Born in India and now a citizen of Singapore, Redicka Subrammanian is making her mark as a tech entrepreneur in the United States. You don’t have to speak with her very long before concluding that for her, breaking gender, cultural, and geographical boundaries to market cool technology is all in a day’s work.
Subrammanian is CEO of Interakt Digital Communications Group, a customer engagement services provider that she co-founded in Singapore in 2004 to simplify customer data analytics. She’s spent most of the last 18 months in this country, which is now home to three Interakt offices, located in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. But she’s spent the past several months traveling back and forth between the United States and Singapore, driving the launch of Resultiks, the company’s new omnichannel marketing automation platform.
I had the opportunity to speak with Subrammanian earlier this month, and I opened the conversation by mentioning that I had recently interviewed female tech entrepreneurs from Ukraine and Vietnam. So I asked her in her capacity as another female tech entrepreneur from outside of this country, what it is that these women bring to the United States that’s unique. She said it’s an against-all-odds perspective:
I think what we bring is a different perspective on how to leverage technology in the context of business. Obviously in the emerging markets, everything is not that fantastically process-oriented, so that gives us a lot of insight into how to get technology to work against all odds. I don’t want there to be a negative connotation, but it is a little bit chaotic in most of the emerging markets—there is not a significant process-oriented foundation. So knowing how to handle that, and still deliver value to the business, that experience gives us a unique perspective. It’s what helps women tech entrepreneurs drive value in the U.S. market.
I conveyed to Subrammanian my sense that most people in this country think of India as a very patriarchal society, and that the tech sector in India is probably even more male-dominated than the tech sector in the United States. I asked her if she thinks that’s the case, and if so, whether it’s changing at all. Her response:
It has definitely changed in the last five to seven years, thanks to the education system in India, and thanks to the society being more open. Women have taken a lot more initiative, and that’s just now getting recognition in India. I’ve been out of India for 18 years—I was working in Malaysia, and then in Singapore. That gave me confidence, and strength, to overcome obstacles—that has given me credibility with my male counterparts back in India.
I asked Subrammanian how she would compare the experience of a female tech entrepreneur from India/Singapore with that of a female tech entrepreneur from the United States. She indicated that there are probably more similarities than differences:
The difference would be that we have had to fight against a lot more odds, in terms of not having the basic frameworks, the processes, the systems in place that would have given us an easier entry. We’ve had to be a lot more resilient, and to find workarounds to get accepted, and then to move up the ladder to eventually make a difference. The similarity between women tech entrepreneurs in the U.S. and India, as well as in any part of the world, I would say, is the qualities that women naturally have. I don’t know if other women would agree with me, but for me, I like to believe that when I do things, I do them exactly like how I would run my home or my family—with the same amount of commitment and passion, and with the resilience to not give up. Those same qualities are brought to the business.
Nearly all female entrepreneurs I’ve spoken with have told me that gender is a factor in securing venture-capital funding—that it’s more difficult for women. Subrammanian said that hasn’t been her experience:
That’s a very timely question, because right now I’m in the market, looking for equity funding. I don’t think that’s any more challenging for women than it is for men—I haven’t seen that in the last five months I’ve been in the market [for VC funding]. I’ve seen a lot of venture capitalists who have been extremely open and totally excited by the kind of platform technology that we have created. So I would say so far, they have welcomed me with open arms.
Subrammanian wrote an interesting piece for Forbes.com last year, titled, “3 Lessons I Learned from Saying No to an Acquisition Offer.” I asked her under what circumstances it makes sense to say “yes” to an acquisition offer, and she had a ready response:
It makes sense to say “yes” to an acquisition offer when you know that there is still going to be room for the entrepreneurialism to stay alive, and where you know there’s going to be room for the innovation to continue. It should not be about financial consolidation, which is what most acquisitions and mergers turn out to be. There are some tech entrepreneurs who have created some great platforms and innovative technologies, but the minute they get acquired by another larger company, they get lost in that ocean.
As we wrapped up our conversation, Subrammanian mentioned how grateful she felt last November when, having come from very humble beginnings in India, she traveled to New York to accept a gold Stevie Award for Women in Business, which recognizes outstanding women executives and entrepreneurs:
I wanted to share that moment of happiness, and say “thank you” to the U.S., which has always welcomed entrepreneurs like us, and said to us, “We are open to receiving people like you, and to recognizing what value you can bring.”
A contributing writer on IT management and career topics with IT Business Edge since 2009, Don Tennant began his technology journalism career in 1990 in Hong Kong, where he served as editor of the Hong Kong edition of Computerworld. After returning to the U.S. in 2000, he became Editor in Chief of the U.S. edition of Computerworld, and later assumed the editorial directorship of Computerworld and InfoWorld. Don was presented with the 2007 Timothy White Award for Editorial Integrity by American Business Media, and he is a recipient of the Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award for editorial excellence in news coverage. Follow him on Twitter @dontennant.