Pay It Forward is a Bangalore based startup founded by Vinita Jain, Anu Seth and Preetha Wali in 2016.
We started the company to educate and motivate women and youngsters to understand and take charge of their personal finances and be aware of their financial rights.
We got an opportunity to talk with all the three founders of the company, Pay It Forward. Read their views and their journey as an entrepreneur which is really inspiring and motivating.
Brief intro to our startup?
Pay It Forward is an organisation started by Vinita Jain, Anu Seth and Preetha Wali in 2016. We started the company to educate and motivate women and youngsters to understand and take charge of their personal finances and be aware of their financial rights.
Earlier this year IIM Bangalore had an all India Women Start Up Program. Participants had to complete a MOOC and present their venture in a video pitch. Pay It Forward was one of the start ups chosen from Bangalore for a week long residential program. It was an extremely insightful and informative learning experience!
What made you start the start up and what problem does it solve?
All 3 of us came from a background of learning and realising the importance of knowing and participating in our own domestic financial decisions when we were in our late 30s. Once we started the process of learning there was no looking back In the course of our interactions with family and friends we realised this was an urgent and unmet need amongst most women and millennials. And almost as if it someone read our minds we got an offer to conduct a financial awareness workshop in one of the top schools in Bangalore. Seeing how the class 12 students enjoyed our way of imparting financial awareness the school requested us to do another one for students of class 11! Heady with the success of the program we put our heads together and realised the 3 of us loved this process of passing on our knowledge and helping people through their financial journey, through education Personal finance is not a subject taught either at our dinner tables or in most schools and colleges. Though this is a very crucial life sustaining skill it is much ignored so we stepped in to fill the learning gap For Women – We find gender stereotypes around finance. Women tend to believe they don’t need to know or participate in financial decisions. They typically pass on the reins to their spouse, father or even a financial advisor and in times of adversity find themselves in a tough spot. With women outliving men, divorce rates on the rise and single parenting a reality, women need to be motivated and shown the importance of taking charge of their finances and being aware of their rights. Millennials (men and women) – Youngsters today tend to believe they don’t earn enough or are mislead into taking credit cards or home loans without proper planning. They also tend to make wrong investments for tax saving purposes. We try to show them the importance of saving as a habit, importance of understanding credit card expenses and its pitfalls, taking home loans at a young age etc
Tell us about yourself, your previous jobs/ventures? What were you doing before this startup?
Preetha – After doing Journalism and Mass Communication in college I went on to work for some Ad agencies, CRY and The Times of India. When my boys were born I took a career break to be a full time homemaker. Reading and constantly being active are two things I’m passionate about so I read avidly and kept myself busy with being involved in few activities outside home While we were in Kolkata two friends convinced me to join financial literacy classes for women. At that time I did not see the merit in it but once I started learning I realised I loved economics! In a few years we moved to Bangalore and my sir and mentor Mr Bishnu Dhanuka asked me if I was keen on conducting the classes in Bangalore. It was the very first time that a student got a chance to start these sessions outside Kolkata. So I was totally honored and thrilled at the faith imposed in me. It was extremely challenging. Being a student is one thing but teaching is a totally different ball game. But I readily took up the challenge. After conducting the workshop for 3 years I wanted to move on and reach out to many more women. While I was wondering how to go about it Anu mentioned that a prestigious school was looking for a financial awareness workshop for their 12 th standard students. We grabbed the offer and roped in Vinita too as we knew she was also looking at something similar. And here we are 3 women passionate about changing mindsets, breaking myths and imparting financial education in a totally unbiased and structured manner. Since we had learnt and wanted to pass on to many many more people we called ourselves Pay It forward
Vinita Jain, Co founder, Pay It Forward Taking you thru my journey on finances……..I have always been very aware of the finances around me…. I always wondered why I was not able to go for a school trip where as all my friends could! So I guess my curiosity about finance (in those days it was simply money!) started in school days and I learnt to respect money from then on.
Today I am a Chartered Accountant and a Certified Financial Planner. My ventures/jobs so far-
● Co founder of Pay It Forward Services Pvt Ltd (current).
● Over the years I have always managed the personal finances of my family and friends (still do).
● Worked as a freelancer and assisted on a project by MIT on informal credit system in India.
● Eveready Industries Ltd –as an Industrial Trainer
● Warren Travels – Summer Job
Anu Seth – The early years of my career were spent in the corporate world of software and IT, having worked at Wipro, HCL Perot and ISRO. My initiation into economics was during a World Bank research project with Prof. Bruce Kogut in 2002, at INSEAD, where I did a software tool development. This is when I realised my inherent interest in the subject. When I took a career break, I perused my interest through a Economics for women program and converted to a full time investor. I’ve always been involved with social causes be it teaching computers; stitching; spastic society etc. Conceptualised and launched a spouse forum called ORB – our reach beyond that later took on Road Safety projects in Bangalore.
Where is your startup based out of? Why do you think that is the best place for you?
We are based in Bangalore and its is the best place as there are many IT and manufacturing firms here and they employ a large number of women and millennials in their workforce
As a startup founder, what are you paranoid about? What keeps you awake at night?
While we have a very unique module for our workshops we still have to make people understand the effectiveness of this module. We also find deep rooted biases towards learning about personal finance. People tend to prioritise many other aspects of their lives work , health, etc but very few hardly give finance the due attention it requires. And another biggest worry is it will be too late before we reach out to those who are in dire need of developing this skill
Who are your competitions and how are you better than them?
