Vani Agarwal: Revolutionizing The Global Strategy Business
S tarting a business is often exciting, but new business ventures are often riddled with unexpected setbacks and financial hurdles. Without proper strategic guidance or financial assistance, many new startups have difficulty succeeding. Several organizations have been established to help businesses succeed, providing essential financial, legal and organizational assistance; but very few of them have been able to bring innovation to the existing strategies of businesses through their consulting approach and deliver unprecedented growth. Vani Agarwal’s Thinking Spree is one such innovative foundation that was built with the idea of providing a more evolved version of consultation to emerging startups. Vani Agarwal, Founder of Thinking Spree is spearheading an initiative to design out-of-the-ordinary business strategies for start-ups; by doing so, she's helping companies develop scalable business models more rapidly.
Vani is an ambitious, research-oriented business leader with ample experience in working with leading organizations and their leadership teams. Throughout her corporate stint, she has been instrumental in implementing state-of-the-art strategies for organizations, that best suited their goals. During such copious exposure to business, she witnessed significant gaps in problem-solving approaches in the industry. She realized that corporate sectors are more aligned to functional silos where employees are grouped by function, operating separately from each other, without cross-collaboration. Being a cross-sectoral professional herself, an industry-specific problem-solving approach never made way to her heart. She always felt that people need to learn from different industries and carry those learnings with them to solve various business problems, thereby adding value to their cross-industry understandings. This has been the thought behind establishing Thinking Spree where she encourages a collaborative thinking approach to build solutions for emerging startups.
At Thinking Spree, Vani has not only developed a culture of forward-thinking but has also evolved the entire team into efficient design thinkers. With her at the helm of using frameworks like Design Thinking, Agility, and Business Model Canvas at Thinking Spree, the firm has helped multiple organizations to achieve financially sustainable growth.
Below is a snippet of Women Entrepreneur Magazine's exclusive interview with her.
Take us through the formative years of your educational journey and tell us how those shaped you into becoming the person that you are today.
I come from a tier three city known as Sitapur and due to the lack of institutes and schools there, I was sent to boarding schools for my education. I have stayed away from my family for a long time but that helped me gain a varied set of experiences. These institutions have made me extremely independent and have helped me to a large extent in becoming a persistent professional. La Martiniere Girl’s College in Lucknow holds a special place in my growth story, being an all-girls institution, it ensured that it never made us feel that there is nothing that girls or women cannot do. It has ingrained in me at a very early years that girls are capable of achieving anything & everything if they put in the right effort. Gargi College in Delhi also has a significant appearance in my journey, this institution has helped me gain a basic understanding of commerce, finance, and accounts, which I apply even today in all my endeavors. ISB Hyderabad has shaped my career by exposing me to innovative peers, faculty, and curriculum that have helped me re-evaluate my approach to challenges and enabled me to dream big in the business world.
Take me through the prior industry experience that you bring to the table and how did you eventually become an entrepreneur?
Before my MBA, I worked with Evalueserve for three years and there I supported numerous valuations & research for multiple US-based private equity firms, VC firms, and investment banking firms with a focus on technology. This gave me unique exposure to understanding what an investor looks for, how valuations happen, and how revenue is one of the key multiples for a tech-enabled startup. In Axis bank, I had a rich opportunity to manage a debt portfolio of approximately 3000 crores and also deal with the Fortune 500 companies in India. I had the chance to sit with leading CEOs of large corporates, strategizing with them, and helping them discover their solutions. I have been privileged to have gained exposure to various sectors including banking, real estate, hospitality, and automobile; each experience has contributed largely to what I have been able to create in Thinking Spree.
What are the primary focus areas of the organization and also what are the different roles that you play as a leader?
We use collaborative thinking to innovate on the desk, think quicker as a team and address the challenges faced by Startup founders and leadership teams at various stages from pre-seed to unicorn and eventually help them scale. We design systems and models for Startups working to create a system for the next 30 years, helping them set up their business in the market. We also work with social entrepreneurs to help them design business models that are financially sustainable, and scalable enough to solve important social issues and achieve their mission. When it comes to my Thinking Spree, I play the roles of a strategist, learner, and a mentor. I believe that productization and scaling will allow me to reach a wider audience.
What are some of the most pressing challenges that you encounter as a leader? How do you successfully mitigate them?
The most critical challenge is to be able to pace up with the speed at which a startup works. To reach the stage of a unicorn, a startup takes an average of 5 years from series A to Unicorn Round and averages four rounds of funding. A traditional consulting route can be very slow in helping a start-up grow; by the time a solution is found, the company could have launched two or three new products and added another sales channel. Therefore, it is extremely crucial to match the speed at which startups are expected to work & grow by leveraging technology. We have developed disruptive methods for consulting start-up founders, who seek 10X growth. We use Thinking Sprints that enable us to work with these founders and their teams in a structured approach to strengthen their business models, enabling them to achieve their goals.
What has been the driving force behind your successful journey?
I enjoy my work. I love building strategies and every time I see a problem, I am automatically wired to look at finding a solution for it. And it is also extremely satisfying to see professionals benefitting from my ideas or solutions. Their success makes me happy and I believe that acts as the biggest driving force for me.
“I have been privileged to have gained exposure to various sectors including banking, real estate, hospitality, and automobile; each experience has contributed largely to what I have been able to create in Thinking Spree”
What would your advice be to young women who also aspire to become entrepreneurs in the future?
Women need to believe that they can do anything that they want to do. They just need to have that drive to give a start to their idea and stop paying attention to the voices of the patriarchal society or being in a state of self-doubt. As women, they might face numerous challenges at every stage of their journey, but challenges will help them become stronger individuals. I would advise them that despite the roadblocks, dare to dream, try and go for their goal.
Vani Agarwal, Founder, Thinking Spree
Having an MBA in Finance & Strategy from Indian school of Business, Vani has over a decade of rich experience in working across multiple industries in leadership positions and now is the founder of an innovative & strategy consulting firm that aspires to help organizations grow scalable business models.