MBA alumnus builds ‘knowledge bridge’ between Indian women entrepreneurs and Australian investors
Ms Saini, who was the 2015 recipient of the Business School’s UN Women National Committee Australia MBA Scholarship, is the Chairperson of the Advisory Board for the new Virangana Project.
“This is a not-for-profit initiative which connects entrepreneurial Indian women with potential Australian investors by inviting Indian women who are looking to establish themselves in the start-up economy to submit their ideas and business plans to the Virangana project,” Ms Saini explained.
‘Virangana’ refers to a famous female warrior from Indian history.
“If Australia is serious about engaging with the Asia Pacific region, India’s growing economy which is on course to be the world’s third largest by 2020, together with its growing start-up landscape makes it an obvious choice,” said Ms Saini.
“Our aim is to build a ‘knowledge bridge’ between the Australian and Indian women’s start-up communities that will benefit both countries from a commercial and cultural perspective,” said Ms Saini.
The idea for the Virangana Project was conceived by Indian human rights lawyer and women’s advocate Ms Shalini Chauhan after she became frustrated by the difficulties women in India face when it came to raising capital investment for their start-up ideas.
In January this year, Mr Daniel Fah and Mr Tony McAuslan from CEO Strategic worked with Ms Chauhan to change the idea into action by creating the Virangana Project, asking Ms Saini to join their initiative in March.
“A recent report from BCG found that female-founded start-ups raise less than half the venture capital funding of those founded by men, yet generate more than twice the revenue,” said Ms Saini.
“Women founders also get more pushbacks during their pitches and have to show more direct experience to be successful. The Virangana Project has focused on women entrepreneurs to be able to address this imbalance.”
Twice yearly, Virangana aims to fly the top 12 most innovative entries to Australia, where they pitch their ideas to bankers, investors, venture capitalists and angel investors.
“As Indian-born-Australian women, my sister and I have always been abundantly aware that the opportunities we received growing up in Australia are not given to all women and girls in India. This always has and always will continue to shape our lives and our choices. Additionally, my experience in an extremely male dominated industry for over 15 years gave me insight into the kind of biases that women face in business and corporate settings,” said Ms Saini.
“Understandably, the aim and success of the Virangana Project is very close to my heart both personally and professionally,” added Ms Saini.
According to the Australian National committee for UN Women, Ms Saini was awarded the MBA scholarship for her “exceptional strategy and business skills, as well as a genuine commitment to advancing gender equality in her industry and globally.” Ms Saini graduated with Distinction.
Ms Saini has recently been appointed as a PwC Associate Director within Deals, Transactions Services.
She was formerly a senior manager at corporate recovery and restructuring firm, Ferrier Hodgson, where she established the "Women @ Ferriers" initiative, which delivered increased networking opportunities for female employees, as well as their clients, to eliminate gender barriers in the male dominated industry.
“Undertaking my MBA at the University of Sydney via the UN Women NCA scholarship program has been so much more than just acquiring an academic qualification,” said Ms Saini.
“This MBA program encouraged me to focus on personal transformation, self-awareness and self-management as I went through my academic journey. A more confident and collaborative leader, an ever widening professional and social network, increased business knowledge, and expanded career prospects - the MBA program has done all of this for me and more,” said Ms Saini.
While speaking at the Virangana Project launch event last month, Ms Saini referenced her trip to Bangalore for the International Social Enterprise Project as part of her final MBA subject, describing it as a significant experience that opened her cultural and business mindset.
“This MBA has been a life changing opportunity for me - to question, challenge and re-define who I am and what impact I want to make in this world,” Ms Saini concluded.
Applications for entrepreneurs will close on 31 July 2018 and will be announced on 17 August 2018 by the Australia India Business Institute NSW in partnership with the City of Sydney. The Virangana Project finalists will be flown to Sydney for a series of pitch fests in October 2018, including an appearance at Sydney’s prestigious Spark Festival.