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International Women’s Day Interview: Monika Jain, Co-Founder of Presto

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Name:
Monika Jain
City:
Bangalore, India
Occupation:
Entrepreneur, Co-Founder – Presto (
www.presto-apps.com)




ST: Please
tell us briefly about you.

Monika:
Publicly
I am currently the COO of a startup which I co-founded to help startups,
businesses, enterprises – to help them cross that tech barrier when it came to
digital commerce and mobility. I am a CA and MBA – Finance by education and
professional degree.

PrivatelyI
am a mom of two kids (16 & 10) who are highly understanding of my time and
space. I am married to a slightly demanding husband (my Co-Founder & CEO).
I love listening to music peacefully when I can afford time, find time for my
dance lessons, love to travel having lived abroad and explored nature.

ST: Who
is a woman that inspires you the most and why?

Monika: I
think more than role models, during our stay both in India and abroad, I have
met women who have balanced their lives, gone through circumstances that would
break anyone, are extremely resilient, raising superb kids who are achievers
and still extremely well mannered, too proud to ask for an ounce of help,
extremely grounded, and manage the role of a home-maker as well as their
livelihood. I am extremely fortunate to be their friend and being able to see
how well they have juggled through life. It’s hard to know from a personality
who is now famous about what they had to give / struggle to get where they are
now. So for me role models are a bit closer to where I am.

ST: How
are you celebrating this year’s International Women’s Day?

Monika: Honestly,
I rarely get a chance to celebrate days deliberately except the religious
festivals. Coming from a middle class, I hadn’t even heard about Mother’s Day
until I lived in Europe. I used to think that picking one day tends to
trivialize the remaining days, however, I do find that attaching importance to
such days is meaningful. More than the celebration of the role, it makes you
pause, think and realize that what on an average is taken for granted has a
pretty deep impact on the people around you.

I think I will dress in a saree and treat
myself to a decent dessert with the group of colleagues and friends whom I
enjoy spending time with.





ST: What
is the most important message you want to send out to all the women around the
world on this occasion?

Monika: I
think I am too small to send a message out but if I have to share a thought it
would be this – the first step to do something has to come from within. When
you create rules that you follow, when you show the discipline, resolve and
commitment to whatever you want to do, the support comes through. If you waver
and compromise or let others’ agenda interfere with yours, people will. If you
are “accommodating”, you won’t get that time and space.

The other thing, sense of achievement is not
just in a career growth. It is in raising your kids as good citizens. The world
needs those. It is in creating a work ethic and etiquette in the people around
us, from managing help to getting events organized.

ST: What according to you is ‘women empowerment’?

Monika: Getting
afforded the time and space when they want, ability and authority to decide for
themselves, being able to set their own routines and not always getting hitched
to someone else’s wagons, getting recognized for efforts and results – they are
all a part of empowerment. I think it is a word that applies without a gender
prefix. Empowerment is the same when it is for a woman as it is for a man. It
is the probability of it being brought into effect that usually differs. So
that is the bit we need to work on. The definition is not something where much
can be debated.

Women touch a lot more lives than men do. Men
socialize with choice and through common interests or professions and most of
the times decide not to indulge in activities where interactions are
emotionally straining for them. Women do all that and more. And I think the
more of us get educated, and learn the right and wrong, the importance of
making choice, the importance of being able to decide for our agendas – the
ability to practice all that and not just leave it for dictionary
interpretations – that is what is needed.

ST:  What would you say are the main challenges
facing women at present in India? 

Monika: We
are traditionally a patriarchal society and that isn’t changing anytime soon.
And it has its advantages. There is a network with physical, material and
emotional support and that cannot be underestimated. Sometimes the same network
can go negative and be a drain and that is one of the biggest challenges.

From a working mother the expectations of
managing the household do not decrease, neither does taking care of parents /
in-laws, ensuring that relatives don’t go annoyed if they visit you – these
bits are still expected. There can be two responses to such situations – be
straight and say, these don’t matter – and since we are equal (and now I am
considering women in careers who are married and even might have kids, no
offense to singles) or then say, look this is what I love and enjoy. It’s the
togetherness because of which I choose to be in India and not live in a western
country eating microwaveable meals. I enjoy the occasional gossip and celebrate
the festivals which are traditional to me.

This balance of tradition and career is
demanding, exhausting and needs a lot of hard work. There are times when you
want to run away. Getting others to chip in so we can maintain that harmony is
a bigger challenge than maintaining that harmony itself, because at some point
it will become a chore and not an enjoyable commodity – you’ll do it, but not
relish it. Watching the grandfather listen to the grandkid playing the piano
and getting swept away with it is precious and worth every bit. Building that
relationship while maintaining your own personal priorities is the challenge.

This was the elitist bit and taking a view of
the middle-class career woman. On a macro note, getting the girl child to study
is the BIGGEST challenge for India. Getting them to school, teaching them to be
skilled, so that they can take care of harsh times when needed, getting them to
be aware of their rights, their right to exert their choices etc. all of that
is tied to getting them educated. And not letting them get rid of the school at
just the drop of a hat. It needs serious commitment. If we can solve that, we
will be a happy country.




ST: Where
do you want to see yourself in next 5 years?

Monika: One thing I would want to
see myself in the next 5 years is being less stressful. 
After
two kids, my baby is the company that I co-founded. Today it provides livelihood
for 15 more people and that is gratifying in its own way. I want to make sure
that over the next 5 years, the promises to our customers, to them, to our
shareholders, and to everyone who has been a part of this journey are met,
fulfilled.

I
am lucky to have the kids past their formative years but at the same time
dealing with teenagers comes with its own demands. I hope they land at the
right places as they would be entering their life defining centers during these
five years. I have managed to keep my work life balance, I hope I can continue
to do it with minor tweaks – from that perspective what I am doing now, if I am
doing at the end of five years as well, with the physical abilities, but a lot
less stress, I am happy.
Monika Jain, Co-Founder of Presto

TECHXLR8 Asia