Mateshwari Karnani is living proof of how iron-will and sheer determination can build a successful business and empower women as well. The founder of Kissamago services was married off at a young age to a family that did not encourage her love for passion or writing let alone entrepreneurship. A first pay-cheque for 250 rupees ignited a spark in her to earn her own living. She started with running operations at her residence with just 4 transcibers in 1998 and now has an office in Bandra, Mumbai with more than a 100 people working under her. Here are some excerpts from an interview.
1. ‘Kissamago’ services include transcription, translation, moderation, research interviews and more. How did you think about making this as a business?
Just as I finished my graduation in B.com I was married off. My friend was given a huge assignment and was clueless about the deliverable of it, it was then when he approached me. It was a really good opportunity for me to work from the comfort of my home and make a mark for myself; my first assignment back then fetched me 250 Rs. Later on he went about setting up a new business thus I was left with an opportunity that I always strived for. This was a new beginning for me as I set on a journey of my own where I wanted to stand on my feet and explore the world outside. Back then transcription was not a business and many didn’t know the advantages of it. With approaching research companies to convincing housebound women to join me was a struggle in itself. I couldn’t see myself confined to the four walls of the house and thus my brother always told me ‘To break the walls and never say no’.
2. Your brother played an important role in your business and career? Tell us something about that?
Yes indeed he did. He was the main pillar of my strength and constantly guided me and motivated me to explore and experiment. I didn’t know the ABC of business but it was him who always held my back and influenced me to look beyond the horizons of the four walls of my house. I remember back then ‘Just Dial’ had just launched and in order to market my business it was him who asked me to get listed as a ‘Transcriptional Service’ business. Today also all the way from abroad he calls me and tells me how to go about with the promotions and being updated with the technology as the world around us is changing so fast.
3. Your team comprises of women mostly? From what kind of backgrounds do these women come from?
Yes that’s true. From the time I have started till now it’s been 15 years that I am into this industry. Back then I used to give work to women who were just homemakers and were not employed or so. Today there are a lot of women who are working for me; I remember an incident where off lately one of my employees who has been working with me since the beginning said “Ma’am when I first came to you my son was hardly a year old and recently my son just finished his HSC exams and I didn’t realise how time went by and I am still working for you”. That’s the kind of relationship I share with the colleagues and team that works along with me. Many of them are college students, young house-wives, Ex Bankers; one is a retired principal and also some women whose husbands are working in the Indian Army, Navy and Airforce. So there are women from all walks of life who are working for me. Besides these even men have joined this industry and its gives me great pleasure to say that some of my workers husbands have also joined in.
4. What has been the biggest achievement of your career till now?
There are so many; my list of clients includes BBC, Reliance, Microsoft, Godrej and even the National Stock Exchange, I had never thought that one day I would work with such big companies. Back then where I was and today what I am has been an achievement in itself. I also had the opportunity to work with Mr Steve Ballmer of Microsoft. I was chosen as the ‘Women Entrepreneur’ by Goldmans Sachs for an Entrepreneurship program which was held at ISB, Hyderabad.
5. Do you think men and women have different work ethics?
Yes men and women definitely have a different and contrasting work ethic. Men are more professional and hence are preferred more in the corporate world whereas on the other side women are more loyal and committed to their work. Women are great multi tankers and thus if given an assignment at home to do just with a laptop she will not only complete the work within time limit but also look after her small child, cook food and do other chores of the house. Which if compared to a man he will just do his work and be focused on one task at a given time.
6. Do you believe that ‘Transcription Industry’ has a future in India? Where do you see this industry 5 years down the line?
This industry has a lot of scope not only five years down the line but even youngsters and aspiring candidates can choose this as a career in the near future. I am along with my team developing a syllabus of ranscription and trying to get associated with the Mumbai University and Amity University so that ‘Transcription’ is started as a part of extracurricular activities right from the 9th standard. I am sure that even the MNCs and Corporate companies will soon have an in-house transcription team just as an HR department. This is a blooming industry and with India sought to be a big market and being multi-lingual country knowledge of transcription will come handy and will be a great asset to the country.
7. One message that you would like to give to young aspiring women entrepreneurs?
Successful business is all about integrity and aiming to make a positive social impact. If you believe in something we need to strive to achieve it without compromising on our ethical values….if we do that growth will follow! I would only tell women that “Break the walls and never say NO”.