Success Quotient is a weekly feature that appears every Friday on Firstpost, which looks at the pains and joys en route to success for a head honcho - whether a CEO, MD or an entrepreneur. The column looks at the ideas that helped launch a company, its highs and lows.
It ensures you reach your destination and know how to get there with its GPS navigation system and location-based apps. MapmyIndia, an online digital map platform that enables GPS navigation, tracking, location-based apps and GIS Solutions got the attention of Flipkart which has invested a strategic minority stake in it in December 2015. The company is helmed by Rakesh Verma, and Rashmi Verma, his wife who is the co-founder and director.
Firstpost spoke with Rashmi Verma and got glimpses of her mental make-up and determination that led her to navigate the company to a name of reckoning in the country along with her husband.
Excerpts from the conversation:
How did you hit upon the idea of MapmyIndia?
My husband and I were working in the US. At Comdex, which is the largest software industry trade show in Atlanta in the US, we came across a stall by Mapinfo which showcased digital maps. We were taken up by the idea and met up with the officials at Mapinfo and became their India distributor. Thus was born MapmyIndia, which enables GPS navigation, tracking, location-based apps and geographic information solutions (GIS). We decided to shift to India as it was becoming difficult to carry on the business from the US. I was looking for a fulfilling career and wanted to have a stable family life.
What were the challenges for you in the business as it was a novel business when you came to India?
With my background in technology and having worked in the area at IBM, my husband and I were focused on doing business that was location-based. When we came to India, we realised that the country was far behind in the technology race. We had the arena that we wanted to focus on open to us. We brought the technology to India in 1994 and had to convince people to use it. That took a lot of time. The challenge was that there were no digital maps in the public domain like it is in developing countries. We then realised that we had to develop it ourselves.
We started building the data from scratch. Map making is laborious. We send people out to large and small metros and started mapping streets and buildings. It took us a decade to map India. We made god knows how many pitches to educate people about GPS. When we released map data sets on the internet in 2004, we got the consumers’ attention. We were known in the enterprise circles until then.
We launched GPS navigator in 2007 in 18 cities and now we cover 80 cities. In 2009, we launched the car pad – a navigation and entertainment device for use in cars in 2009, besides the MapmyIndia travel guides, printed maps that were based on digital maps and help during travel. Our latest navigation map is version 11.1 and we also have a version of it with premium features.
You got married almost immediately after graduating with an engineering degree.
Yes. I grew up in Bareilly where my father worked in the Railways. I was very good in studies and my parents were ambitious about my future. I graduated in computer engineering from University of Roorkee. Almost immediately I got married and left for the US. I was prepared for marriage but was ambitious about a career. I wasn’t going to ever let one affect the other. I realise that with ambition and a fast growing career, women won’t be able to do excel in both.
When I moved to the US, I knew I would not be able to work in factories and so decided to pursue an MS degree in computer science while my husband did his MBA. After finishing my studies I worked at Citicorp and my third job was at IBM. At every place I worked, I ensured I learnt the job well and was able to move up to the next functional role. At IBM, where I worked for eight years, I learnt a lot. It is place where you will sink if you do not know how to swim.
Was entrepreneurship part of your plans?
I was quite excited to do something of my own. I was gung-ho about starting off on my own with my husband. We are complementary to each other – he has a flair for business while I am the techie. We work pretty smoothly as a team. It is a relationship of equals.
What are your learnings from this new journey that you set off to over a decade ago?
We have given women employees in our organisation the opportunity to work at important positions in mid-level and leadership positions. I have trained, mentored and created a team of GIS and digital mapping professionals along with my husband. We have serviced more than 1,000 enterprise customers and millions of consumers.
You are trained Kathak dancer.
(Laughs) I prefer to spend time with my grandchild. I have a teacher who comes home to teach me classical music. I did not find the time for creative pursuits and hobbies as I was busy with my career. After my son Rohan has joined the firm and works with us, I am able to find time to do things I enjoy like learn Indian music.