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Women on Top in Tech – Nikita Acharya, CEO/Co-founder at Urbangirl

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(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Here is my interview with Nikita Acharya, CEO/Co-founder of Urbangirl. Urbangirl aim to create a culture among Nepalese business industries where customers come first. Having served over 60,000+ satisfied customers, they take full pride in saying that they have been able to create happiness among our customers, the majority of which are females.

Urban Girl Logo-100x100


What makes you do what you do?

The Nepalese online consumer market is still at its infancy stage. Although online shopping portals such as Amazon and Ebay are accessible to Nepalese customers, such websites do not support online transactions using credit cards issued by Nepalese banks. Moreover, a lack of effective consumer protection law from the government along with the lack of legitimacy of online business from customers’ perspective, give rise to challenges to address multiple problems. These unique characteristics of the Nepalese online market required designing a unique business model that enable customers to purchase products even under the conditions where 1) they do not have credit cards or cannot use it because it is not supported online, and 2) they do not trust the notion of an e-business. I am determined to address these problems facing the Nepalese society and add value to online shopping in Nepal with a new and unique business model and I want to bring change in this industry in Nepal.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?

When I was 19 when I started my first company, Urban Girl. I remember surfing through international e-commerce website and wonder how amazing it’d be if people at Nepal had the same option. I dreamt of opening one of my own.  This dream came to a fruition during the fifth-semester of my Bachelors in Business Administration (BBA) program. At that time, the Nepalese consumer market was devoid of an online shopping portal. I realized that while the prevailing market condition was a problem for customers, it was an opportunity for me. Taking action, Kiran (the other co-founder) and I started to brainstorm ideas to combat this deficiency in the Nepalese market. Our vision was to make our online portal a preferred shopping center for our target customers.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?

I knew girls love shopping as much as I do and since Nepal never had any specific platform devoted just for girls we started Urban Girl. At UG, we provide a one point stop where women can buy many essentials online. A few years later we started a gift and cake section to our website. At the beginning of the last year (2016) we started our own factory and bakery outlet as UG cakes. And we began 2017 with a new venture, UG chocolates where we make customized chocolates and deliver it throughout the town.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?

There are many mentors, none, in particular, I’ve come across in my life. People who are focused and are self-motivated to follow their dreams are the ones I look up to.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?

As a leader, I get to learn from the people. I get to dive into their pool of talents and get a deep understanding of their skills and knowledge. Instead of just keeping my talent, this actually sharpens it and gives me the new and fresh perspective to understand and explore everything better.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?

I love it when I get to learn things from different perspectives. New ideas, new thoughts and different approach of seeing things are one of the most interesting parts in the work I do. And all these comes from diversity. So, diversity is something I’d always support.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?

As an entrepreneur, one has to understand that things can go haywire every now and then, despite the fact that you have given your everything to it. Keeping your focus on to the end goals instead of getting distracted due to short-term failure is, in my opinion, the biggest quality needed to achieve and lead.

Advice for others?

You live once, make the best out of it.


To learn more about Urbangirl, please see http://www.urbangirl.me.

I am a huge fan and cheerleader of Women Leaders — If you know of an AMAZING Woman Founder, CEO, Leader in Tech or you are one yourself — Write me here.
AMPLIFY Conscious Business Leadership with me.

Callum Connects

Jason Feng, Co-Founder of Pillpresso

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Mr. Jason Feng is re-engineering the healthcare industry.

What’s your story?
I am an engineer at heart. I enjoy the process of problem solving and have been actively developing innovative solutions to existing problems. Me and my co-founder settled on the problem of poor medication adherence among the elderly. This was a problem which struck a chord with us because we all have loved ones who have to take multiple medications on a daily basis. The complex medication regimen, coupled with declining cognitive abilities of the elderly tend to exacerbate the lack of medication adherence, which may lead to disease relapse and hospital readmissions, ultimately increasing the burden to caregivers and the society.

What excites you most about your industry?
The problem of medication adherence is not a new one in the healthcare industry. In fact, lack of medication adherence is a well-researched problem in many countries. Solutions which have been developed to address this problem face three major issues:

  • Entrenched mindset within the healthcare system, many of which are used to and unwilling to change from the legacy systems which were implemented decades ago.
  • Complex nuances in healthcare delivery across different countries, making it hard to “copy” and “paste” solutions which have worked well in other areas.
  • Because poor medication adherence is multifactorial, and many solutions focus solely on a few aspects, and do not employ a holistic approach.

Nevertheless, entering this industry at this time excites me because we are in the midst of a global shift in healthcare models; one where the industry is moving away from a service-based model, towards a more value-based model. This shift means that traditional players such as insurance companies and pharmaceuticals are under increasing pressure from patients and payers to demonstrate the value of their products under real-world use. Medication adherence data is one crucial missing link in this puzzle to deliver better care to patients. Being able to build a business around these incumbents and pioneer a new way of care is something which I look forward to.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I am a Singaporean. Most of my experiences throughout my life have been in Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I have not worked in other Asian countries outside of Singapore, so I can’t comment on other Asian countries too much. Singapore has a relatively low barrier for starting a business, and all business rules and regulations are clear and transparent. The startup ecosystem is also rather comprehensive and easily accessible. Being a small country, Singapore has a very limited market for products and services. However, due to its size and efficiency, it serves as an excellent test bed for new ideas. Being a travel hub, travelling to other Asian countries is cheap and easy.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Fail fast, fail often. The greatest lessons are never learnt through success.

