When I heard about the newly appointed CEO of Women Entrepreneurship Hub (WE Hub), Deepthi Ravula, I was sure she would be a wise, senior IAS officer. After all, she was a Joint Director for Electronics Promotions (Electronics, Semiconductor and Business) for the state of Telangana. So imagine my surprise when I checked out her profile and found a fresh, young woman full of ideas for the future of Indian women entrepreneurship. She has been working with the Telangana government for only 1 year and 9 months. Before that, she has been working in several places in the US for 15 years. I silently reprimanded myself for my biased thoughts as I sought an interview with her.
When I heard her voice, I noted a fresh confidence in it, an eagerness that seems to have marked most of her career. In her role as Joint Director, her key activities involve handling policy creation and guidelines, infrastructure development for sector-specific industrial parks and EMCs, investor facilitation to enable MSME and large-scale industries to establish, and plan investments in the state of Telangana.
Her career graph sketches from RF Applications/Technical Sales at LitePoint in San Francisco, to Senior Engineer at Qualcomm|Atheros in San Jose, to Audio Acoustics Engineer at Nokia San Diego. But, in the end, she returned to India.
I started by congratulating her on her recent appointment as CEO of WE-Hub, India’s first government-led incubator for women startups. This seemed to embarrass her. Then I asked her what plans she had for the future women entrepreneurs of the country. She told me she was confident that WE-Hub was the platform that aspiring women entrepreneurs could use to succeed in their endeavors in the face of rampant social gender bias.
“I have seen a lot of women who want to go ahead and do so much, but many times it is not possible for them to be there physically all the time, because of family or other issues. Keeping that in mind, we have planned a lot of virtual mentoring programs for them,” she said.
In relation to her having worked in the US for fifteen years, I was curious as to what prompted her to return to India.
“Although I have lived outside India, I have always maintained a connection with Telangana. My heart was always with my motherland. Moreover, sometimes, when you live outside your country, it’s surprising how much you realize about it. I realized that there was a lot that needed to be done here in India. And to do those things, I had to go back and do them. So here I am!”
When I asked her about the problems she herself faced in her own journey to success, she responded, “Fortunately, I have always had a very supportive family, who told me I could do whatever I wanted in life.”
She envisaged that the problem most women faced was born from gender-based perception of themselves. Not just in India, but across the world, women are always trying to be the perfect woman, which leads to a lot of guilt.
“The problems I have faced are more internal than external. Because of social gender bias, I was always consumed by guilt that maybe what I am doing is harming my family. That guilt is what caused me stress earlier,” she said.
On a lighter note, she admitted to having many nerdy hobbies such as building Lego! She says that she and her family spend many a holiday building Lego. She also loves video games, ‘Call of Duty’ being her favorite. She says when she was three-months pregnant, she once played Call of Duty in 3D straight for 8 hours! In addition, she loves adventure sports like road biking and rock climbing.
A mother of two children, she has an 11-year old daughter and a 7-year old son, and yet she juggles her work and job magnificently.
“Whatever we do, we do it together, as a family. For example, when my daughter wanted to learn skating, I learned to skate with her, instead of just putting her in a class. I fell many times, but I learned it with her,’’ she chuckles.
The dilemma of every working woman is the guilt that eats them when they have to leave their family for work. Even the likes of Deepthi Ravula haven’t been untouched by this dilemma. However, with support from family and a change in her self-perception, she has achieved great heights. Every Indian woman could take inspiration here.