For someone who grew up in a middle class family in Haryana in the 1980s and 90s, going abroad for higher education was rarely a plausible dream. But for Swati Bhargava (37), growing up in the small town of Ambala in Haryana was never a barrier to studying at the most prestigious institutes in the world, or for launching businesses in the UK and India.
Co-founder of Delhi-based cash back startup CashKaro, which counts Tata Group Chairman Emeritus Ratan Tata among its investors, Swati spoke to MAKERS India recently about what made her the woman she is today. According to her, all the wonderful things that happened to her did because she has made the best of the opportunities she ever got.
A class topper since school, Swati’s hard work took her to Singapore after 10th grade on full-scholarship, and later to London School of Economics for Bachelors in Mathematics and Economics.
Talking to MAKERS India, she recollects how, in her first week in Singapore, she was injured after a fall and had to use crutches to go to class for a month. She was just 16 at the time – a student at the National Junior College, Singapore. It was Swati’s first time being away from home, and she had never been abroad before. But none of that held her back. After 12th grade, she got admission at the Oxford University as well as the London School of Economics in the UK, with scholarship from the latter.
Thanking her family who has always supported her ambitions, Swati recounts, “My grandfather told my dad, “Your daughter got into LSE with 80 percent scholarship; that’s the best she could do. Now you got to do your part and figure out a way to send her there. So my parents used all their savings for me, and I went to the LSE.”
After graduation, Swati went on to work on Goldman Sachs. After marrying her Rohan Bhargava, her batch-mate from the LSE, Swati embraced entrepreneurship, and the duo launched a cashback site called Pouring Pounds in the UK in 2011. Seeing the potential for the business in India, the couple moved to Delhi after a few years, and launched CashKaro – the Indian subsidiary of Pouring Pounds – in 2015.
For Indian middle class consumers, nothing sounds better than savings while splurging, and that’s exactly what Swati’s startup offered.
It is no surprise that, as part of the rapidly growing Indian startup ecosystem in the last decade, CashKaro raised more than $4 million and has grown to a team of more than 150 people.
For Swati and Rohan, however, one of the biggest validations to their brainchild was receiving investment in CashKaro from business tycoon Ratan Tata. Actively investing in Indian startups for the last few years (in his personal capacity), Ratan Tata – even the name alone - provides credibility and respect in the startup ecosystem. Speaking to MAKERS India, Swati shared the story of on-boarding one of the most prominent business personalities in India on to her startup.
A believer in the power of team work and transparent communication with her employees, Swati has also attained something that few startup founders in India can boast of. In the past few months, thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent economic crisis, many large corporates as well as smaller startups have had to lay off employees and/or cut salaries. But at CashKaro, Swati says, they have avoided lay-offs and will go ahead with salary appraisals in the next few weeks. “Our business took a hit in April and May; but now we are back to business as usual. My team has shown dedication, and this team is my biggest achievement,” she says.
When asked what she believes is the reason for her success, Swati says with a smile, ““When you have supportive parents, it changes everything. My parents supported my ambitions in education, and here I am.”
(Videos Edited By Anjali V)