in the spotlight and I encouraged her to just try. Today, she’s an effective and confident employee that doesn’t hesitate for a moment to present her ideas or work. This isn’t just limited to colleagues, but also industry peers. I have always been open to sharing ideas, resources, knowledge with anyone or everyone that needs them.
What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?
To help your team thrive, you’ll have to learn to give your teammates ownership of their work. Delegate tasks to employees without micromanaging them. This was something I was able to pick up from my male Co-Founders because letting go of the reins isn’t something that comes naturally to women. This doesn’t mean we as women need to let go of quality, but rather bring contributing members together to ensure realistic expectations are set from the start.
What advice would you give to other women leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Given the current climate, we are all working remotely with minimal physical interactions. To prevent a form of dissociative or depressive working culture, it is only mandatory that you create a scenario where you’re regularly checking in on employees. Since everything is remote, virtual 1:1 sessions and ice-breakers are important to build a collaborative environment. Communication has become a primary goal for cross-functional success. Also, it helps to be as transparent as possible. This prevents mix-ups and guffaws from taking place.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
A lot of personal and professional victories of mine were enabled by Pranay Jain, my Co-Founder. His strongest personality trait is his ability to instill confidence. I remember when I traveled to attend the Plug n Play event in Germany. I was by myself and had to complete a live demonstration of the Alexa Demo in front of 1,000+ industry leaders and executives. I was nervous. Sweat dripping all over. It was Pranay who put my mind at ease just before the event. He reassured me and told me to never fear failure. With that, I went up on the stage. It was a success, and the subsequent traction we received after that event was career-defining for us all. By urging me to keep pushing forward despite favourable or unfavourable outcomes, I’ve grown into a more confident person that is ready for what the world has to throw at her. So, thank you Pranay.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I have constantly tried to make an effort towards working women in my country, which is India. I look towards sections of society that have women working in the unorganized sector (such as house-help or nannies) and try my best to figure out their degrees of self-confidence, highest educational qualifications and circumstances. I also try my best to make sure they receive fair compensation for their work so that they can lead more fulfilled lives.
Also, all of the women at Enterprise Bot are paid with the same salary scale as that of their male counterparts. There is no room for gender biases when it comes to paying for skills.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
That’s a very complex question. At the very forefront, I would like to initiate a wide-scale ‘Upskilling’ movement amongst women from repressed societies of India. Provide the right infrastructure and tools in place to ensure women from the villages are equipped with skills that allow them to become contributing members to the global or regional economy.
However, in the backdrop, I would love to eliminate the gender bias that is associated with pay scales. Whilst women working blue-collared jobs or technical roles might not complain about the negligent gaps in pay scales, it is very evident in the unorganized sector. Whenever I visit India, what disappoints me is the blatant disparity in pay. Men and Women house-help have the same volume of work that requires identical degrees of exertion. Yet, they are paid less compared to men, which is a possible result of an inherent sexist attitude.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them” — Walt Disney.
Everyone either has a big dream or a list of many smaller dreams. Depending on the magnitude of these dreams, we start prioritizing them. Often, many dreams are thrown out of the window because we believe it is unreachable and that we should be pragmatic in our approach to life. But I beg to differ because if we as women had chosen to accept our fates, we would still be in the kitchen boiling soup for dinner. If you have a dream that inspires you, work towards it against all odds.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Michelle Obama — As a glowing figure in socialism, Michelle Obama was the first woman to embrace her role with utmost gusto. While being the First Lady of the United States of America comes with its perks and limitations, Michelle Obama decided to utilize the power bestowed upon her to help uplift women in the workplace and society. There is so much I would love to hear from her on a private front, so please let me know if we can send out a dinner invitation to her.