As a young girl, Uma Janapareddy had many dreams – to fly MIGs and F16s, and become an IPS officer. But life had other plans, leading her to curtail her flights of fantasy and pave the way for a family life. However, her professional journey did begin, although a bit later than she would have liked – when her sons were aged 12 and 6. She dabbled in multiple small time home-based entrepreneurial ventures in the fields of textiles and fashion designing. At the age of 34, Uma joined a social enterprise where she worked for eight years to become President, handling major community service projects across India that were focused on promoting girl’s education & providing sanitation facilities at schools.
In 2012, Uma started SyMetric (now called Achiral Systems Pvt Ltd), a technology enterprise focused on clinical trials. Symetric is a software solutions company that specializes in design, development, setup, configuration and support of integrated IT solutions for different kinds of clinical trials. With solutions integrated on a single database, it eliminates the need for resources to monitor interfaces and data quality issues, help faster submissions and reduce study timelines.
In the past eight years, Uma has taken the company to great heights. She has been awarded as Most Promising Woman Clinical Leaders 2019, the company has been named second runner up at the LeadHers Pitching Day event organized by IIM-B, NSRCEL & Health Venture, and was also chosen to represent India at the United Nations ITU Conference ‘Equals Program’ in 2019.
Uma may not have become a pilot or an IPS officer, but as an entrepreneur leading a niche company in healthtech is by no means a small feat. On the occasion of International Women’s Day, we’re proud to feature Uma Janapareddy as one of NASSCOM CoE’s TechNaaris.
Why did you take the leap into entrepreneurship?
Around that time, when I was to about to retire from this social enterprise (due to age limits for members), due to my passion for doing social work, I started Svetcha Charitable Trust to work on programs towards women empowerment and education.
During this period, I had been contemplating to start my own commercial venture, which not only gives me the opportunity to lend support for growing financial needs of my family, but also gives me the financial resources for charitable activities through my trust.
But starting a commercial enterprise (or a startup now it is popularly referred to) needs some corporate experience or business education, and I possessed none at that time. Around this period, in year 2011, I had the opportunity to enroll myself into an entrepreneurial program for women at IIM Bangalore, which gave the confidence and knowledge to setup my own enterprise.
Tell us a bit about Achiral Systems
Achiral Systems is a software product company, which provides Integrated IT Platform for managing Clinical Trials by the Pharma Industry. We have grown organically and gradually from a two-member to a 20-member team within seven years. The company is bootstrapped (from personal funds) and has been profitable since the third year of operation.
Why is this an important solution for the healthcare & life-sciences industry?
Current solutions in the market (from our competition) to manage the clinical trials are all standalone and disparate modules/products addressing individual business processes. As a result, the time taken for managing the trials are longer, need more resources to manage the software related processes and still face data quality challenges. There was a need for a software that is affordable, compliant, ensures data quality and patient safety, and one which is Made in India for global markets.
After we studied the challenges in the market, we realized that there is a need for an integrated ERP like suit for managing the clinical trials. There existed none in the market and we seized the opportunity to build an integrated suite for Clinical Trials Management. Through our products, our clients are able reduce the study conduct time periods by nearly 30%, avoided the data quality challenges and able to cut the manpower needed for managing the trials.
Explain the technology involved in Achiral
Our Integrated platform is built on Microsoft technology and offered as a SaaS product on Azure Cloud. We also built a PharmAnalytics tool for planning using SAPs HANA Cloud Platform. We are currently exploring the options to market this new tool through global SAP Channels.
What is your typical day like as the founder of a startup?
It is typical day and night as a founder of a Startup. My main focus always is on Business Development, business strategy and Projects Delivery. Being a highly regulatory field, Quality Process Adherence is another major area, I focus on a daily basis. Each and every process in our company has to be documented, managed and adhered on a continuous basis.
I allocate 50% of my office hours for managing operations such as Finance, Admin, HR, Marketing etc.
I also devout considerable time in employee motivational activities and their training.
I personally manage all the escalations and take support requests calls, especially in the nights to address the US Clients.
What are the most common challenges you believe a woman faces today as an entrepreneur?
Without many exceptions, the biggest challenge most women face every day is to have to prove themselves as a leader and as a manager. If you add technology to the leadership…boom, we will have to field a thousand questions to validate that we can handle a tech business. The customers, vendors and sometimes even employees find it difficult to work with women – a condition of the mind, which is hard to rewire. Another predicament I face is the size of the organization. Not being an insider in the industry both in tech and life sciences, it is a daunting task to build trust and make my customer believe that we are a stable and long-term player in the industry. So far, it was both challenging and interesting to drive home the belief that there are people out there who believe in us and the hard work we have put in. That we, as a team, are able to overcome these challenges through our caliber, work ethic & delivery of services.
What qualities do you think make women competent leaders especially in the highly fast paced startup world?
Women are wired to be multi-faceted and multi-tasking. Their empathy towards every aspect of the environment makes them understand various dimensions of every situation. The level of commitment shown by a woman is deeply commendable. I quote Dr.Abdul Kalam here, ‘If you want to build a great nation, educate and empower a woman, they will bring up a healthy, intelligent, and wise generation for the future.’
The gender ratio among HealthTech startups in India is skewed, much like it is in corporate circles. Why do you think is and what can be done to bring about balance in this ratio?
I agree that the gender ratio is adversely skewed towards women. But the situation is certainly changing. One of the main challenges for women to get into jobs and sustain long-term careers is their ability to decide for themselves due to family priorities and pressures. Women safety is also another challenge.
To improve the balance, it’s not necessary that Women need to attend a 9-5 job to maintain gender ratio. If she has limitations in going to workplace, she can take the workplace to her home, take a business to her home. Majority of the unorganized sector is run by women. Leaders should also make a conscious effort to employ more women on their teams. In my attempt to maintain a near 50% gender ratio, I also try to look for candidates from Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities/towns, where the fear of working in large cities makes them restrict their career aspirations.
Where do you see your company in the next 5 years?
For five years, I have been able to maintain 100% customer retention, with increasing business volumes from them. Our products and services speak for themselves. Collaboration is the new mantra for business expansions. In our endeavor to capture the niche market, we are partnering with SAP, Microsoft, Governments and Global CROs for collaborations. I envisage a ten-fold increase in business volumes and expansion into additional geographies in the world. I also have two more compelling new product ideas in the same domain, and they will be added to our current product portfolio as additional wrappers to enhance the business value to our customers.
#TechNaari is our series featuring women in tech in the NASSCOM CoE ecosystem. If you wish to be featured, write to Sindhuja (firstname.lastname@example.org)