Our competitors are financial institutions that are SEBI mandated to conduct investor education workshops. We have a few advantages : – We are first and foremost learners on the job and hence understand the fears and aspirations of the participants so who better than us to take them through understanding personal finance step by step and from the very basics – We are 3 women passionate to impart their knowledge and help women and millennials realise their goals vs institutions that are mandated to conduct workshops – Each and every workshop we conduct is customised to give the maximum benefit to the participants. Never one size fits all – Being social entrepreneurs we take it as a moral responsibility to help others through their financial journey with absolutely no intention of promoting a financial product of any financial institution. We are purely there to ensure people learn a crucial life skill – We started the sessions for women and youngsters but along the way we were requested to conduct a workshop just for the employees heading for retirement and we did a very successful session and now it is a part of our modules offered
How hard is it to have a work life balance as a startup founder and how do you manage it?
Preetha – My children are all grown up so I am able to give a lot of my time to the company and at 47 putting my learning to use and realising this is a passion has been exhilarating so there haven’t been any major challenges to balance work and home. In fact my family is happy that I have finally found my passion and am actively pursuing it. Finding the right partners who complement me has been a big support too.
Vinita – Starting a venture at the age of 42 plus, definitely comes with its own challenges. I’ve learnt 2 things that help me oversee my day
1. Setting expectations upfront with family
2. Never lose sight of the big picture and have crystal clear clarity on one’s priorities
On a brighter side, starting at this age on our own venture has its own positives as we are very sure of ourselves and our goals.
Anu – When one is happy in the work they do, it’s really easy to achieve the work-life balance. I have been a strong proponent of career after forty, and have setup my family structure for this. Meal plans are done for the week and cooking is done first up for the rest of the day. My family chalks out our weekly time together and that’s sacrosanct. As mature founders, we have a balanced approach and fill in for each other if need be. Our deep friendship makes working together like a day out with friends. Our biggest strength is that our venture is not a single founder.
Have you raised funding? If yes, then we would like to know the details. If no then please tell us if you are looking to raise.
We haven’t raised funding yet as our work is not capital intensive. Another reason is that our module is very unique and has just begun gaining traction. But as we grow we would be looking at having some investors on board
What’s the biggest misconception people have about you? Why do they have that? What’s the reality?
Initially they fear we may sell a financial product in the course of our sessions. But our biggest USP is that we don’t!!
What gets you excited about this company?
Preetha – Everything about this venture is exciting and a big passion. One of the most heart warming feelings is when someone who has attended our workshops writes in to say how we changed a crucial part of their lives! It has been paid forward!
Vinita – It is our baby, taking small steps towards our dream and seeing it materialise into a beautiful movement. To be able to change the myth that finance is bad, greed and something not be be discussed to be able to bring it on the dinning table as a part of family discussion. Each Participants story as to how the workshop changed their thought process and their life!
Anu – Pay It Forward fulfils a deep sense of purpose. I strongly believe the prime motive of any business is the upliftment of society. As India improves in the quality of living, we need to equip ourselves with modern tools to handle modern challenges. Financial Awareness is one such essential life skill. It is extremely gratifying to share experiences and learnings to bring about a social change. What can be better than education!
Tell us how a day in your life looks like? Your schedule for a day right from the time you get up till you hit the bed at night.
Preetha – My day starts with either training in the gym or morning walk. I have recently discovered my love for running! The rest of the day goes in reading, work and doing some cooking ( always ready to try a yummy dish!). I enjoy watching cookery shows everyday. My husband and I have a large circle of friends and family and we have always been welcoming of them in our house and meeting up over a drink to catch up on our lives. I love chatting with my boys so dinner time is definitely with them chatting about my day and hearing about theirs. The younger generation fascinates me given how different they are from my generation so it is always amusing, interesting and even a bit scary listening to them speak their minds! God has been kind and given me two amazing boys who are caring, sensitive and extremely bright so these conversations are a blessing and a big stress buster As an individual I m extremely pro active so this opens up various avenues for meeting people and participating actively in some communities around me
Vinita – Each day is something to look forward to! The day starts at 6am – Ofcourse it starts with getting things ready for my children (they are age 15 and 12) and send them to school by 7:30 am. One hour yoga from 7:45am to 8:45 am. Back home for breakfast with my husband. This would roughly be over by 9:30-10:00. Then I get to my office work or reading or client visit, which we try and finish by 3 pm. I am home when kids come back from school, sit with them for an hour or so. The rest of the evening I play multiple roles depending on the situation of being a mother, a homemaker, an entrepreneur, taking my sanity breaks and ensuring I get 6 hours of sleep.
Anu – The day starts at 5:30, with pranayama followed by a cup of tea. This is my sacred time. After packing kids to school, I go for a brisk walk or yoga session. Subsequently I read a few articles selected the previous day and attend to the first round of emails and messages. The rest of the day till 2pm is interspersed with client meets, planning sessions, weekly meets either in person or over phone. I try and be home by 3, to assimilate work and then catch up on the first 10 mins as and when each family member gets home. Financial Awareness is an ongoing subject. Second half of my day is dedicated to reading, exploring our growth opportunities, doing follow ups, digital marketing, writing articles, presentations etc. Work is a continuous affair and you’ll find me with my books or laptop all the time. In-between discussion on college selections and homework explanations, we workout and coordinate the schedules for the following day. My husband and I like to have the last hour to ourselves discussing various areas of interest including work.
Tell us about your team and how did you meet each other?
Preetha – Anu has been a very close friend for the past 24 years. When I started the classes on financial awareness in Bangalore she joined in as a student and the next year she convinced Vinita to join. Anu and Vinitas daughters studied in the same school and they were very good friends. So they would meet often and chat and somewhere along the way discovered they both enjoy learning and being a part of their home financial decisions. Anu mentioned the classes and Vinita immediately signed up!
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