In an interaction with Bfsinxt, Vidya Bala, Founding Partner & Head – Research and Product at PrimeInvestor.in shares her thoughts on how her professional journey, how she views risks and has taken them in her career.
Vidya, prior to founding PrimeInvestor.in helped build one of the country’s earliest robo-advisory solutions in her earlier role at FundsIndia as the head of mutual fund research. Vidya is a Chartered Accountant by qualification, and she began her career as Senior Internal Auditor for Ashok Leyland and had a stint with The Hindu Business Line’s Research Bureau as well. Edited Excerpts:
Q. How do you view your career trajectory? How exciting has it been for you?
I have had an exciting career trajectory and have been lucky to have worked across the spectrum of jobs – from traditional manufacturing to analyst in media, then working for a fintech, when the segment was at its early stage in India and now my own fintech start up. My early part of career, as well as my 3 years of CA internship before that, laid a good foundation in terms of real life understanding of how businesses are run. This knowledge helped immensely in analysing and understanding businesses better.
The fintech experience for 7-8 years has helped me in starting our own firm. Having seen the pain points of 1000s of investors for over a decade and a half, starting our own firm gave us an opportunity to address those in a scalable manner with technology.
Q. Has it been going as you had planned or was it more like you tapped opportunities as they came along?
Nothing was planned other than the first job, which was a natural option post my education. Rest were all about doing what I believed was my calling.
Q. How has your journey been so far?
The journey has been good and is no different from any man’s journey. There have been plenty of challenges on work and on the personal front for over 2 decades. Last year was filled with challenges on the personal front with elders falling sick with Covid. This year, I have been dealing with long covid issues myself. But the key is to keep moving! At work, we have been trying to cope with the change in the style of working and doing business, post onset of Covid. We have now learnt to work from people in different parts of the country and the globe!
It doesn’t get easier with time but the experiences gives you the confidence to deal with future challenges better.
Q. How do you view yourself? more of a risk-taker or risk-averse person?
I was never a risk averse person and liked to try new things, especially on the career front. In investing, I think how much money we have determines whether we can take risk. With years, as my corpus grew, my ability to take risk has increased – both when it comes to investing my personal money as well as investing in our start-up.
But when it comes to handling other people’s money or recommending products, I strongly believe in erring on the side of caution. So at PrimeInvestor, downside protection has been our primary objective and this is reflected in the kind of recommendations we give and those we stay away from.
On the personal front, when you have had very low points in your life and climb back, you know you will survive and grow. That slowly changes our risk perspective. I think a life filled with challenges makes you willing to take some risk while one that has been comfortable, keeps a person risk averse.
Q. Where do you seek inspiration/motivation from to get going in what you want to achieve?
For many of us, inspiration comes from not just celebrities but people in our day-to-day lives. I have drawn tremendous inspiration from the lives of an elderly vegetable vendor woman, milk delivery woman and even people I have met during my travels. My biggest inspiration was my mentor, philosopher and guide – my boss from my media days. He showed us how he could live a meaningful life in a wheelchair, touching the lives of thousands of people with a trust to help rehabilitate those with spinal cord injury. He taught me to stand up for what I believed was true and never give up. Covid took him from us.
Lastly, I draw tremendous inspiration from this quote by Martin Luther King Jr. – “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
Q. Any advice/message to young women out there trying to rise in their career trajectory be it corporate life or entrepreneurship?
Just two things. Don’t view a career as a time pass. Even if you are financially comfortable as a family, career helps develop self confidence and earn respect. It also improves your sense of self worth as more often than not, your effort at home is taken for granted, while that in a job can be explicit in rewarding. Two, there is no work-life balance for women, really. You need to prioritize different things at different points in your life. Sometimes, it could be prioritizing family and at other times work. It is only a constant juggle and not a balance.