TechThirsty.com talks to XLPAT Founder Komal Sharma Talwar about her journey as a tech entrepreneur and a girl boss from Chandigarh to San Francisco.
It’s no secret that the tech world predominantly comprises men. They are calling the shots, taking the better positions and even innovating a lot more than the women workforce. Part of the problem is that girls are traditionally brought up to be more inclined towards subjects that people believe will be conducive to their lifestyle as they grow up.
Luckily, things are changing. Women are taking on the world of technology more than ever. IP tech firm XLPAT Founder Komal Sharma Talwar has not only shown the path to many young girls but also pioneered a disruptive technology that applies AI and other technologies to democratise innovation for corporations, researchers and innovators globally. The technology is also meant to help them to monetise their patents.
Our mission is to help each person in every country to be able to convert ideas to innovation and innovation to IP. The company has done it successfully with their global offices in Washington DC, Sunnyvale, Japan, Taiwan and Hyderabad. The company is also qualified as a Great Place to Work.
Komal started out with a basement office and one employee with seed money that shies your dinner tonight – only Rs. 1,600. Today, the company has 200 professionals, comprising engineers, lawyers and MBAs.
The company today boasts of a deep and intelligent patent/technology search and analytics tool that meets global criterion. She’s an inspiration for many women who are wary of taking the lead in a fast-growing and competitive tech environment. Komal Talwar runs a tech company that works on using cutting-edge technology to make innovation and IP more accessible.
Komal has received several accolades as a woman entrepreneur. She was Woman Entrepreneur of the year 2010 by STPI (Software Technology Parks of India), TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) Stree Shakti Emerging Woman Entrepreneur of the Year – 2011 presented by Ms. Chandra Kochar in Mumbai, and Small Scale Industry of the Year 2012 at the Emerging India Awards organized by CNBC TV-18 and ICICI Bank in Mumbai.
Vaishnavi Sood chats with XLPAT Founder Komal Sharma Talwar
How is the journey of a tech entrepreneur different/more difficult for women?
Technology is a great enabler and does not discriminate between a woman and a man entrepreneur. However, some challenges specific to women remain.
- Women entrepreneurs have dual responsibilities to their businesses and to their families; finding ways to devote time to both is key to truly achieving that elusive work-life balance which is a constant struggle that I face is almost impossible without solid family support.
- Not all founders look for investors to help get their businesses off the ground or scale them up, but those who do know how difficult the pitching process can be. Raising capital is even more difficult for women-owned technology firms.
- Networking and extensive travelling is required to run a global technology company which could be a challenge for women.
What do you think is the most important habit women need to succeed in the tech business?
Passion & Courage: It’s easy to feel passionate and excited about your business when you’re just getting started but this feeling has to be persistent throughout the journey.
Perseverance: After every knock-back and every failure, one has to pick oneself up, dust oneself off, and see what one can learn from the experience.
Empathy & Product-Market Fit: Whatever product you may be offering, it is vital to really understand your clients and what is the problem that you are solving. The larger the problem and more global it is that you are solving the more the potential success of the business.
How important do you think is family support in the journey of a woman entrepreneur?
We would rather underestimate it if we classify it as just important. According to me, it is one of the most essential ingredients in the recipe of success for a woman entrepreneur. What and how society thinks and responds becomes of little value if your family is supportive of your endeavours. I have been blessed to have an extremely supportive spouse and family.
What were the major challenges you faced in your journey as a woman tech entrepreneur? And what kept you going?
I have never thought of the challenges of entrepreneurship from a woman’s perspective specifically. In-fact I genuinely feel that technology is a great enabler/leveler and can make the gender gap less. With the availability of so many options for online marketing/internet and the advent of cloud technologies, the world can be your market at the click of a button if you have a disruptive product or technology. If you have a good product/service and it has a market fit, we are living in a time when selling it has never been easier.
You have inspired an entire generation of women entrepreneurs to venture into technology. Who was your inspiration when you started?
I started my first company (IP services company TT Consultants) in my final year of college. I took a risk at a young age without thinking too much of what I was venturing into. There was no immediate inspiration. Just a desire to succeed and start an online niche business that I could take to the international level. Being an early entrant into a market is always an advantage. Constant innovation in your space keeps you ahead of your competition always.
TT Consultants and XLPAT have been successful in creating a niche market across the globe. What are your future plans?
The segment we are working in has a niche clientele and this space still possesses a lot of unexplored potential waiting to be unearthed. We are constantly innovating and investing in R&D and coming up with AI-based SaaS products that will help in democratizing innovation and help people to monetize their patents globally. All the proprietary technology is being developed in India and is licensed to corporations, universities, and innovators globally.
There are concerns that there are fewer women in leading positions in technology. Do you think it has changed over the years or is it a sphere where we are still lagging behind?
The scenario has no doubt improved as we see many more women entrepreneurs and many women in tech roles however it’s still a long way to go. There are some good initiatives now in that direction like there is a lot more stress being given to STEM education for girls, orienting parents about its importance and the movement of “Women who code” is picking up pace.
Further, it’s as important to make women stay in tech roles and give them full exposure and opportunities at the workplace as just bringing them into tech alone will not solve the problem. Technology is the place for women to be in the future with a huge pipeline of technologists needed globally and some of the highest-paying jobs. We should not miss this wave!
What should companies do to improve gender diversity in tech companies?
With the current scenario, there is not a single shot solution that can improve gender diversity. A multi-faceted approach is needed and should be adopted by not only tech companies but as a society overall to overcome the gender bias barrier.
A major part of this starts right at the education stage. Even today women and girls are not encouraged much for STEM studies. There is an urgent need to expose girls to STEM fields right at an early stage.
Companies can do far more to ensure women in tech are well represented and are able to get adequate visibility and leadership roles. They should have safe and enabling working environments with options like flexible hours and work from home that enables them to resume work after starting families and there should be no unconscious biases during the hiring and day-to-day management.
We are very proud that we have a 30% women workforce at all levels and have been certified as one of the best companies to work by “Great Place to Work”. We have taken many proactive initiatives to hire and retain women.
In this era of AI and automation, what do you think will be the major challenges for women working in the field of technology?
For both men and women, they will need to learn to adapt and learn to work with machines as in the man and the machine complementing each other’s work helping us to become more efficient and not look at the machine/AI as substituting our jobs. Also, we will need to upgrade our technology skills constantly and adapt to newer technologies at a fast pace with rapid developments in the field. We will all have to be lifelong learners.
What would be your suggestion to women who are planning to get into the field of technology?
Have courage, dive in and get going and believe in yourself! Most importantly never stop reinventing yourself as change is the only thing constant in the tech world. Hence learn, adapt and redefine.
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