Who inspires you?
Elon Musk

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Successful launch of Falcon Heavy and the recovery of the 2 side cores. The way the 2 cores landed was like something you’d only see in CGI. Very well calculated.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Applied for NOC (NUS Overseas College)

How do you unwind?
Go rock climbing.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Nepal. I’m an outdoors guy. Being able to trek around the Himalayas is probably the best form of relaxation for me.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Creative confidence, by the Kelly Brothers

Shameless plug for your business:
Pillpresso is an award-winning health-tech startup that aims to improve medication adherence. We’re developing a medication management system that empowers seniors to manage their medicines independently and deliver proactive healthcare in the community through technology. Comprising individuals with complementary skills across business, engineering and medicine, our team is driven by a desire to improve healthcare and the human condition.

Grand Prize Winner of the 2017 Tech Factor Challenge
https://www.opengovasia.com/articles/8072-top-4-grand-prize-winners-for-3rd-edition-of-ageing-in-place-tech-challenge-announced-in-singapore

Grand Prize Winner of the 2015 Modern Aging
https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/business/3-teams-receive-s-125-000-of-seed-funding-for-elderly-friendly-i-8246318

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Entrepreneurship

Will Financial Liberalisation Trigger a Crisis in China?

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The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has been liberalizing its financial system for nearly 4 decades. While it now has a comprehensive financial system with a large number of financial institutions and large financial assets, its financial policies are still highly repressive. These repressive financial policies are now a major hindrance to the PRC’s economic growth.

The PRC is at the beginning of a new wave of financial liberalization that is necessary for supporting the country’s strong economic growth. The country’s leaders have already unveiled a comprehensive program of financial reform, which includes 11 specific reform measures in three broad areas: creating a level-playing field (such as allowing private banks and developing inclusive finance), freeing the market mechanism (such as reforming interest rate and exchange rate regimes and achieving capital account convertibility), and improving regulation.

But could financial liberalization lead to a major financial crisis in the PRC? What would be the consequences for financial stability as the PRC moves to further liberalize its financial system? If the PRC repeats the painful experiences of Mexico, Indonesia, and Thailand, then it might not be able to achieve its original goal of overcoming the middle-income trap.

International experiences of financial liberalization, especially those of middle-income economies, should offer important lessons for the PRC. In our new research, based on cross-country data analysis, we find that financial liberalization, in general, reduces, not increases, financial instability. This powerful conclusion is valid whether financial instability is measured by crisis occurrence or by fragility indicators, such as impaired loans and net charge-offs. The only exception is that financial liberalization does not appear to significantly lower the probability of systemic banking crises, although it does lower the risk indicators for banks. These results have higher statistical significance and are greater in magnitude for the middle-income group than for the entire sample.

The insignificant impact on banking crises, however, should be interpreted with caution. One of the possible explanations is that under the repressed financial regime, the government supports banks with an implicit or explicit blanket guarantee. This reduces the probability of an explicit banking crisis, although the banking risks may be even greater because of the moral hazard problem. In fact, government protection of banks could also increase the probability of a sovereign debt crisis or even a currency crisis before financial liberalization.

If financial liberalization significantly reduces the likelihood of financial crises, especially in middle-income economies, then why did some middle-income economies experience financial crises following liberalization? We further investigate whether the pace of liberalization, the supervisory structure, and the institutional environment matter for outcomes of financial liberalization.

We obtain three main findings. First, an excessively rapid pace of financial liberalization may increase financial risks. The net impact on financial instability depends on the relative importance of the “liberalization effect” and the “pace effect.” In essence, what the “pace effect” captures could simply be the prerequisite conditions and reform sequencing that are well discussed in the literature. Second, the quality of institutions, such as investor protection and law and order, also matter. International experiences indicate that investor protection can significantly reduce the probability of financial crises. Third, the central bank’s participation in financial regulation is helpful for reducing financial risks during financial liberalization. This is probably because central banks always play central roles in financial liberalization, especially in the liberalization of interest rates, exchange rates, and the capital account. If a central bank is responsible for financial regulation, its liberalization policies might be more cautious and prudent.

Our research findings offer important policy implications for the PRC. (1) Further financial liberalization is necessary not only for sustaining strong economic growth but also for containing or reducing financial risks. (2) Gradual reform may still work better than the “big bang” approach, and sequencing is very important for avoiding the painful financial volatilities that many other middle-income countries have seen. (3) The government should also focus more on improving the quality of other institutions, especially market discipline, to contain financial risks. (4) It is better for the central bank to participate in financial regulation. The new regulatory system should focus exclusively on financial stability and shift from regulating institutions toward regulating functions. It should also become relatively independent to increase accountability.

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About the Author 

This submitted article was written by  and  of Asia Pathways, the blog of The Asian Development Bank Institute was established in 1997 in Tokyo, Japan, to help build capacity, skills, and knowledge related to poverty reduction and other areas that support long-term growth and competitiveness in developing economies in the Asia-Pacific region.

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