Starting from Leena Nair to Indra Nooyi, Falguni Nayar, and so on, many Indian women have proven themselves to be exceptional industry leaders. Breaking through the barriers and the questioning glances, that the world seldom hesitates to put forth a woman; these pioneering phenomena have been able to carve their unique identity across the global podium. Sakshi Jawa who is the founder and CEO of startup oi joins the list by the virtue of her coveted achievements and strong industry expertise. Winner of the CMO Asia Women Leader award, Sakshi has lived and worked in Cambodia, Hong Kong, India, Singapore, South Korea, and Vietnam and is equipped with deep and wide industry experience across Technology, Operations, and Financial Services industries. Believing engineering to be a very unique function, Sakshi has come forward with her brainchild startup oi, through which engineers can upscale themselves, find mentors for themselves, be mentors for other people, enhance their interview skills, get exposed to the market around the world and just not around their country. Under the eminent guidance of Sakshi, StartupOi aspires to be a community where engineers can come and build a whole ecosystem for them to grow personally and professionally.
Sakshi engages in an exclusive interaction with the Women Entrepreneur magazine.
How did your entrepreneurial journey begin? What led you towards venturing into a networking platform for engineers on your own?
I never intended to become an entrepreneur and was quite content with my job. But after COVID stuck, the challenges about engineers and the difficulties faced by them while securing the apt tech job, started becoming more obvious. Engineers couldn’t find right jobs and companies cant find engineers. I started feeling that there was a gap. But then again, you can never start a journey unless you have the right people on the path. I was extremely lucky to find Rob Creekmore, an ex-colleague with whom I have worked in Seoul in South Korea and briefly in Vietnam as well. Quite a genius in tech and product management, Rob also really resonated with the idea and after realizing that both of us are on the same page, I started startup oi with Rob as a Co-Founder.
What has been your leadership philosophy or mantra?
My leadership mantra is simple, that is every start-up journey can either succeed or fail, based on the people you have. Whenever anybody goes for a start-up, the idea is always great and it's all about who you bring into the journey to execute that idea. So, I take a lot of time to make sure that we hire the right people, who also believe in our vision. As entrepreneurs, many of us just want more hands to join on this super fast growth journey, so we just want to hire people who have done this in the past and can ge the job done. But, I truly believe that we need the right people with the right mindset who also believe in what we are doing. So, for me, the biggest mantra for either running a business or even leading a team is to hire the right people. “Mindset comes before skillset”.
Throughout your professional journey, what major milestones you have achieved so far? What do you see as immediate challenges?
As a start-up, we have achieved many milestones till now. Within 12 weeks of our journey, we had our MVP. With three engineers as our trailblazers, we were not only able to secure pre-seed funding of $1 million, pretty much within the first three months of our startup but were also able to hire some of the best people available in India, Indonesia and Vietnam. Forging sturdy relationships with about 2500 plus companies in terms of getting the jobs engineers to want, we were able to onboard more than 2,000 engineers on our innovative platform within a month of launch in Vietnam. We've come a long way, from hiring the right people to work with us, to ensuring a healthy database available for the engineers who are our customers and getting the right funding from the right investors who believe in us. We are also launching in India and Indonesia on March ,2022 and kickstarting our journey to get engineers from all over the world on our platform.
“I truly believe that we need the right people with the right mindset who also believe in our vision. "mindset before skillset"”
As for challenges, I do think that we still have a lot of hurdles to pass. Our vision for startup oi is straightforward and definitely fixing a big unmet need in the tech world. What will determine our success is our ability to hire the right people to execute on this vision. That's something I see as a big challenge coming for us and I hope that we can meet everyone's expectation.
How do you keep yourself well aligned with the periodic evolutions occurring within your respective industry and the technology world?
To the extent of how fast the tech world is evolving, I don't think anybody can remain entirely updated. Not being an engineer myself, the best thing I can do is to pick up the areas of interest where I want to go deep. For example, we are going to gamify our platform with blockchain, which is a continuously thriving domain and covers a vast arena of information, I keep myself updated by reading about it, watching YouTube videos, and interacting with people in similar industries, as much as possible. I believe that there should be a balance in how much you can be updated daily basis versus how much time you have. So, I choose my battles wisely.
Sakshi Jawa, Founder & CEO, Startup OI
Sakshi is a seasoned professional with experience working in Asia, Europe, and North America at Amazon, Citibank, Coupang, Prudential Plc, and so on. Her prominent specialties include scaling tech teams for large and small scale companies across the world as well as Talent Management and Engagement, New Country Expansion, Compensation and Benefits.