Rourkela: What does it take for a woman from a conventional middle-class family in Odisha to become a successful entrepreneur in the technology domain and whose first venture ends up becoming a multi-million dollar revenue generating company?
Ask Madhumita Agrawal, who after founding IPexcel, a technology and innovation consulting firm, also recently became the first woman to co-found an Indian electric vehicle company, OBEN Electric Vehicle.
Speaking to The Better India, Madhumita outlines a remarkable journey, which has taken her from Rourkela to IIT-Kharagpur, IIM-Bangalore and finally Bengaluru, the technology hub of India, where both the enterprises she founded conduct their operations today.
Born and raised in Rourkela, Madhumita attended school there before transitioning to an engineering degree in biotechnology from the Biju Patnaik University of Technology (BPUT).
From there, however, she took a rather unconventional path of pursuing a law degree in intellectual property at the Rajiv Gandhi School of Intellectual Property Law (RGSOIPL), IIT-Kharagpur.
Asked about pursuing this unconventional course, she replied, “One needs to understand the different and finer nuances of technology. After completing my engineering, I never wanted to leave the field entirely, but I also wasn’t interested in studying for a PhD. That’s why I pursued this course at IIT-KGP.”\
After graduating from the course in 2012, Madhumita started her own firm called IPexcel, which helps technology companies in developing innovations, improving existing technologies and protecting their intellectual property rights (IPRs).
The company has also done a lot of scouting for big MNCs, helping them identify the right kind of technologies for them.
Starting with zero customers, the company today has more than 1,500 across different technology segments. They have five customers who find a mention in the list of Fortune 500 companies, besides a plethora of mid-sized firms and start-ups across 10 countries.
Today, IPexcel is a multi-million dollar revenue generating company.
So, how did Madhumita and her husband Dinkar (who is also an IIT-KGP alumnus) manage these stupendous rates of growth? “As founders we were aggressive and set very high standards for the company. To begin with, co-founders of such entities need to complement each other well. While I handled sales, marketing and getting customers, my husband took care of executing our services. We also recruited very strong teammates who complemented each other,” she replied.
Despite her husband’s support, Madhumita admitted that any woman venturing into technology has to put in the extra effort over their male counterparts.
“That’s the kind of male-dominated space we work in currently. Women have to go above and beyond what’s required to convince stakeholders. There are obviously many reasons why this happens, but as I have grown, I am seeing more women getting into spaces like technology manufacturing, product-making and coding. Women are now taking up these challenges in male-dominated spaces and living up to expectations,” she said.
So, what’s Madhumita’s advice to young women looking to break through the glass ceiling in these spaces? “My advice to young women coming straight out of college is to be confident. How do you build confidence? You build it with oceans of knowledge, a stranglehold of your subject and deliver what’s required of your work. Once you deliver results for the first time, it subsequently becomes easier. Women have to raise the bar,” she signed off.