Vandhana Parkavi Valaguru: Purpose Driven Leader Creating Purpose Driven Teams

Vandhana Parkavi Valaguru: Purpose Driven Leader Creating Purpose Driven Teams

Vandhana Parkavi Valaguru
Country Head

Entrepreneur and business leader extraordinaire, Vandhana Parkavi Valaguru has charted her successful professional journey driven by this mandate. Placing `togetherness' as her top priority while leading an organization, she truly believes that the power of togetherness can create miracles. Vandhana currently leads the India team at Sezzle, a global fintech company founded in 2016. Listed on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX), the company enables its shoppers to make purchases from its network of merchants and avail the facility of buy now, pay later. Vandhana came on-board Sezzle in 2019 and has since been committed to creating a team that is purpose driven and responsible.

An ingenious engineer with a degree in Electronics & Communication Vandhana was also a part of the prestigious `Women Startup Programme' at IIM, Bangalore. She also brings to the table her diverse experience at Valtech, Bosch and she was also the co-creator of Journee, a transit platform that made public transportation more efficient.

Leveraging the various lessons learnt through her decade long professional journey, Vandhana is at the helm of affairs in leading Sezzle towards democratizing credit for the world's largest democracy. The ingenious leader believes that every Sezzle employee is an entrepreneur and is entrusted with the responsibility of growing the company together.

Vandhana is also passionate about aiding the society, nation and our abode Earth to be better every day and is driven by the urge to bring about a positive change. She strongly believes that entrepreneurship is one of the stepping stones towards bringing solutions for the society that pushes the well-being of all to co-exist on this planet.

In an in-depth interview with the Women Entrepreneur team, Vandhana shares with us her professional journey and the various lessons that she has picked up on the way. Here are choice excerpts from the conversation.

Give Us A Glimpse Of The Various Roles And Responsibilities That Your Current Role As Country Head Entails At Sezzle? As The One Leading The India Team, How Do You Drive Growth Within The Organization?

As the Country Head at Sezzle, my key responsibility is establishing and growing the company's presence in India and at the same time ensuring      stakeholder satisfaction. For us, everyone associated with Sezzle is a stakeholder, be it our team, the shoppers, the merchants, and investors. In addition to financially enabling our user base, I am also passionate about building an organization that cares for our planet and other inhabitants with whom we co-exist. So far we have been instrumental in planting 650+ trees at Sunderbans. This will help reduce carbon footprint and also give Royal Bengal Tigers a greener habitat.

Growth happens when everyone is passionate about the common goal and I am fortunate to be leading a wonderful team that passionately believes in democratizing credit for the world's largest democracy. At Sezzle, I aim to foster a culture of entrepreneurship that not only helps us to grow but also brings in newer ideas. Also, as mentioned earlier, we plan, set our goals, and give our 100 per cent to it.

How Was The Seed Sown For Your Affinity Towards Entrepreneurship? How Do You View Challenges Which Are An Integral Part Of The Entrepreneurial And Leadership Journey?

As an innovator, I have always believed in creating something meaningful and impactful. I would keenly lend a hand to my mother in her tailoring business when I was 13. However, it wasn't until 2016 that I accepted my true calling and moulded my way into full-time entrepreneurship.

A brand or a business hits the right chords paving way for a long term success solely by one factor - by rigorously addressing their users' pain points as head-on challenges and providing modern day solutions to as many as possible. Solutions that add value to the lives of people shape a society that sticks by each other in times of need. Through my inclination towards entrepreneurship, I have been able to build start-ups from scratch and each of those focused on benefiting society at large.

Challenges are inevitable, but what matters is how you look at them. I believe that each challenge that comes my way is an opportunity to learn and improve. It's important to note that applying the same solution to each challenge won't work. However, virtues such as patience, calmness, and critical thinking do help during tough situations.

What Is Your Key Leadership Mantra? Throw Some Light On Various Personality Traits That You Possess That Have Helped You The Most Throughout Your Career?

The first mantra will be to take everyone along and everything else will follow. Secondly, I have always emphasized on setting goals and focusing on them. Without it, nothing can be achieved. Imagine you have a vehicle filled with fuel and in perfect working condition. But one thing that you don't have on your mind is a destination. So, without having a destination, neither will you enjoy the vehicle ride nor the journey. Thirdly, in the start-up world where each day the industry is changing, it is more important than ever to be agile and be keen to learn and most importantly unlearn.

Some of the primary personality traits that I possess include:

Team Building- It's ultimately a team that nurtures, builds, and grows an organization. Having realized this early on, I strongly emphasize and believe in building a team of passionate and skilled people.

Ownership- When one takes ownership of a project, the outcome naturally gets inclined towards a positive yield.

Delegation- One of the most important things I have learned in my leadership career is the importance of delegating. When tasks are delegated, team members get a clear picture of them, therefore making it a fruitful result-oriented journey for themselves and the organization.

“Never quit dreaming, because the first step towards success always begins from here”

Trust- The entirety of trust among our teams is what makes them love what they do even more. A transparent and fun-filled work culture truly elevates the happiness quotient in any workplace.

Throughout The Diverse And Expansive Professional Journey That You Have Been Through, What Have Been Some Of The Major Impactful Professional Achievements That You Have Earned? What Is It That Made These Achievements Special To You?  

Onboarding passionate folks ­ They say one must avoid judging a book by its cover and rather focus on giving importance to the content it contains. In my entire entrepreneurship journey, I have been fortunate to enable several passionate and skilled professionals with career breaks to become a part of the formal employment setup again.

Leading purpose-driven companies ­ Today's consumers are well informed and aware. They want to invest their money in a company that is purpose-driven and gives back to the society we live in. I am proud of leading companies that strongly abide by their purpose, embrace their diversity, inculcate inclusiveness and support sustainable growth.

Empowering and Encouraging Women ­ The steps we take today will shape a better future for women tomorrow. As a woman entrepreneur, I deeply empathize with fellow women who are passionate about work and they just need a level playing field to prove their skillset. I consider equality as an inevitable parameter for any organization.

“Challenges are inevitable, but what matters is how you look at them. I believe that each challenge that comes in the way is an opportunity to learn and grow”

Encouraging Diversity and Inclusiveness ­ We all live on one planet, breathe the same air, drink the same water, and essentially we are a closely-knit community that accepts all. Encouraging diversity and inclusiveness is something that should not be compromised as it is the core of an ever-growing team that never falls short of new ideas and better perspectives to help our users.

Given The Demanding Nature Of Your Job, How Do You Manage To Strike A Balance Between Your Work And Home Life? What Steps Do You Take To Keep Yourself Well Aligned With The Periodic Evolutions Occurring In The Industry And The Tech World?

It will be incorrect to say that leading a start-up and an established enterprise is the same. A start-up does require more time but offers unparalleled teaching. Coming to work-life balance, my family is my support system who is always with me, ever motivating and always supporting. In activities, I like art and whenever possible I paint and sketch. I am personally very fond of the Mandala art form.

Being in the business and interacting with newer people opens us to newer ideas and thoughts, and at the same time helps us learn more about the ever-evolving trends emerging in the industry. Additionally, I am also fond of reading research reports to be aligned with the periodic evolutions occurring in the industry and the tech world.

As A Successful Business Leader, What Would Your Advice Be To Young Women Aspiring To Become Business Leaders In The Future?

Never quit dreaming, because the first step towards success always begins from here. Succeeding in the business world is not impossible and it never was. However, there are certain qualities you must nurture to excel that includes dedication towards your work, ability to trust and delegate, take ownership, and most importantly being empathetic towards your team because it's ultimately the team that will be by your side and help you build a business that consumers love.