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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The FinTech Force: Neha Mehta’s Fight for a More Equitable Future

An animated interview with Neha Mehta, CEO of FemTech Partners

Neha Mehta serves as the Founder and CEO of FemTech Partners, a prominent player in the FinTech and Climate Sustainability sectors operating across ASEAN and Oceania. She is also the esteemed author of “One Stop,” a comprehensive exploration of Super Apps published by Penguin. This seminal work, hailed as the holy grail of Super Apps, offers profound insights into this transformative phenomenon reshaping digital landscapes globally. “One Stop” is readily accessible on Amazon, available in both Kindle and paperback formats. For those eager to delve into the world of Super Apps and uncover their profound impact, the book can be found at the following link: Amazon – One Stop

Forget the glass ceiling, Neha Mehta is shattering it with a hammer and chisel, carving a path for women and a more sustainable future in the world of FinTech. As CEO of FemTech Partners, she’s not just a leader, she’s a force of nature, wielding her expertise in digital finance, payments, and anti-money laundering like a superpower.

Imagine collaborating with financial regulators across Asia, crafting policies that empower everyone, not just the privileged few. That’s Neha’s day job. But her influence doesn’t stop at boardrooms. She’s a regular speaker at global forums, her voice echoing through halls of power, advocating for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in FinTech.

And if you think that’s all she does, think again. Neha’s penned the acclaimed book “One Stop,” a deep dive into FinTech, sustainability, and financial inclusion, weaving insights like magic threads. She doesn’t just talk the talk, she walks the walk, and her book is proof.

But here’s the best part: Neha’s not a lone wolf. She’s inviting you to join her in shaping a future where innovation, advocacy, and insightful storytelling converge. A future where everyone has access to financial tools, where the environment thrives, and where the playing field is level. Are you ready to answer the call?

What motivated you to become an entrepreneur, particularly in a field that is traditionally male-dominated?

My motivation to become an entrepreneur stems from a combination of factors, including my passion for innovation, my desire to create positive change, and my belief in the transformative power of technology. Throughout my career, I have been driven by the opportunity to identify challenges within the financial industry and develop innovative solutions to address them. Entrepreneurship allows me the flexibility and autonomy to pursue these opportunities and make a meaningful impact on the industry.

As for operating in a traditionally male-dominated field, I view it as an opportunity rather than a barrier. While there are certainly challenges associated with navigating this landscape, I believe that diversity and inclusion are essential for driving innovation and fostering creativity. By actively engaging with and supporting women in Fintech, I hope to contribute to a more inclusive and equitable industry where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.

Through FemTech Partners, I am committed to promoting diversity, empowering women entrepreneurs, and championing innovation in the Fintech space. Our mission is to create a supportive ecosystem where women can access resources, networks, and mentorship opportunities to succeed in the industry.

My experience as a diplomat and lawyer in FinTech not only empowered me to become an entrepreneur in this male-dominated world but it made me aware of the gender gap in this field and I wanted to fill the gap and make a positive impact. Statistics show that only 1 in 3 businesses are owned by women, and only 6.2% of women-owned established businesses as compared to 9.5% of men. It is plain to see from these numbers that there is gender inequality and inequity in entrepreneurship. Women, especially in ASEAN and Oceania regions where I focus most of my work are disadvantaged due to the historical contextual factors that hinder women’s economic participation. What motivated me then and continues to do so now is to play a part in the financial inclusion of women leveling the playing field for female entrepreneurs.

Can you share the story behind your journey as a female entrepreneur, including any significant challenges or milestones you’ve encountered along the way?

In 2018, I established FemTech Partners, a pioneering firm specializing in FinTech and financial inclusion. Throughout this journey, I’ve encountered various challenges inherent in the dynamic tech landscape. While the ever-evolving nature of technology presents new growth opportunities, it also poses a challenge in keeping abreast of these changes and their implications for day-to-day business operations. Additionally, navigating the predominantly male-dominated FinTech sphere has required me to exert extra effort to assert my capabilities and presence, leading to moments of exhaustion and isolation.

Despite these hurdles, I’ve celebrated significant successes along the way. A recent milestone includes the publication of my book, “One Stop – The Untold Story of Super Apps,” shedding light on the evolution of Super Apps. I’ve also been honored with prestigious awards, including the Nav Shakti Award from the Indo-European Chamber of Small and Medium Enterprises (IECSME), recognition as one of the Singapore 100 Women in Tech, and consecutive FinTech50 accolades for 2019 and 2020. In 2021, I was privileged to receive the Globant Digital Disruptors Award for my groundbreaking contributions to revolutionizing transactions across the SEA region through strategic technological innovations.

Beyond my professional achievements, I am deeply committed to broader societal causes. As an Al Gore Certified Climate Change Trainer, I passionately advocate for environmental protection and the well-being of underprivileged children, emphasizing the importance of health and education initiatives.

Through perseverance, dedication, and a commitment to making a positive impact, I continue to navigate the challenges of the FinTech landscape while championing diversity, innovation, and social responsibility.

How do you integrate creativity and innovation into your entrepreneurial endeavors?

My experience in the FinTech sector has imbued my entrepreneurial endeavors with a spirit of creativity and innovation. At FemTech, we’ve cultivated an environment that fosters diversity and empowers women from diverse cultural backgrounds to contribute fresh ideas and innovations. For example, we’ve spearheaded initiatives to digitize SMEs, enable women to make small-scale investments, transition from offline to online platforms, and explore opportunities within the FinTech realm. Furthermore, we’re dedicated to supporting girls in STEM fields, guiding them to establish themselves as entrepreneurs in the tech-driven world.

