The difference in attitude and approach towards the world between the dreamers and the settlers, between those who achieve and those who stagnate starts from when they ask, ‘Why?’ or ‘Why not?’
Aparajita Roy, Co-founder of KornChain, a blockchain tech start-up in London, and Founder of by Woman– a women-dedicated art brand in India, exemplifies the attitude that dares to be more.
Aparajita started her career at the Reserve Bank of India in 2017. Since then, she has been researching technology that shapes the way people hold, transfer, and spend money digitally. At KornChain, she works on business applications of blockchain in the consumer loyalty industry, the recent one being Central Bank Digital Currencies.
Her passion for handicrafts led her to launch a women-led women-focused art brand in India– by Woman. She, with her team, is on a mission to build an art community & an equal-opportunity platform of /for women artists & art sentinels. They aim to make handmade art more accessible to art admirers and preserve its legacy through generations.
Aparajita was a postgraduate student at the University of Nottingham, UK. She won the Longstanding Volunteer Award in 2021 and was invited for a lecture (webinar) at the University of Oklahoma in 2022.
Let us dive into the attitude of a challenger who achieves.
“I believe every challenge is an opportunity to grow, and just like every (co)founder, I will continue to have a fair share myself,” expresses Aparajita. She avoids the word ‘a woman founder’ while describing her journey as she believes that there are many common challenges faced by men and women in the technology domain that need to be addressed just as much as those that are quite specific to women founders.
Historically, however, there are data and incidents that show that women face more challenges or need to make an extra effort, given very similar circumstances. One prominent challenge that Aparajita highlights would be access to equity finance. As per data, only 16% of total equity investment goes to start-ups with female founders, and 3% goes to start-ups with all-female founding teams.
Aparajita is of the opinion that many times investors seek a piece of themselves in the founder while deciding to invest.
“It’s tough to convince a man to see a woman and find similar grit and values when their biases might corrupt their judgment and when there are hardly any women examples in the industry” says Aparajita, “Early on in a start-up, gaining investors’ confidence plays a key role.”
The technology industry is male dominated, with only one-third of the workforce being filled by women. But Aparajita rejects feeling intimidated. She says, “You call it a challenge? I see this as a scope to make an impact and be heard. If you bring some of the most unique ideas, then back them up with tremendous courage.
At KornChain, I have an attitude of ‘Why not?’ and ‘Let us…’ but at the same time, my team has been extremely welcoming of my ideas which I see the shape as our product every day.”
Vision & Trust of KornChain
The foundation pillar of KornChain is the people on the team. They are hugely self-motivated who bring some of the best expertise from the payments industry and are hungry to make positive change happen fast. The company was incorporated in January 2018, but in 2020 it was hit by the pandemic. The founder, Animesh Ghosh, kept the team’s spirit pumped with his crystal-clear vision, and they built one of the most resilient technology products. Today at a turning point in the company’s history, the product smoothly fits the requirements of building the ecosystem for Central Bank Digital Currencies.
At KornChain, people are output focused. They comprise of a small team located miles away from one another and promote workforce flexibility to gain trust. But trust works both ways. Because the team enjoys higher degrees of flexibility, they are also conscious of when and how they deliver.
“As a Co-founder, it is equally my responsibility to keep both sides in check. I do that by practicing a high work ethic, adjusting my schedule in times of need, and making my team feel very comfortable in reaching out for a task at odd hours and, at the same time, making them aware that taking time off will only mean I will return fresh and full of ideas,” adds Aparajita.
Aparajita sounds very excited when she talks about the Central Bank Digital Currencies that are about to bring one of the most significant shifts in the payments industry and in everyday lives. The concept would sound new to most, but globally; payment systems have been meeting the purpose of a CBDC bit by bit. She gives the example of UPI in India– one of the biggest government tech initiatives that made India the leading digitally transacting country in 2021-22.
“KornChain has been one of the pioneering start-ups to research on this novel ask of having a Central Bank-backed digital currency, and we have a very mature product that can deliver on multiple requirements of a CBDC ecosystem,” shares Aparajita.
Uplifting Woman Artists
Speaking of the budding art brand by Woman, Aparajita says that they have only just begun. She has plans to grow the organization by adding deserving women artists from diverse artistic backgrounds and collaborating with brands to share knowledge & align all this with their primary mission of appreciation, preservation & propagation of handmade art. To that effect, the company is collaborating with Prashast, which promotes handcrafted products procured from artisans belonging to an underprivileged socio-economic setting in India.
Aparajita declares, “We are building a movement together, one artist at a time.”
On Technological Advancement
“Technological advancement to me is achieving greater natural human connectivity where human capabilities become a limitation– to solve problems, ease processes and make room for the new,” says Aparajita.
She explains it with an example: To address physically unattainable distances to communicate, people once used to write letters and then make a telephone call. Today there are video calls. The ask has always been one– to be able to communicate such that one can see and hear as if sitting across each other. The evolution of technology has taken years to fulfil that one ask and will continue to do so as more avenues like artificial and virtual realities are explored. That’s the importance of tech advancement.
Blockchain is one such technology that she wouldn’t call disruptive but rather foundational, as it is here to evolve how people, processes, and the society functions. She says, “It will lay the foundation of how companies and people, essentially, work together.”
Aparajita has been asked over and over, “Do we even need blockchain?” She wonders, “How do I go about answering that it is the most logical answer to many of the process and time-related challenges we face in a world of increasingly erasing boundaries?”
Future Goals & Advice
Aparajita has aligned both her professional and personal goals to make the best of 2023 at both KornChain and by Woman, she urges aspiring business leaders to keep an open mind, learn and let learn. “You can become a leader only if you are empathetic and willing to solve even the simplest of problems. Because simple asks lead to big innovations!” she concludes.