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Building my own company is fascinating

by Mel Bradman
The thrill-seeking gene is embedded in Megha Jose’s DNA. She admits to being “a huge adventure junkie. I love anything adrenaline-pumping, be it skydiving or bungee-jumping. I try to find adventure in everything I do.”

Now the 27-year-old MBA student is embarking on her next white-knuckle ride: launching her company, Tender. Targeted at young professionals in India, it is an investment advisory firm that aims to make investing profitable, engaging – and fun.

Farewell, corporate world

Megha, who grew up in Tamil Nadu in southern India, already had a successful career before coming to LBS. In 2016, she was a Product Manager at Cisco, helping to build its private cloud. But after three-and-a-half years, boredom with the corporate world set in.

“I knew exactly what every day would hold,” the computer science graduate recalls. “I didn’t like the monotony. It got very comfortable and I wasn’t challenging myself. So I left to join my dad, who’d been managing his own stockbroking and wealth management firm for 30 years.”

Joining her father’s company was more of a culture shock than Megha imagined. It was a traditional, boutique-style firm, where everything was “very manual”, even the accounts were done in books. So she decided to shake things up.

“I told my dad I needed to form my own team, do things on my own,” she says. “He gave me the opportunity to do that. I started off with what I knew, the tech side, and revamped the digital architecture, making it more online. Then I started learning the core business – wealth management and broking.

“I grew up in a family where each day we’d have conversations about what to do with our investments and savings. So I grew up thinking everyone knows how to invest. But then I realised my friends and colleagues – who are on the upper echelons of talent in India and earning a decent amount – didn’t know what to do with their money. They’d park it in a savings account and earn nothing from it.”

The lightbulb moment

Megha told a few of her friends to come on board as clients to her father’s company, and that she would manage their money for them. “I’d WhatsApp them recommendations to buy and sell different equities, send them Excel sheets, show them their returns,” she says, “and they were really happy. They’d start telling their family members, who came on board too.”

It was at this point that Megha had her lightbulb moment: that there was a need to make investment accessible to all societal classes.

“India has great platforms to trade if you know what to buy and sell,” she says, “but if you don’t know the stock market, you’re lost and end up losing money. I wanted to fix this. My dad was helping rich, high-networth-individuals invest. I wanted to bring that down to the masses and help anybody invest.”

First entrepreneurial project

Megha had already had a taste of entrepreneurship by then. In her spare time, after leaving Cisco, she had formed an animal welfare NGO for stray dogs called The Pawsome People Project.

“I’m a big dog-lover, and I saw so many dogs on the streets of India dying of disease and injuries. I wanted to rescue them, rehabilitate them, give them homes. So I started my ‘passion project’. My goal is to train these street dogs as service dogs to help differently abled people. My older sister is hearing-impaired and I grew up as sort of her emotional-support animal; so she was my inspiration for this project. I knew these dogs could transform lives.

“I started recruiting volunteers. It was then I realised that starting something from scratch and building a team gave me so much happiness. I knew entrepreneurship was something I should explore.”

Highs – and lows

Being new to the finance industry, Megha had to acquire her own network in core finance, but felt she lacked credibility. “In India, degrees have extremely high value,” she says. “So the moment you tell someone you have an MBA from a reputed school, you gain a certain level of respect and trust automatically. So I came to LBS, with a very definite goal.”

This April, nine months into her MBA, Megha achieved a huge boost to her Tender project:. she won the first prize of $100,000 after pitching it to an incubator called Olam Ventures. The competition was live streamed, watched by 1,000 people. “I was the only solo founder out of 30 teams pitching,” she says, “so this was very, very rewarding and motivating.”

Since receiving the funding, Megha has been working on Tender full-time. She admits it can be a lonely journey. “There are days when I’m completely frustrated and have no idea what to do, just staring at my huge to-do list, thinking, ‘I’m never going to finish this.’ And it can be demotivating when investors tell you, ‘This isn’t a good idea, it’s not going to work.’ But my mentor said I had to get used to listening to no as an answer and keep pushing forward.”

There are plenty of highs too, not least being her own boss. “I get to decide what needs to be done, looking at the bigger picture really gives me a rush. At LBS we book big seminar rooms where all the founders work together. That gives me a lot of joy. And it’s nice to hear people think you’re brave and achieving your dreams. I celebrate the little wins too – ticking boxes I believe will be a need in India and validating those needs. It’s fascinating, the whole journey is a high.”

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