Indian venture fund Kalaari Capital’s Vani Kola about women entrepreneurs, leadership and the qualities that goes into making a good leader.
Each role has its own demands
Vani said, "Every role is demanding in different ways. And how it is demanding, it’s demanding because you are also going through a learning curve all the time. The responsibilities on me as an entrepreneur were different than the responsibility as an investor. And that’s a part of our life, we are continuously learning and growing, and that’s how I look at it."
"I don’t look at it as this has been more demanding than something else, I look at it as this -- when you are high school that feels demanding, when you are in college that feels demanding, for that that time it was demanding. So each time, each role has its own demands and you have to rise up to the demands of that particular role," quipped Vani.
Being a woman investor is not any different
Being a woman investor is not any different, Vani said." I think the mindset is important. I think if you make something in your mind very difficult, then your probability to succeed, you yourself create a negative impact on that. You need to start with a notion that it is not very different and I can make it happen," she said.
In general women are more accommodating
"Of course, there are challenges for a woman. Your peak career and your family demands they all intercede at the same point, which is not necessarily for men. I was at a TED conference last week and I was having lunch and this person sitting next to me started talking to me and he said, you have come alone with your husband? And I said ya! Most of the guys have come alone to the conference without their wives and nobody asks that question," Vani said.
"I think in general women are more accommodating, less conflict prone and they try to find solutions. And sometimes it’s good and sometimes that might be viewed as a weakness, that might be taken advantage of, the credit that is due to you might not be given," she added.
"Like for example, I don’t go around saying I am the founder of Indo-US, I am the founder of Kalaari, but in the world there is a lot of self promotion and self-marketing. All of that doesn’t really matter if you perform. So at the end of the day, we have to focus on what is our strength and we have to perform. If you keep doing that, the rest sorts itself out," she said.
Women entrepreneurs don’t need a quota
"When a startup comes to me, it’s a startup. I am not negative about investing in a women’s startup, you have to be neutral. Why should I be pro, why should be negative. And I don’t think as a woman anybody is expecting a special quota. Why do we need quota? we don’t need any special quota. I think if we are good enough at least don’t be unfair with me. Nobody is asking for special treatment," said Vani.
Our investment style is “Founder first”
"There are sectors that we are constantly thinking about but also a lot is dependent on the entrepreneurs we end up meeting. Because I might have a viewpoint on a certain sector but if I don’t meet the right entrepreneur in it, I am not in it."
"So our investment style is the founder first. The qualities of an entrepreneur are written at different places. It’s your judgement of it that makes a difference. We are looking for somebody who is a clear thinker, we are looking for someone who has thought about a particular problem and has a lot of deep insight about that problem, a differentiated insight about that problem," said Vani.
"He should have natural leadership qualities, because they have to build a team. Someone who is mature because as you build businesses, there are disagreements, there are conflicts, all of which are a natural process of the business. You need a lot of maturity as to when to listen, when to say no I am going to do this way and without maturity you could kill the company."
Even a good product, a good idea can be killed if you don’t have the right maturity of how you deal with people.
Age not a factor for good entrepreneurial qualities
Vani said, "I think it’s a question of what things they have done in the past, it’s about their natural DNA and approach to things, that’s why I look at what are the things you’ve done that show that you know how to be a leader. Let’s say you ran you’re a large cultural fest in your college, doesn’t happen automatically, you have to resolve issues, you have resolve conflicts".
"So I don’t it’s about 24 years, I think it’s about personalities and about being self aware. I tell my children that I grew up in a very large, extended family. From childhood you had to learn how to do conflict management and how to accommodate and get other people to see your point of view. These are all skills and they translate into how you grow as a leader," said Vani.
"I think in the context to do a start-up, there is a vibrant, infectious and fantastic energy in being an entrepreneur today. But you also need to be audacious and say I want to disrupt something big. You also need to have the tenacity to really execute."
"Those are things that are really burgeoning in India and are not really proven. So you need to have that sort of angular personality, approach and mindset and say next 15 years I am going to spend, whatever it takes but I want to be a disruptor," said Vani.