Madhavi Shankar is a young, passionate, socially committed entrepreneur who advocates equal educational opportunities through her start-up SpaceBasic- an interactive hurdle free application for student housing. In recognition of her contribution, Madhavi, 29, was invited as a speaker to the United Nations. Within two years, her engagements resonated through a series of appreciations, awards and recognition from the country.
Speaking about her encounter with the start-up ecosystem, Madhavi Shankar takes The Professional Times through her start-up journey from an entrepreneur to becoming one among the 9 ambassadors for UN’s ‘One Million Global Youth Leaders for Sustainable Development by 2030 (1M2030) initiative launched in Geneva. She was invited along with her co-founder Aiden Bingham to represent SpaceBasic.
Please help us with a brief introduction about yourself. (Introduction, achievements, contributions, projects etc.)
I was born in Bangalore, India. My parents are doctors and I have a younger sister.
My early schooling was at Our Own English High School in Dubai before we moved back to Bangalore, India. I then graduated from National Public School, Bangalore.
I completed my Bachelors Of Engineering – Computer Science – from CMR Institute of Technology, Bangalore, India, and further, completed two Master’s degrees, Master of Business Administration (MBA) and Master’s Degree, Engineering Management (MS) from the University of Technology, Sydney, Australia.
I was honoured to receive an Honorary Doctorate, Information Technology from Mother Teresa Virtual University, J&B Harvard, USA.
LinkedIn Profile: Madhavi Shankar
How do you see the competitive world in present circumstances?
COVID has really forced the business to think if we are crisis-proof and if we’re not, implement effective measures to make sure we are and we survive.
This pandemic has defined technology is the future.
How supportive your family was during your struggle time?
It is said that behind every successful man, there’s a woman; In my case, behind my aspirations to be successful is my father. He has played a pivotal role in my life. Additionally, my mother has raised my sister and me to always chase our dreams.
Would you like to talk about your startup and how did you get the incubation idea?
Early 2016, I was introduced to a successful woman entrepreneur – Indu Navar, during a trip to the US. I thought it would be a social meeting. Today, we are co-founders. The one thing we had in common was – “India”.
Our conversation helped us understand that having liberal parents who sent us abroad for education are few and far between. We had a lot more privileges than the average Indian woman; thus with a mission to contribute to the social and economic growth, in the education sector, I returned to India.
During the course of my due-diligence, gender-based violence within student housing communities reported in the media caught my attention. We quickly recognised the heavily unstructured operational patterns across most student housing & co-living communities, private & government sectors.
We found student housing communities within schools and colleges followed archaic manual processes to carry out day-to-day tasks like verbal permissions for students, handwritten data management and more. These manual processes were labour intensive, plagued with problems and simply could not ensure the safety and security of our students. Indu’s father ran a non-profit hostel in Bangalore for under privilege students and was familiar with some of the struggles with manual processes.
We also discovered parents are more acceptive to their daughters staying in dormitories for education when they are confident her safety is ensured.
We might think, with increased technology adoption and the many opportunities, students are far more equipped to be employable. I was perplexed to learn that this assumption is far from reality. Interacting with students in hostels especially in tier 2-3 cities, we found them to have little or no idea of how or where to access real-world skills and opportunities.
We knew there had to be a better way! We then launched SpaceBasic to our pilot users in August 2017.
Today, SpaceBasic is India’s first technology forward, interactive networking platform, for day-to-day communication and task management within Student Housing & Co-living Communities. We address critical problems like safety checks, digital data management, open & improved communication channels between all stakeholders.
With SpaceBasic, students not only experience digital and secure living but also have unbiased, equal access to opportunities from global corporation partners, via our ‘Corporate Connect’ offering. This way, on SpaceBasic, students from Tier 2,3 cities have the same opportunities as students from Tier 1 cities without bias of background or location and focused merely on qualifications.
What is the biggest lesson life has taught you?
I remember an incident, during the course of my due-diligence in 2016. I met a successful entrepreneur who said our idea to start SpaceBasic was not going to work. I was taken aback to hear that so early in my journey. Nonetheless, we continued our due-diligence and with market validation, we launched SpaceBasic. This though me, trusting my gut and perseverance are key life skills. Never give up!
How do you develop yourself outside of the work environment?
I love reading articles and self-help books along with interacting with people from different walks of life.
What is the most courageous thing you have done in your life?
Taken the leap of faith to start SpaceBasic 🙂
What challenges are you facing? Where are you stuck?
Building a team with shared purpose and vision was a challenge but with effective strategies and help from mentors, we’ve been able to set a process with effective hiring processes. We have been able to build a team that believes in the vision and the product. We have a great team today!
How well do you listen and connect with others?
Fairly well, I’d say. It’s a work in progress. This is an important trait for entrepreneurs.
What are the weakest points in your area and how do you plan to deal with them?
Self-doubt. I believe learning, unlearning and practising mindfulness helps with overcoming this.
What are your future plans?
Our goal for the future is to Digitize 1 million users living experience via SpaceBasic.
A message to your viewers?
The most important things is to believe in yourself. In any career you pursue, build an ecosystem that fosters your success and growth.