Gearing to soar


Aneesha Coelho meets the young and vivacious entrepreneur, Yeshasvini Ramaswamy, and comes away impressed 

I’m on my way to meet Yeshasvini Ramaswamy, and the cab drops me off at a prominent city college of commerce. An energetic young thing bounds out of the meeting room, flashes me a brilliant smile and asks if it’s ok that I wait for 10 minutes. I agree, and, social butterfly that I am, find people I know to chat away the aforesaid 10 minutes with. The young thing reappears and pronounces herself ready for the interview.

I’m stopped dead in my tracks. Surely this is the assistant and not the famed Yeshasvini herself?

But then, as the interview progresses, I realise that this very approachability and appearance of disarming youth are weapons in this remarkable woman’s already formidable arsenal, and she knows just how to use them.  

Instead of an interview, the half-hour I spend with her turns out to be a master class on entrepreneurship; one, that even if I never start a business of my own, I will value for a long time.

“Entrepreneurship for me means freedom to be able to experiment,” she explains, “I wanted to become an entrepreneur because I had a lot of ideas and I wanted to see whether I could experiment using those ideas, and visibly create the change that I keep talking about. And that has never failed me.”

By her own admission, Yeshasvini does not come from a business background. She comes from a line of government servants and teachers. “But the one thing that stood me in good stead is that when I graduated from school, I refused to answer the question ‘What do you want to do?’ It’s given me the breadth of experience that a lot of modern entrepreneurs lack when it comes to scaling their business”.

Yeshasvani started her career in Infosys. She lasted in the Compensation and Benefits department for 15 days before they realised their mistake and moved her to Training and Development. It turned out to be a much better fit.

A meteoric rise up the BPO and HR ladder later, she moved to the Velakani conglomerate, first as Head of Training and then as Head of HR. The seeds for her own company – the highly acclaimed consultancy firm e2e People Practices – first took root when her mentor there, Kiran, a director of the conglomerate, pushed her into starting her own company, and, when she countered saying she had no money to do so, told her to begin as a division of Velankani itself.

“He gave me three years, but in the first year we did exceedingly well, much better than anyone expected, and that’s when he cut the umbilical cord” she recounts.

Yeshasvini laughs when she remembers those first days of having to stand on her own two feet, when “finances” went from being a set of figures in a Power Point presentation, to being the cold hard difference between getting a salary in a month and not being able to draw a salary.

She candidly admits that she was no exception-to-the-rule where cliché start-up mistakes were concerned. Because of her HR background, she would plan out an entire career graph for anyone she hired and then spend sleepless night worrying that she was responsible for the person’s paycheck and career. Because of that, it got to a point where she was accepting any and all work offered to her. “But then I realised in time and put a stop to it, because I saw that we were going to burn out and I didn’t start my own company just to burn out”. 

Since then Yeshasvini has come a long way, including being selected as the Indian representative in the Fortune/US State Department Global Women’s Mentoring Partnerships. The Partnerships, a brainchild of Hillary Clinton, is an innovative programme where emerging international women leaders are paired with one of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Leaders for a month-long internship programme in Washington, DC. Yeshasvini was mentored by Weili Dai, Co-Founder of the Marvell Technology Group, which is the third largest semiconductor company in the world.

Having understood through experience the importance of mentorship, Yeshasvini milked the experience for everything it was worth. She was particularly grateful to be paired with a self-made billionaire of Asian heritage, who could understand her cultural dilemmas better than a Westerner would. “She said, ‘Children will be there, husband will be there, we’ll have to figure it out.’” laughs Yeshasvini.

But now that she’s back Yeshasvini has started her own brand of mentoring, which is what she’s doing at the college campus where the interview is being held. “I’ve been an employee, I’ve been an entrepreneur, now I want to help create more entrepreneurs,” is her new battle cry.

“Entrepreneurship is a period thing” she says “At the end of the day you have to deliver value. It’s not about making money. I did not start my company thinking I’m going to be a millionaire. Money does not motivate me. What gives me a kick is being able to experience change.”

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