A Super-Intuitive Solution
Natasha Jethanandani, CTO, Kaleidofin, talks about her organisation in this interaction with us. Kaleidofin is a wealth-tech start-up that offers simple, well designed financial solutions to address the needs of the 600 million Indians. She handles an efficient IT backend for her company by constantly drawing inspiration from the road blocks that her users experience. She built an app that was compatible with multiple devices and operating systems, accessible at low internet speeds, available in regional languages, and conducted multiplelevel checks to avoid over-selling
HOW CAN MORE WOMEN JOIN THE PRIVATE SECTOR?
If we look at leaders such as Roshni Nadar Malhotra, CEO & Executive Director, HCL Corporation and Vanitha Narayanan MD, IBM, one would tend to disagree that women are not represented in the Indian tech industry. There are other industry reports that point towards the changing trend where more women are taking on leadership positions in the tech industry in India. For instance, according to forecast made in the Women and IT Scorecard launched by NASSCOM, half of firms will have over 20% women in the C-suite level and increasing numbers of women at the senior level.
That said, it remains a reality that many women feel compelled to exit the work force at critical points in their career, predominantly to provide childcare. Organisations that prioritise gender parity can do a lot to stem this. HR policies are being adopted in many Tech organisations to ensure a more diverse culture. Options such as flexi-work, work-from-home, parental leave, anti-harassment etc. are just a few examples of the changes that corporates are adopting to make workplaces inclusive and diverse. These need to become the norm and be adopted across industries. CAN WE EXPECT MORE WOMEN TECH LEADERS FROM INDUS TRY LIKE FINTECH, AUTOMOBILE, MANUFACTURING ETC? The sectors mentioned above are increasingly adopting advanced technology such as AI, ML, cloud computing to create speed, precision and cost effectiveness. Manufacturing industries for example use predictive data analysis to reduce their investment in stock products. Similarly, at Kaleidofin we have been able to bring down the distribution cost of our financial services by using an integrated tech platform. This enables us to provide financial services, irrespective of the quantum being saved. With an overall increase in demand for technology professionals in these sectors, we will perhaps also see a more balanced representation of women. WHAT ARE THE KEY INNOVATIONS THAT YOU BOUGHT ABOUT AFTER BECOMING A CTO?
Like in any other fintech company, technology takes the centre stage and plays a strategic role. Our focus has been to use technology platforms and tools to bring Kaleidofin to the doorstep of the customer in a super intuitive and easy-to-use manner. The tech team interacts constantly with the sales and marketing team of Kaleidofin as well as the customers to understand the needs and concerns of the last-mile customers and innovate on existing systems and processes. For example, for an agent working in areas with low internet connectivity or on lower end smartphones, the ease of completing onboarding formalities on the app is vital. Uploading a KYC document or picture is time consuming for agents in a low connectivity zone. We recently introduced a partially offline mode, wherein the agent verifies documents real time and uploads them offline which is later saved into the system as soon as the agent finds better connectivity. HOW DO YOU SEE THE RECEPTION FOR MORE WOMEN TECH LEADERS?
In recent years, women have been making their presence felt in STEM. 34% of India’s IT-BPM (Information Technology- Business Process Management), industry that employs 3.97 million people, now comprises women. This is a significant increase from 28% in 2016. This trend should continue into related sectors such as Core Technology as well.
I would like to attribute these changes to three fundamental changes that the role of CTO has undergone – a) The CTO role is now strategic in nature
A majority of successful online players in India today have a mobile-first approach and use technology to create key differentiators. Traditional sectors like manufacturing are also adopting tech for business benefits such as better customer engagement and reducing cost. The CTO role has thus changed from an earlier perceived ‘support’ role to a mainstream function. This combined with the emphasis on diversity, across sectors, should lead to more women taking a lead in many organisations. b) People management is the key
The tech team of organisations are increasingly integrated with the other business units and teams of the organization. This results in a need for a diverse talent pool within the technology team as well. With large tech teams becoming a common phenomenon, people management and multi-tasking are important traits to have for a CTO/CIO. Women often credited for being better multi-taskers have an upper-hand in managing the CTO’s role. c) Empathy and understanding customers are the key
Like at Kaleidofin, customer experience and ease of use is now the focal point for most technology teams. Backend integration and functionalities are tuned in to support the adoptability and usability of end-users. Better understanding of customer’s behavior and a problem-solving approach are imperative for CTOs. The interviewer is a Contributing Columnist with DQ Channels