(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.

Sivareena S.L. is the Co-Founder & COO of PregBuddy, a care continuum platform between doctors and their expecting patients throughout their nine months of pregnancy. Sivareena started her career in 2015 at a startup called Furlenco where she managed their supply chain and operations. She co-founded the PR Cell of IIT Kharagpur and also built supply chains at PepsiCo. and CocaCola.

What makes you do what you do?
Everyday at least 100 expecting mothers are delivering their babies after using PregBuddy. We get emails from them sharing photographs of them and their babies. This is hugely gratifying for me and my team and that’s what keeps us going every day.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?
Healthcare in India is still at its nascent stages of technology adoption. In other industries, a lot of experimentation has been done, but in healthcare there is a lot of opportunities where technology will lead to a massive transformation. Being among the first movers in an industry is always advantageous. For the past 1.5 years, we’ve been laser-focused in the maternal healthcare space, kept listening to our 60,000 expecting mothers, working closely with our technology and healthcare partners, and have been able to identify some deep insights about this space and build a product which is loved and trusted by expecting mothers and care providers across India.

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)?
We started PregBuddy when one of my cousins underwent a miscarriage in the 4th month of her pregnancy. Her entire family went through a period of mental distress. This is when we started working in the healthcare space. As none of us were parents, we met 200-250 expecting mothers across various hospitals in Bangalore. We connected them together on WhatsApp group, and let it run for 5 months and observed what kind of support they were seeking from each other. We didn’t write a single line of code until our WhatsApp group crossed 100,000 conversations/month, which is when we decided to go full time and build India’s first peer-to-peer reassurance platform for moms-to-be: PregBuddy.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?
We have Mr. Pradeep JaiSingh and Mr. Jayant Kadambi as our mentor and advisor. Pradeep is​ a renowned angel investor in the healthcare ecosystem who is also the Founder & Chairman of ​HealthStart​ – India’s 1st healthcare accelerator in India. He is very well connected with the hospitals across India which helps us scale up our business. Jayant is the Co-founder & Ex-Chairman of YuMe, IPOed in NYSE in 2013. He is an LP for VCs in India & US and well connected in the startup ecosystem. He helps us hands-on on business strategy, hiring and with his wide network.

How did you make a match if you did, and how did you end up being mentored by him/her?
My co-founder, Subhadeep, got connected with Mr. Jayant via a mutual connection. We then had a couple of discussions about our product and growth strategy with Jayant. For Pradeep, we got connected via our investor network. Initial discussions help make the right connections for mentorship. Hence as entrepreneurs, you need to showcase your insights in your field, your focus for the product and your strategy to grow in the space. Also, you need to identify your strengths and weaknesses to understand how your mentor can assist you. This is what helped us onboard them as our mentors early on.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
As a co-founder, I keep myself engaged in the various technology, product, design, entrepreneurs communities, both online and offline, which is how I created a big network to reach out for spotting great talent, who is highly motivated about the problems we’re solving and is culturally fit for our team. Once we get a talent onboard, we make sure they are able to learn from each other within the team, industry experts as well as peers in their respective fields. We make sure everyone’s work is valued, respected and talked about in their own communities. This allows them to grow personally, professionally and a create a brand of their own, which takes longer time in bigger companies. We’ve followed the same strategy with our interns as well

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
I consciously support diversity and strive for creating equal opportunity. Even though we are a small team, we have a good mix in the team which came together purely based on the complementary skill set they bring to the table. Setting up heterogeneous environment through promoting a culture of tolerance, open communication, creating conflict management strategies and removing addressing hidden biases early on makes this culture drive down in the company.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
3 things: perseverance, strategic risk-taking, and awesome networking skills.

Advice for others?
I truly believe in “grabbing an opportunity which is difficult to recreate in future”. Life keeps giving you options, some are easy to decide and some makes you think about what you really want to be. Choosing the path which you think is difficult to get again will help you stay on your toes and work harder to be better.

While starting up, a mantra that helps me get going is “to be bold & ask”. The worse outcome would be a no. The startup ecosystem is so mature that everyone in this journey understands the challenges and are open to help. One cannot be an expert in all fields and the gaps are filled in by asking this network.


If you’d like to get in touch with Sivareena S.L., please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/sivareena/

To learn more about PregBuddy, please click here.