Asia as a region is transforming, and with that, as we all know, comes an acute need of ideas and capital to fuel this transformation. The first woman, well, in fact, the first person who understood this need and leveraged on a wide network of global investors, creating perhaps the one of the most influential East-West bridge which includes the Rockefeller family, the Sinegal family (founders of Costco), Former Finance Minister of Egypt, Saudi Aramco to name a few of the 350 members, is here with us today. SHEQuest had the opportunity to speak with Aradhna Dayal, the founder, and CEO of the Hong Kong based company Access Alts Asia.
SMEQuest: How has your journey with Access Alts been? What have been the highs and lows?
Aradhna Dayal: With Access Alts, what started as a simple idea-sharing platform four years back, has evolved into a highly-influential global investment club, giving members access to global partnerships, unique investments, tremendous knowledge, and a network of entrepreneurs, strategic investors, and visionaries all over the world. When I talk about highs, one of them would be in 2019 when I was invited by Warren Buffet’s office to represent Asia at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual General Meeting. Lows would probably be the days & hours I have had to travel, given its global community. I must have traveled good 600 days continuously with times I didn’t remember where I was coming from and where I was going!
SMEQuest: Do you think women-led businesses find difficulty in raising funds? If yes, why is that?
Aradhna Dayal: Ah, great question. There are so many unconscious biases against women founders.
- Do they understand the tech?
- Do they have the right experience?
- Can they network relentlessly?
- How would they juggle their work and family commitments?
- Would their priorities change when they have babies?
– these are all questions that investors tend to ask themselves when looking at female entrepreneurs. Only after these questions are addressed do investors begin looking at the product and the opportunity set. So women entrepreneurs have it tough from the word go.
SMEQuest: So, how, according to you, should women pitch to investors? What sort of homework is required by them?
Aradhna Dayal: Women should pitch to investors no differently than their male counterparts would. Align yourself with investors who believe in your idea and your skillset, without looking at it from a gender lens. Assuring an investor that you will give it your 100%, your idea is unique with a high barrier to entry, and will make strong gains for them is the best strategy.
In terms of homework, it is always a good idea to understand your investor’s profile and primary motivation.
- Is he/she interested in your space?
- Are they a fan of She-economy?
- Do they have a strategic angle apart from pure financial investing?
- Can your start-up be useful to their business?
These are all questions to think about before making your pitch.
Also Read: https://smequest.com/women-entrepreneurship-tips-how-to-give-the-perfect-pitch/
SMEQuest: Do you believe women founders can generate better ROI then men?
Aradhna Dayal: Absolutely. Female entrepreneurship is not new to Asia. Unicorns like Gojek, Didi, Grab, VIPKids, and Zilingo have female co-founders and senior managers. From that, we can see that women founders focus on revenue generation and unit economics. They also coach and mentor better, generating greater loyalty from their teams. More importantly, women place ‘impact’ at the heart of their ventures, which goes a long way in generating financial and social ROI for investors.
SMEQuest: When leading the men, did you face any barriers or difficulties?
Aradhna Dayal: I remember joining my first Board at 27; I was Asian, 5 feet tall, and young. The rest of the Board was made up of older, whiskey-drinking gentlemen who very kindly listened to my suggestions during the day and took all decisions at the bar when I had gone home to my babies. That experience taught me to speak up and advocate for more women on boards or decision-making roles, which changes the tone of conversations.
Fortunately, most men on my team have shown great respect for my work and seniority and treat me no differently from treating a male boss. I ensure that I lead by example to earn their trust and respect.
SMEQuest: Did you have any mentors who guided you through your journey? If yes, how important was that for you?
Aradhna Dayal: Mentors are extremely important as they enrich you with lifelong habits and wisdom. My first mentor was a 75-year-old New Yorker, whose mantra was to be on your office desk at 8 am, newspapers read. He taught us the power of networking, the power of observing, the ability to speak up, and earning your stripes in a male-dominated world. I felt like I was in the trenches at that time, but the discipline he instilled in me was amazing and has stood me in great stead all these years.
SMEQuest: You recently received “Mrs. Shroff Woman of Inspiration Award” for Leadership at the Women Empowerment Forum in Hong Kong. So, do you think women make better leaders?
Aradhna Dayal: Without a doubt. Businesses are built with people, and women definitely have an edge when it comes to leading with empathy. Women are multi-taskers. They deal with success and setbacks maturely; they communicate better; they pivot faster and set sensible milestones. Most importantly, women understand that people and not the balance sheet are the company’s strongest assets.
SMEQuest: What is your passion that powers both your work and social work?
Aradhna Dayal: At the core, I am passionate about people. It understands people, learning from them, and bringing them together as a global community is what truly excites me. Every successful company or social enterprise eventually boils down to a ‘people’ story. This year, we got access to SpaceX, one of the hottest deals of the year. Now its great technology – its man in space, its reusable rockets – but at the end of the day, it is a story of an entrepreneur that believes in his vision despite wide-spread cynicism, who will go bankrupt before letting go of his project. Both AccessAlts and our family charities are my way of supporting these “people” stories.
SMEQuest: Finally, what advice will you give to the next generation of women entrepreneurs?
Aradhna Dayal: The world has changed post Covid19, and the next generation of entrepreneurs truly have an opportunity to cultivate brand new solutions for all parts of our life – working, lifestyle, shopping, recreational, mental, and physical wellness. So look for ideas that will power automation, smart factories, the Great “Back to Work” & “Safety at Work.” Take time to understand how luxury is being redefined and how consumption patterns are changing. Building your start-up around these concepts is certainly the way forward.
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