Gender doesn’t define skills and talent, believes Tanul Mishra, Founder of fintech startup incubator Afthonia Labs.

CXOToday has engaged in an exclusive interview with Tanul Mishra, Founder & CEO, Afthonia Labs.


  • How did the idea of starting a startup incubator struck you?

Prior to setting up Afthonia, I Co-founded Eatelish an aritisanal focused food startup which retailed across 35+ plus modern trade outlets in India. While setting up and growing Eatelish I  realised the importance of having a support system that helps you grow faster. Post our exit in 2018, I had to think about what next and that’s when I took a deeper look into India’s startup ecosystem and realised that while India’s startup ecosystem is the 3rd largest in the globally, the support system in for of incubators and accelerator is comparison is much smaller. 3 years ago, US had 2500+ incubators, China about 1500+ and India had 500+ incubators. Moreover, in more mature ecosystems such as US there are specialised incubators ensuring access to domain knowledge, network, and capital. It was this understanding about and existing gap which led me to setup an incubator to give startups an access to people, knowledge, network, and capital the four pillars of a successful business.


  • Afthonia is India’s first start up incubator for fintechs, what are the challenges while setting up in a fintech space?

The magic of Fintech is combining finance and technology together and when you combine two powerful forces the repercussion is huge. The biggest challenge is getting the startups to understand why it is essential to focus on a responsible solution keeping the consumer at the forefront. The evolving regulatory landscape and the impact of that on startups can sometimes mean that an incubated startup may become irrelevant or would need to pivot.


  • Are there any challenges you face being a woman founder?

I have always viewed myself as a founder first and the gender does not cross my mind. And in my views, gender should never be a ground to judge anyone’s talent and skills. Gender defines the body, not the mind.  However, during my Eatelish days an investor as my Co-Founder and me (both women), what about kids? We told him, we do not believe in child labour


  • How does Afthonia aim to help the fintech startups in the incubation process?

Our programme is a customised, personalised programme. During the short-listing process, we create a blue print for each startup which is shared with them on pre-incubation. Once they are onboarded this blueprint is at the center of the incubation. The goal is to help them reach the next inflection point. Each startups are assigned a mentor who helps them in each area of business. We have a global panel of mentors which provides the startups with global access. We have pool of investors an access to the investor ecosystem which helps in raising funds and at the right stage with appropriate valuations.


  • What is one advice you would like to share with the budding startups?

Remember why you started the business in the first place. It was to solve something, to build something. It is not about valuations.


  • What is one advice you would like to share with investors?

Give feedback on what the startups could do, better even if you are not investing, it will help them do better. Invest in them your time, your knowledge along with the money. With the right guidance and motive, the results will be beneficial for you too.


  • What are the myths around startups that you would like to burst?

Just one, if you raise capital, you are successful and will be successful. That is just the first step. Capital is a responsibility, infact. The amount of funding is never the amount of potential one startup has.


  • How is the startup ecosystem shaping the future of entrepreneurship in India?

India houses the third largest startup ecosystem in the world after the US and China. With the significant growth of startups from Tier II and III cities, the year also marked the introduction of many new startup programs that further helped in the development of the new breed of startups and entrepreneurs. From policies, to incentives, grants, conversations globally it is all happening. There are specialised incubators and accelerators like Villigro and Uppekka which are helping startups grow.


  • Being a woman, an individual has multiple roles to play at work and personal lives, how do you balance both?

I have accepted that there is no balance, you can’t do it all,  someday work life take priority and someday personal life take priority. It’s about taking one day at a time and not feeling guilty about which one you are not prioritising.


  • What is one advice you would like to share with other women professionals?

Put yourself out there, do not fear rejection. If you do not ask what you want, someone else will. It is important to value yourself and your dreams and aspirations. Never let your gender come in the way of your goals. Yes, it is a fact that though, times have changed and people are working towards a better world for women, but still gender equality is one thing, and gender equity is another. But we will have to stop calling out on the problems, and start working towards the solution. Women have to take the first step for themselves, and the world will follow.

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