Motherhood taught me that leadership is not a one-size-fits-all: Archana Khosla Burman, Founder Partner, Vertices Partners

Meet a new age mother and entrepreneur, who is spearheading her own law firm and has been working extensively on many fronts to encourage other start-ups.

Archana Khosla Burman - Vertices Partners

Archana Khosla Burman, founder partner at Vertices Partners is part of a league of new age mompreneurs, who chase their dreams and know that determination is the key to success, whether at work or elsewhere. Having risen from the ground up while handling key roles in some of the largest law firms, she ventured on to the entrepreneurial path four years ago, a decision that proved to be a transformational milestone in her career.

She has been active on many fronts with various organisations such as FICCI, Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (WICCI), and Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC). Currently, with FICCI FLO, the women’s wing of FICCI, she is spearheading the workshop series, the ‘Start-Up Caravan’ that engages new and aspiring entrepreneurs at the grassroots level. She is also engaged as an investment knowledge partner and mentor with several accelerators.

On the personal front, it is music that keeps her calm. When not working, Archana loves to sing and play instruments as she is a trained music person. She is also the mother of a two-year-old. “Both entrepreneurship and motherhood have transformed my life in their own ways,” she says, as she talks to SME Futures and shares her perspective on her life, where she successfully juggles the roles of a high achieving entrepreneur and a doting mother.

Edited Excerpts:

Why do you think mothers make the best entrepreneurs?

Motherhood is an experience that pushes women to grow and equips them with crucial skills. Through parenting, mothers imbibe great leadership attributes which they can apply to build successful entrepreneurial ventures. They can naturally master time management skills which are essential for entrepreneurs to prioritize their tasks and attain their business objectives. They are highly resourceful, resilient in the face of dealing with life’s uncertainties and can deal with multiple responsibilities.

While everyone’s trajectory is different, you tend to start thinking for more than just yourself at any given point in time. Over the years, your organisational skills, your time management skills, your motivational skills – all of these are tested, and you realise that how you carry yourself is going to make an incredible difference in your child’s life. All of these principles stand true for an entrepreneur as well.

That is the reason that businesses are colloquially referred to as entrepreneurs’ babies.

How has becoming an entrepreneur changed your life and how does motherhood contribute to your success? 

Both entrepreneurship and motherhood have transformed my life in their own ways.

As an entrepreneur, providing leadership and direction to my organization, setting policy goals, motivating teams to perform to their optimum best, crisis management, client relations and developing a positive brand image for my organization have become my key focus areas. The Firm is an extension of each of the founders’ identities. Everything we do shapes the future of the firm and makes a difference in the lives of all the team members who depend upon us.

Motherhood has taught me that leadership is not a one-size-fits-all. The result of motivating and mentoring each one based on each one’s own capabilities and more importantly, learning-type is critical for success.

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Tell us about the evolution of Vertices Partners so far?  

Vertices Partners was set up as a young, energetic, and niche service-oriented law firm in 2016. We just completed our 5-year mark, and it is great to see that the same energy persists within us today as well.

Since inception, we have successfully concluded over 200 deals in this short span of time. We have expanded from a 4-member team to an over 40-member team. A passion towards nurturing sustainable relationships with clients and the ability to provide optimal solutions with a keen focus on pragmatism and cost-efficiency has enabled us to carve a slot in the top ten law firms of the country in the private equity and venture capital space.

Tell us a bit about your relationship with your child. What are the similar traits that you share?  

The bond that I share with my two year and ten-month-old son is beautiful and cannot be expressed enough in words. He is independent, expressive, active, intelligent, and fun to be with. He is a quick learner and has an innate curiosity to discover and explore new things,

Work and home lines have blurred for most due to the outbreak of the pandemic. What is your best advice for balancing business and home life or for creating intentional family time?

As imperative as it is to maintain a healthy balance between business and home life, it is not always possible to follow fixed hours. So, my practical advice would be to involve your child in chores around the house and mark some hours of the day as “work-time” for all family members, your child included, when he/she can complete their homework or simply learn something new.

Also, getting involved in their hobbies and involving them in yours will also help the child learn reciprocity, patience, and co-operation. Living your truth every day is a great example for your child, if done with the right intent.

What were the challenges that you experienced as an entrepreneur and what are some of the lessons that you have learned? 

As an entrepreneur, the first thing that you learn is that you can never depend upon just plan A. A phrase that I have internalized and that aptly captures this learning is “sometimes the most obvious can become the least obvious.” One needs to have back-ups and contingency plans. Resilience is the number one trait you must grow for the business and for yourself.

Another key value of being a successful leader and an entrepreneur is to know that “one is as good as one’s team is.” Hence, the fact is that you need to build a team which you can trust, rely on and work with as your extension to be able to deliver that extra multiple that drives scale.

The third and the most key element is health, and health has to be holistic – physical and mental. This is true not only for the leaders but also for the team members. This is the reason that in 2020 and 2021 we have launched well-being sessions, focused on nurturing the personal growth of our team members.

 Women have a harder time in securing venture capital than men do, why it is still an issue? what was your experience as a mompreneur? 

While we cannot take away from the fact that there may be an unconscious bias which exists even today, I have always maintained that focusing on the solution and a can-do mindset is far more productive than wasting time worrying about these challenges.

The number of businesses and unicorn start-ups that are women – led today is incomparable to anything we have had in the past. So, it is safe to say and hope that we are getting to a point of ever-decreasing parity. And this would not have been possible without those entrepreneurs and investors who dared to challenge the status quo.

My experience as a mompreneur tells me that if you have conviction in your beliefs and the ability and confidence to stick to your vision, your investors will see what you see.

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The pandemic has been an economic disaster for women. But many took advantage of the situation and decided to become their own bosses. Can it be a turning point for women entrepreneurs in India? Your comments.

I look at every crisis as an opportunity, the pandemic being no exception. A large number of aspiring women entrepreneurs have responded to the pandemic with optimism and agility. Women are naturally good at adapting to changing situations and circumstances. A large number of women entrepreneurs are re-skilling their staff, rebooting their operational processes and investing in the deployment of advanced digital tools and technologies. The government and concerned stakeholders need to co-ordinate their synergies and create a conducive ecosystem for bringing women into the entrepreneurial fold.

Entrepreneurship in the pandemic seems to be especially working for women entrepreneurs. What could be the key takeaways from this fact?  

Promoting women’s entrepreneurship in the pandemic will be imperative to propel India on a high-growth trajectory in the post COVID-19 phase. We need to break the conventional barriers of a male-dominated entrepreneurial landscape and enable the entry of more women into the space. The focus should be on facilitating the transition of women from being jobseekers to job-creators. A vibrant support framework is essential for motivating and mentoring women entrepreneurs to boost their entrepreneurial competencies. Women need to imbibe a tech-savvy mindset and migrate to digital platforms for marketing their products/services and expanding their customer outreach.

We are working with several chambers to give shape to a resilient and effective platform that will make for a robust ecosystem for women entrepreneurs.

What would you like to say to those mompreneurs who are just at the beginning of their journeys and are experiencing some doubts? 

Mompreneurs who are at the start of their entrepreneurial journey must take it one step at a time. Use the vision as a compass but don’t let it overwhelm you. Most of the time, keeping one foot in front of the other is all that you are required to do.