Tookitaki Co-founder and COO Jeeta Bandopadhyay was named among the Singapore 100 Women in Tech (SG100WIT) List in September 2020. A collaboration between the Singapore Computer Society (SCS), IMDA, SG Women in Tech and Mediacorp, the inaugural SG100WIT List recognises the contributions of women in the tech sector.
In an interview with CNA 938 radio recently together with Sharon Teo, co-founder and managing director of Inspire-Tech Pte Ltd, Jeeta shared more around her journey, entrepreneurial ambitions for Tookitaki as well as destigmatising that not all startup founders need to be technologists.
Here are the excerpts from the interview.
Q: With a background in marketing and communications, how did you develop those tech skills to cofound a tech company that raised more than $19 million in funding last year?
Jeeta: After completing my masters’ programme in literature and post-graduation in marketing and communications, I was into my dream job with one of the largest media conglomerates in India. As part of my job, I developed a strong fondness for the startup ecosystem. Then I met my business partner, Abhishek Chatterjee, the Founder & CEO of Tookitaki, who inspired me and helped me erase a large set of doubts I had to pursue entrepreneurship. I decided to get in and make a meaningful impact in the world of financial services. I was doing an AI startup with no technical background but I started with the role of a business enabler where I had to wear different hats to ensure that business continues to grow, engage and retain clients, enable marketing initiatives, and enable a culture of continuous learning within the people who believed in Tookitaki and joined us.
Over the years, I learned the fundamentals of AI, machine learning and Big Data to merge the business with the product needs. Today, I lead product design at Tookitaki building the most sophisticated software to fight money laundering. Right now, I am in total sync with my colleagues and have grown up to understand their language.
Q: It sounds like you don’t really need technical skills to have a successful startup. What do you say about the skills you do need?
Jeeta: Your mindset and willingness to learn is more important. Brian Chesky of Airbnb came from an industrial designing background, Ben Silbermann from Pinterest came from an educational background in political science. One needs to have a risk-taking mindset to make those company-defining business decisions. Ultimately those decisions are what determines the impact of your value proposition. You might have the greatest plan in mind, but you always fall to the level of your decision-making. You need to have the conviction to make those business-critical decisions. My conviction comes from first principles thinking, for which your background doesn’t matter. I continue to learn and read up on the industry, strengthen my fundamentals and always believe in first principles thinking and that the process of learning is life-long.
Q: What advice would you have for people who want to find their own startup, but do not have the IT skills?
Jeeta: Building a company requires great dedication and a lot of time. Here, business becomes your personal matter. Take your time to research the market need problem and what to solve. Much later, we can think of how best to solve it because having a product-market fit early on is key to success. If you are a non-technical person trying to create a tech business, understand your role, know your strengths and weaknesses. You can lead a tech team if you are willing to spend time and energy to learn the basics, and understand a developer’s mindset, find the right set of people to work with, remain resilient and never ever lose your passion and zeal. Always explore opportunities to upskill and right-skill to stay relevant and competitive.
Q: How do you feel about being in the inaugural Singapore 100 Women in Tech List? How can this be an inspiration to encourage women to join the tech sector?
Jeeta: I am honoured to be part of this group; along with other outstanding women in the field of technology who have made an indelible impression and impact on business, the economy and the wider society. Being in the company of these illustrious achievers inspires me to aim higher and dream bigger as an entrepreneur. From a women empowerment perspective, I am a strong supporter of women empowerment initiatives and a strong advocate of enhanced professional opportunities for women. I hope that this platform inspires women to take risks and to achieve more.
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