On her childhood: I was born in Southall and spent most of my childhood playing in the park behind our house or choosing books from the local library. While other kids my age were reading Roald Dahl, I’d be devouring the biographies of Sir Richard Branson, Bill Gates and Mother Teresa. My parents moved here from India in the 70s and were extremely hard working: mum was a cashier at Barclays and dad juggled factory work and night shifts at an off-licence. I never once heard them complain. Growing up in a Punjabi culture, there was an assumption that my sisters and I would get married, have kids and be home-makers – but I was always very ambitious and grew up wanting to be an astronaut or a doctor. From the age of 16, I had a weekend job at the American Express currency exchange booth at Heathrow Airport. I thought the businesspeople I served were so glamorous: I wanted that life.
On her early career: I studied economics at Royal Holloway, University of London, but felt like a fish out of water. The majority of students were privately educated, wore Gucci and were being funded through uni by their parents. After graduation, most of my friends went on to do a master’s degree but I couldn’t afford to keep studying. I eventually bagged a role as an analyst with Citigroup in Canary Wharf, with a starting salary of £30,000. My dad was so proud of me. He said, “I’ve worked in this country for 25 years and you’re already earning double than me.” From the outside, my life was perfect but my boss was a real bully, we weren’t allowed to ask for help, and the work environment was hostile. I’d feel sick going into work every morning and my confidence was shattered. I stuck it out for two years because I didn’t want to let my parents down, then I jumped ship to a young consultancy called Capco, where everyone rolled up their sleeves and got stuck in. I stopped feeling like a cog in a machine.
On starting her business: I started a gold distribution firm called Lucky Gold as a side hustle back in 2009. That morphed into another company called Mangorena, which turned over £25m in less than three years but was completely unsustainable: I’d drive to jewellery shops in Scotland, take orders on a notepad, then fly out to Singapore that afternoon to buy the products from wholesalers. Our profit margin was less than one per cent because operations were so inefficient. MarketOrders, launched in 2016, the phoenix that arose from the ashes. This time, we digitised everything. Our online marketplace helps independent jewellery retailers to get products faster, cheaper and direct from suppliers using blockchain technology. We raised over £400,000 on CrowdCube last year and MarketOrders was named as one of the country’s top tech firms founded by women.
On her go-to style: I tend to go for comfort over style. Usually I’ll throw on jeans, a smart jumper and Chelsea boots, teamed with a scarf and a gemstone bracelet. I’m part of the Mayor of London’s business advisory board and I speak at a lot of conferences so if I need a “power suit”, I’ll go for a peplum blazer with a fit-and-flare dress, a pair of kitten heels and bright red nail varnish.
On her toughest moments: 2014 was a really tough year. My uncle, my dad and my grandma passed away within three months of each other so it felt like our family was ripped apart. Losing my dad was especially heartbreaking as he was my biggest champion. He was always saying that he couldn’t wait to retire at 60 but he died from a heart attack at 59. That made me rethink my own life. I trained to be a life coach and I started an “escape fund”: I sold my car and expensive clothes, I stopped going out for expensive meals and I downsized my house so I eventually had enough money to leave the corporate world and focus on MarketOrders.
On staying sane: The first two hours of the morning are “me time”. I’ll meditate, read positive affirmations and write a journal, which is basically a brain vomit. Then I’ll jot down my three work priorities on a post-it note and focus on getting them done. Emails are such a distraction so I only check them twice a day. Without fail, I go to the gym at lunchtime, alternating weights and cardio. My favourite podcasts are Infinite Potential by Deepak Chopra, Emergence by Derek Rydall and Impact Theory by Tom Bilyeu, and I’m currently reading The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer.
On her most powerful piece of advice to other women: I read Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers when I was a teen – and I can’t think of a better way to live your life.
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