Taking the Road Less Travelled when on a Safe Path
I was part of the first generation to come of age when India was experiencing massive economic liberalization, which was then followed by a tech boom. Fortunes changed for many, and middle-class life expanded to afford more luxuries than ever before seen in India. More importantly, there was hope for many to overcome poverty and to step up the economic ladder to better their lives.
Seeing early on that money can make or break dreams, I was motivated to pursue a career in finance and studied to become a Chartered Accountant (CA). I saw many people whom my father, a career banker, wished to help but couldn’t due to stringent banking restrictions. This stayed with me as access to finance and personal financial freedom should be for everyone. Therefore, I wanted to play my part in helping others achieve their dreams as we entered a new millennium.
This strong conviction to find a way to help others via my profession eventually led me to Kinara Capital where we drive financial inclusion of small business entrepreneurs. As a CFO of a fintech and an RBI registered company, I bear immense responsibility today. I didn’t intend to crack the glass ceiling this early on in my career but women leaders like Kinara’s Founder Hardika Shah are paving the way and creating that opportunity for others like me. And this has inspired me to mentor and uplift many up-and-coming women professionals too and will always make time to help others.
Below, I share some insights from different experiences in my life that have moulded me to reach a point where I could confidently take on a leadership role. I hope sharing this will give younger women professionals a boost to carry big dreams and ambitions of their own.
1. Learn from your Surroundings
I was born into a traditional middle-class Tamilian family, but my formative years gave me exposure to the full spectrum of India. While everyone has heard of army brats, I was a ‘banker brat’ and was lucky to have lived in different parts of India during my formative years. We moved around a lot and I ended up going to 7 different schools. This experience gave me the lifelong ability to easily engage with anyone regardless of their background, and look at everything in life from a myriad of perspectives.
2. Observe your World beyond the Classroom
In the early 2000s in Mumbai, as a college student, I was fascinated to see that just about all industries were experiencing an unprecedented economic opportunity. Banks were transforming traditional structures, and knowledge about sophisticated financial instruments were trickling into the daily vocabulary of the average Indian. Continuous Learning is the only way to advance and stay sharp. I take time out every week to reorient myself to new industry changes and upskill every chance I get.
3. Chase High-Growth Opportunities and Not the Defined CA Career Graph
As I started my professional career, there were many safe paths to have followed that come with a defined trajectory. The early part of your career is the best time to take chances and risks, yet many play it safe by locking into a job. Choose to become a part of something with high-growth potential even if you don’t have all the answers instead of a job that just requires following orders and maintaining something.
4. Consciously Commit to the Tradeoffs
The most basic rule of accounting is that credit and debit must be balanced. In careers (and in life), there will always be tradeoffs. Setting a vision for yourself and prioritizing what truly matters is a needed starting point. Without conscious commitment to the tradeoffs, you will not appreciate your accomplishments nor enjoy them. As a working mother, I doubly assure you that this is a learned skill that is much needed to alleviate guilt and unnecessary stress as you will always be juggling multiple and often conflicting priorities in life.
5. Choose and Nurture Your Tribe
For both professional and personal growth, you need to take the time to build and nurture strong relationships. One way to differentiate yourself from card-collecting networkers is to make time to have meaningful discussions every month with atleast two people in your life. Always offer new learnings and insights of your own in return and offer to help them. Over the years, as you get busy with your career, having a tribe of reliable go-to people will provide you with the support in any area of your life and we all need this to succeed.
Lastly, I would like to say that by choosing a promising career path does not mean you can’t experiment and take chances. The birth of Kinara Capital and our growth itself is a dream come true!
Today, we are a fast-growing fintech and globally recognized as ‘Bank of the Year-Asia’ by IFC/World Bank and ranked #64th by the Financial Times among ‘Top 500 High-Growth Companies in Asia-Pacific.’
We also hold the distinction of being one of the very few to boast a women-majority management team.
And now that Kinara Capital is reaching soonicorn levels, I am immensely proud of what’s possible when you take chances even when it appears not to be the safe path of a chartered accountant.