“One Stop,” my book, underscores the role of innovation and technology in driving entrepreneurial growth. It serves as a testament to the transformative power of tech in shaping entrepreneurial landscapes.

Moreover, within our organization, we’ve prioritized creating avenues for female empowerment, providing opportunities for women to enhance and refine their skills within the FinTech domain. Presently, our workforce comprises 90% women hailing from diverse corners of the globe.

Through these efforts, we’re not only driving innovation in FinTech but also championing diversity and empowerment, paving the way for a more inclusive and dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystem.

How does your cultural background shape your writing and entrepreneurial endeavors?

In “One Stop,” I delve into the history of Super Apps and analyze their differing adoption and reception across Eastern and Western cultures. Having resided in India, Singapore, and Fiji, as well as pursued studies in the United Kingdom, my diverse cultural experiences have expanded my viewpoints significantly. These varied perspectives enabled me to approach the book from a comprehensive angle, incorporating contrasting cultural insights into the analysis.

Living and working in such diverse locales has broadened my understanding of how distinct cultures engage with and embrace technology. This first hand exposure has enriched my writing, allowing for nuanced discussions on the cultural influences shaping Super App adoption.

Furthermore, my extensive cultural background has proven invaluable in my entrepreneurial endeavors. By engaging with individuals from diverse cultural contexts, I’ve cultivated expansive networks and collaborations. This cultural fluency has facilitated navigating the global business landscape effectively and fostering meaningful connections with stakeholders worldwide.

In summary, my multicultural background has not only influenced my writing by providing a broader perspective but has also played a crucial role in shaping my entrepreneurial approach through fostering cultural understanding and collaboration.

What inspired you to write “One Stop”? Can you tell us about the significance of the title “One Stop” and how it reflects the themes of your book?

The inspiration behind “One Stop” stemmed from my deep curiosity and fascination with the role of Super Apps in the rapidly evolving landscape of Fintech and digital innovation. Super Apps represent a paradigm shift in digital convenience, innovation, and economic opportunity, yet they also spark conversations about consumer risk and disruption.

The title “One Stop” encapsulates the central theme of the book – the transformative potential of Super Apps as a singular platform that integrates a multitude of services, from financial transactions to lifestyle offerings, into a seamless user experience. By examining Super Apps through this lens, the book aims to shed light on three key themes:

1. Tech as a Force for Good: “One Stop” explores how Super Apps have the potential to create an inclusive and sustainable world for all. In an increasingly digital future, understanding the positive impact of technology is crucial for shaping policies and initiatives that promote economic empowerment and social equity.

2. Broadening Financial Access and Innovation: The book delves into how Super Apps have expanded financial access and spurred innovation within the financial sector. By offering a wide range of financial services and leveraging data analytics, Super Apps have democratized access to banking and investment opportunities, particularly for underserved populations.

3. Impact on Consumers and Society: “One Stop” examines the broader implications of Super Apps on consumers and society. From changing consumer behavior to reshaping traditional business models, Super Apps have far-reaching implications that entrepreneurs, investors, bankers, policymakers, and other stakeholders must understand to navigate the evolving landscape of digital finance effectively.

Overall, “One Stop” seeks to provide comprehensive insights into the phenomenon of Super Apps and their implications for the future of finance and digital innovation. I hope that by exploring these themes, readers will gain a deeper understanding of the transformative potential and challenges associated with Super Apps in today’s digital age.

Can you share any strategies or resources that have been particularly helpful to you in navigating the entrepreneurial landscape as a woman?

As a CEO I look at CHANGE AS OPPORTUNITY, rather than fearing or resisting change. One of the most impactful strategies for me has been cultivating a resilient mindset. In the face of challenges and setbacks, maintaining a positive attitude and a strong sense of perseverance has been essential. This mindset has enabled me to stay focused on my goals, put in consistent effort every day, and embrace change and uncertainty, which are inherent aspects of the entrepreneurial journey.

A resilient mindset coupled with access to supportive resources and networks has been instrumental in my journey as an entrepreneur. By embracing change, staying persistent, and leveraging available resources, women can effectively navigate and thrive in the entrepreneurial landscape.

In my role as CEO of FemTech Partners, I have made it a priority to foster a culture that views change as an opportunity for growth and innovation. I encourage our team to embrace it as a chance to learn, adapt, and evolve. This mindset not only helps us stay agile and resilient in the face of challenges but also enables us to seize new opportunities and stay ahead in the rapidly evolving Fintech landscape.

I firmly believe that by fostering a culture of change equals opportunity, we can empower our team to embrace innovation, challenge the status quo, and drive meaningful progress in our industry. As leaders, it is our responsibility to set the tone, inspire our team, and lead by example in embracing change as a catalyst for growth and success.

Mentorship and networking often play crucial roles in entrepreneurship. Have you had any influential mentors or supportive networks that have contributed to your success?

I have had the chance to be a part of the United States Department-Fortune Mentorship Program in 2022; I was mentored by the H&R block in Kansas City with the President, Karen Orsco who has encouraged me along this journey and who continue to do so in so many ways and I am grateful to the CEO Jeff Jones for his continued guidance. Networking has been a crucial skill that has allowed me to connect with people, some of whom have gone on to become mentors and supportive networks to my work. Having sponsors also helps in getting new opportunities. As much as it was challenging for me to network in the beginning, I have learned that people networking is a currency because opportunities are connected with people and this has contributed to my success.

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