Sharma, who claims to be the first Indian woman entrepreneur in the ICT space, after handling an array of telecom projects for last 12 years, started off her own venture VNOW Technologies, which is into manufacturing of smart wearables.
But she recollects that it was not an easy journey as Sharma used to face queer attitude of people when she embarked into this business of smart devices. “People used to think that how she will deal with business of this kind, a lady always has her own commitments at home. But a woman should empower herself and should take the plunge and get going,” she says. The road to be an entrepreneur was not at all rosy for Sharma, who belongs to Kota in Rajasthan and was bounded by societal taboos. But she was determined to carve her career in the ICT space and worked on technology, search and business advisory services for telecom and IT organizations.
She also supported device manufacturers for market expansion and helped a Russian telecom MNC for setting up its operation in Bangladesh and Afghanistan. She was also associated with Tata Teleservices and Vodafone and handled projects in these companies, which infused confidence in her to start her own venture.
“Entrepreneurship in itself is a very difficult task; you need to be extremely passionate, gutful, adventurous and optimistic and coming to this ICT space, how many women entrepreneurs you see in any technology event? I guess there is a huge gender disparity in this vertical today.”
Sharma attends almost all tech events across the globe and is also an eminent speaker in some of the events and aims to bridge the gender disparity found in the industry. She also feels that funding is also a very big challenge for a woman entrepreneur and going by investors’ portfolio they hardly invest in companies headed by women.
“If you see investors’ portfolios, they merely invest in companies run by female entrepreneurs, I guess only 4-8% are interested to invest in such companies and it’s just because we ourselves do not sound that confident. If you are an entrepreneur and especially if you are a woman then you have to pave your way differently from others. You just forget the fancy policies and dreamy support by people, government or investors.”
VNOW is a self-funded company which started off with an investment of Rs 5 crore last year but now it is targeting to be a Rs 120 crore company by this year only. It has two offices, one in Gurgaon and one in Singapore and is also establishing its office in Dubai.
“I’m the first Indian woman into mobile and telecom industry, and among first five in the world but when I started I didn’t get a single support from anyone except motivation from family and some friends. But now things are a bit different. You will be taken lightly until you don’t show something promising. You should be prepared to face challenges, darer than you ever thought of.”
Hectic, exhausting or whatever may be but you have to live with your job. One morning you are standing at government office to get the certifications or licence, in the noon you are mentoring team and executing plans, in the evening attending CXO roundtables or catching up with clients and at times, may be sitting late at night to get the work right.
“You have to prepare to put 15- 18 hours a day on work. You have to be strong hearted, risk taker, 10 times better prepared than men and above all leave everything behind to position yourself in this industry.”
VNOW has already established business in the US, Canada and Middle East market and will launch its products in India, SEA and Africa by the first quarter of 2016.
When asked that what was the idea behind smartwearables? She says after smartphones, it would be the era of smart wearables and they will take the centerstage, so it is very important to be futuristic and focus on the upcoming trend in the market.
“There were 109 million wearables globally in 2014, a number that is expected to grow 432% to 578 million by 2019. Notably, this five-fold growth will be evenly distributed and subsequently maintain market share across regions,” she adds quoting a study.
She adds that the smartwatch market will grow at a 25% compound annual rate between 2015 and 2020 and they will account for 52% of total wearables market shipments in 2020, up from an estimated 47% share in 2015 and a 43% share in 2014.
In India, the smart wearables space is yet to gain momentum but Sharma believes that a country like India will see a surge in wearables in the coming days, once people understand the smart features they can offer.
In the coming years, we will see one out of 20 people going for smart devices and it is set to become a booming market. In its portfolio, VNOW has got smart watches, fitness bands, kids safety watches, smart glass and smart bulb. These products are designed by VNOW in India and Singapore and assembled in China and Taiwan. The company is also planning to set up its manufacturing unit in India by 2017 in lines with the government’s “Make in India” initiative and would also like to open own app store and software segment by end of 2016 which is primarily for wearable devices.
The Change Agent
Sharma wants to bring change in the world by bringing technology innovation that can help people and planet in all possible ways.
She says that when you think of following your passion be fearless, be ready to face difficulties and unexpected challenges, be ready to be called crazy, be ready to fall, be ready for that excruciating pain. Once you learn this, once you start living the purpose of your life, you get to see opportunities in every struggle and you certainly go to achieve what you desire.
Having over six years of experience in business journalism, Krishna has a knack for writing on telecom and IT. She believes that tryst with technology is the best thing that has ever happened to the mankind. Krishna is a telecom analyst with CMR