Preksha Kaparwan is one among the few women entrepreneurs in India, making a mark in technology for businesses today. But till a few years ago, she was not planning to be an entrepreneur, or even a techie. A chef who learnt coding and AI for pursuing a new career path, Preksha has a story unlike any other. In a recent chat with MAKERS India, she recounted her journey, and shared some tips on how entrepreneurs can survive these tough times.
Although women entrepreneurship is being actively encouraged in India now, gender inequality is so deeply ingrained in our culture that policies are not enough to empower women. However, Preksha (30) has been a beneficiary of changing mindsets towards girls’ education and financial empowerment.
In fact, Preksha – who hails from Joshimath, a small town in Uttarakhand - has seen how traditions are changing, and how girls and women are becoming more empowered now. “In our community, girls are always encouraged to study. Women are the decision makers in families. So the tradition (which held women back) has changed and we are taking pride in growing these values,” she says.
Preksha believes that although her parents wanted her to pursue technical education (which she refused to), most Indian parents tend to look at technology education as something that is too hard for their daughters. “Or they think that if girls become techies, they will get such good jobs that they won't be able to find suitable husbands or take care of the family,” she tells MAKERS India, adding that women are not raised to be leaders. “We have been raised to get things done and make people comfortable and be able to manage our environment, take care of our family,” she adds.
But Preksha is one of those women who dared to be different. Even though her parents wanted her to be an engineer, Preksha wanted to be a chef. She graduated in hospitality management from Institute of Hotel Management in Delhi in 2010, following which she worked as a Sous Chef for two years. Afterwards, she shifted to teaching at Institute of Hotel Management, Chandigarh, and later did a few stints in marketing.
Working as a marketeer for RealBox, a startup developing a tech-based solution for the hospitality industry, was a turning point for her. When that Delhi-based startup pivoted to a new idea, founder Saurabh Moody invited Preksha to come on board as a Co-founder, in 2015.
Last year, moving on from RealBox, Preksha co-founded Alphaa.ai along with Saurabh. Alphaa.ai helps organisations with knowledge insights, by enabling users to access analytics through conversations driven by AI and NLP. (Alphaa AI is an augmented analytics platform for tableau, PowerBI, and other existing BI tools.)
Headquartered in Noida, Alphaa.ai has branches in San Fransisco and London, the startup targets organisations that are mature in adapting technology. Their clientele includes quite a few Fortune 500 companies.
Similarities Between a Chef and an Entrepreneur
Although Preksha’s work revolves around technology, she says that the skills that she gained as a chef are very much of her entrepreneurial role. As a chef, she had learnt to manage a team, work in high pressure situations, and work for long hours – just as you have to do as an entrepreneur.
“In cooking, a lot of the flavour depends on how much you roast certain ingredients, how long you sauté certain things, and the precise temperature to add certain items. These techniques teach you patience,” she says, adding that the chef-experience also gave her an eye for detail.
“As an entrepreneur, I want everything to add to customer experience, just as I did as a chef,” she tells MAKERS India.
Surely, Preksha is cooking up a recipe for entrepreneurial success now.