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Sharon Lobo

IWB Blogger

Preksha Kaparwan Talks About Her Journey From Being A Sous-Chef To Software Designer

  • IWB Post
  •  September 19, 2018

When you find something you love, you work tirelessly and passionately to bring about change. And that’s precisely what Preksha Kaparwan’s journey is all about.

Preksha is a sous chef turned Lecturer, turned Software designer. She has had a huge hand in creating Realbox Data Analytics, which uses business intelligence and predictive analysis tools to guide and help businesses to increase revenues and reduce risks.

In this interview, she speaks about how she got to where she is. She also discusses with us the problems she faced and how she managed to find solutions to them. Excerpts:

You had a very unusual transition from being a chef to a software designer. So why did that happen and what made you make such a massive switch?

I was very happy as a chef; it was a job I loved doing. I became a sous chef, which is equivalent to the position of a manager, at 21 I was overseeing a team of 28 young chefs. As all parents are protective of their daughters, so were my parents with me. Although they are very liberal and have always inspired me to be independent and pursue what I am passionate about, they were worried that this job was taking a toll on my health and putting me in high-pressure situations. Hence, after a couple of months, they put their foot down and told me not to pursue this as a career anymore. This was a decision against which I retaliated, but later I left Delhi and went back to Chandigarh where my parents were and became a lecturer at one of the Institutes of Hotel Management. To me, this new job was boring because I was used to being in the kitchen, always on my feet and always keeping busy.

When did your life take a turn towards AI?

I wanted to do something that would make more sense to someone like me who is a creative person and loves to explore and invent. At this point, I got in touch with my now partner, Saurabh who is an expert when it comes to software, he also worked at Microsoft and had just sold one of his AI companies. When I started working with Saurabh, I went into this venture with him as a business developer. I went from shop to shop trying to get sales, and this went horribly.

Sales might have been really tough!

Yes. Especially as a woman of few words, I found it difficult to communicate with potential customers. Even though we had 2 customers, I decided that a Social media presence would be a great way of attracting even more customers and would give us exposure. So, I took it upon myself to master HTML and JavaScript, after which I created a website. Post this, I started developing websites for clients, and this worked out better for me.

When did you think you could take this business ahead? 

I always felt like there was something we were missing out on because we had no consumers for our product, but I could not quite put my finger on what exactly we were doing wrong. When we came up with a device that could sit on any retail cashier machine and be able to give you the data points you need, so there is no need for a third party, you can simply fix it on top of anything, and it will integrate. At this point, we realized that maybe this was the piece of the puzzle we were missing and that this piece would now help us attract customers going forward.

Tell us about the kind of response you garnered from your clients. 

I first signed with PVR Director’s Cut, and although they were excited, they thought of it as a very tiny piece to a much larger puzzle, they wanted to do more. They wanted to know what more they can do with the data we were providing them with and how they could connect back with their customers. So we helped them to gauge what their customer was looking for and how to give their customers a great experience.

Preksha Kaparwan

You mentioned that when you started marketing, you started from scratch. So tell us some of the strategies that you adopted, including social media marketing and also about the funds you put in.

As of now all the business we have done has been purely based on social media, it is the way we reach out to our clients. We have been covered by various magazines and websites online. Initially, in business, our primary focus was raising funds, and in the process, we did not market ourselves. This process was a lengthy and tiring one, because getting investors on board is not a very easy job, and takes at least 3 to 4 months.

Being a small company we were overburdened with work, and the work we were doing was more custom development based because clients saw what we were making and approached us to develop other softwares as well. Whereas what we like to do and what developing the company was about was data analytics, predictions and AI related work. This was a time when as a company, we lost our focus. Then in 2016, we received funds from Hyderabad Angels, and that is when we started focusing on the marketing, with social media being an initial part of the plan. Participating in various contests and also mentoring was an integral part of our marketing strategy.

You have been bootstrapped for quite some time, tell us about some of the lessons you learned and what advice would you give to people who are bootstrapping themselves?

When we started, we were bootstrapping, and we did this for almost two years. So when you are bootstrapping, you need to remember that you need to get an investor on board whom you can then going forward make your client. This is because there are a lot of business owners who would like to invest. But, if you do not have a solid plan at least for the next 6 months, and if you do not know how you are going to save up, my advice to you would be not to raise funds, because this would just put additional pressure on you.

If you raise funds without having a plan, you will end up changing your product to meet the demands of investors and lose your original vision, which is precisely what happened to us. We started modifying our products to please the investors which caused us to lose our vision, and as a result of that, we did not do so well at that point in time. Thinking about it today, maybe if we did not take the investors on board as early as we did, we might have done better.

What are some things about funding, funders, and investors that you learned along the way and did not know earlier?

What happens with investors is that, they wait for the company to prove themselves as promised. When you as a company make a mistake, the investors will let you figure it out on your own for a few months, after which they may either think of you as a lost cause, or they will try and mentor you, which means receiving harsh criticism from them. At times this criticism will help you make the changes needed and flourish as a company, or sometimes the advice the investor gives you may be suitable for the investor’s company and not your company, they may try to run your business like they run their business. While you have to listen to the advice from all your investors, you need to look at which idea resonates more with the vision you have for your company and your way of doing business.

What are your views about AI and how do you think that can be a part of Realbox?

We are trying to help AI understand the intent of people, how they talk and what they mean. This is especially helpful for older people for whom using apps is a learning process and getting data naturally may be preferred. Also when you make reports, one always has a team of analysts to make this report which takes days or weeks to do, but we have created dashboard reports. Hence when you ask Pulse Realbox to get you a particular report, it will know what report to get, and for how many months as well. And this is still an ongoing part of our vision.

This article was first published on May 18, 2018.

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