Jeeva Global is a social enterprise to accelerate livelihoods through portable affordable energy access using lithium-ion battery technology.
I founded this company in response to support the most deprived segment micro and nano entrepreneurs who have been deprived of government support and livelihoods due to COVID
What is your background? What made you decide to get involved in supporting entrepreneurs?
I have a diverse profile spanning over a decade across multi nationals, government and social enterprises. The current COVID crisis has hit the micro entrepreneurs the most, with little to no avenues to sustain in times of uncertainty.
I realised the privilege I have studying here at Oxford while millions back in India are struggling for their daily survival. I felt the urge to take action. I leveraged my background in technology and public policy and vast experience working with the underprivileged sections of the society to start this company.
What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
In my experience, businesses have a huge potential to facilitate lasting change. Entrepreneurs are catalysts of this social change through profitable ventures.
How and when did you know your idea was good enough to develop it?
My most recent work with Wadhwani foundation on MSME sector helped me realise that micro & nano entrepreneurs constitute more than 95% of the total businesses in India and there is a huge gap in customer access and support for this particular section.
I was conducting a market research on cycle rickshaw pullers to help a company estimate the market potential for electric vehicles in India. I reached out to this company to purpose design a product to cater to the requirements of nano entrepreneurs, specially pushcart owners.
What would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
The three skills that an entrepreneur needs to be successful are empathy, tenacity and resilience.
Resilience enables an entrepreneur to reinvent the business to stay relevant in changing market dynamics and scale the business while tenacity allows him/her to navigate the highs & lows of business cycles. Empathy fosters strong connections with stakeholders.
What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
The opportunity to solve social problems profitably.
What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?
Dr Sunitha Krishnan, Chairperson of Prajwala. Being a gang rape survivor herself, she has created the largest rehabilitation shelter for victims of sex crime and trafficking; skilling and employing over 20,000 such young girls and women in the last two decades. Her work has been globally recognised with Franco-German human rights award, Tallberg award, Vital voices and most importantly the highest civilian award – Padmashri, by the government of India.
If you had 5 minutes with the above individual/ company/organization, what would you want to ask or discuss?
I have had the privilege of working with her. She is my inspiration.
What has been your most satisfying or successful moment in business?
When I reached out for the product design to our manufacturing partner, I had only the pushcart vendors in mind. Now that the product is ready, I can see its potential utility scale beyond pushcart vendors to providing energy access to mobile hospitals, small businesses, powering small lights in schools. The possibility of endless use cases of the product is immensely satisfying..
What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as an entrepreneur?
My product is currently piloting in Varanasi. I will incorporate the output of the pilot study and ensure the hiccups are addressed before scaling up the product reach to a mass scale.
How have you funded your ideas?
Presently in pilot stage and self-funded.
Are there any sector-specific awards/grants/competitions that have helped you?
What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? Bad?
Access to network of likeminded individuals, domain specialists, the entire eco-system of social enterprise and changemakers.
If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship resources, where would you send them?
I would absolutely direct them to the Oxford Foundry which is a haven for entrepreneurs. I will also recommend the book Self Made by Bianca Miller-Cole. If the organisation is social enterprise, then Chris Blues is the go-to person!
Have you faced any challenges as a woman entrepreneur? If so, how have you overcome them?
What resources would you recommend for other women?
How could institutions such as the University of Oxford better support women entrepreneurs?
Do you have any advice specifically for other women who want to be entrepreneurs?
Any last words of advice?
Be the change you want to see