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Ketaki Sharma

Ketaki Sharma: A Solo Founder’s Path to Success in Business, Nurtured by Motherhood and Driven by Values

It’s easy to get lost in the loudness of words in a society saturated with perspectives, where voices plead for attention and platforms pump up the noise. Despite the din, there is a quiet yet profound truth: change the world by your example, not your opinion.

Opinions are inherently subjective. They are influenced by our experiences, biases, and beliefs. While they have a place in speech and debate, they frequently fall short of achieving substantial change. Opinions can ignite debate, but they are rarely sufficient to motivate action or drive change. Ketaki Sharma is an individual who personifies the ethos of leading by example. She acknowledges that while opinions are valuable, they are not the only way to make a difference. Instead, she focuses on her own activities and how she might use them to motivate others to take positive steps toward a better society.

Being the visionary Founder & CEO of Algorithm Research, a company dedicated to offering data-driven insights to businesses and governments, specializing in economic consulting, her experience and commitment are demonstrated by her path. She developed her skills as an Emerging Market macroeconomist at esteemed organizations including Nomura Securities, Standard & Poor’s, and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank prior to founding Algorithm Research. Her experience in the corporate world provided a strong basis for her entrepreneurial endeavors and shaped her into a capable leader with a deep comprehension of economic principles.

Algorithm Research has quickly made its mark by attracting top-tier clients and collaborating with government entities and renowned strategy consulting firms. Ketaki’s commitment to leveraging data for informed decision-making has set her company apart and also positioned her as a trailblazer in the realm of economic consulting.

Through Algorithm Research, Ketaki is doing more than just providing services; she is bringing in a new era in which strategic decisions are driven by data-based insights, enabling governments and corporations to confidently and precisely manage complicated economic environments.

Below are the interview highlights:

Can you please brief us about your company and its inception story?

Algorithm Research was founded in 2016 to plug the gap in region-focused business research and economics consulting. As a solo founder, my corporate experience as an economist with Nomura and S&P and later with regional UAE banks came in handy. Being a businesswoman was always something I dreamed of, but motherhood was the real propellant for me.

As a mother, I needed the flexibility around time and workplace that a corporate career did not offer. So I decided to start a UAE-based research company. I gave myself 2 years. I told myself that if it did not work, I would go back and find myself a job. We got our first retainer client within 3 months of inception, which we took as a sign from the universe. Only to realize that the real struggle had just begun.

Can you describe your leadership style and how it has contributed to your success in the business world?

I like to lead by example. In my observation, when leaders demonstrate the work ethic and values they expect from their team, it sets a powerful precedent and fosters a culture of accountability and trust within the organization. The team strives for excellence and aligns its actions with the organization’s goals and values.

Leading by example builds on the fact that no one is perfect and leaders make mistakes too. It is about being authentic, transparent, and willing to learn from mistakes.

What key experiences and milestones in your professional journey do you believe have been instrumental in shaping your career in business?

A year as an entrepreneur is probably equal to at least a couple of years working in a normal 9-to-5 job when it comes to learning important business and life lessons. In no particular order, below are some of the lessons I learned from my experience.

  • Not every superhero wears a cape. From our perspective, this was about seeking and finding help and support from unexpected quarters. In my journey, encouragement and assistance came from many quarters—be it family, friends, or mere acquaintances. I usually make it a point to meet people and interact with them over a cup of coffee, without any expectation whatsoever. Though that meeting may seemingly lead nowhere, invariably something or another could click much later and things work out to everyone’s benefit.
  • Don’t give yourself too much credit or be too hard on yourself. I know it would come across as a shock to many, but the world does not revolve around them. The choices we make are half chances at most times. There are so many variables and moving parts in the real world that it is impossible to get it right (or wrong) at all times.
  • Admire worthy competitors. They could give you sleepless nights, but they can also be your greatest source of insight and motivation. Use their success to fuel your own improvement and stay in the game.
  • Do it your way. Frank Sinatra famously sang, “I did it my way.” Well, he was not the only one following this mantra. For us at Algorithm Research, especially given how niche we were, it was essential to go through a process of discovery, figure out what works for us, and do it our way.
  • Yoga. Walk. The business of being in business is a stressful business. Leadership can take its toll, so there is nothing better than sweating it out and getting rid of some of that negative monster.

How do you stay informed about current trends and developments within your industry, and how do you incorporate this knowledge into your business strategies?

I follow websites, blogs, and industry-specific publications to stay abreast of the latest developments in my field. Knowledge and networking events such as seminars and conferences also provide valuable opportunities to connect with peers, where we can exchange ideas and learn from each other’s experiences. Brainstorming sessions within the team can be truly fulfilling when we come up with innovative solutions to industry challenges.

Have you had mentors who played a crucial role in your career development? If so, how did they impact your growth and success?

Mentors play a vital role in shaping the success of individuals. In my corporate career, I was lucky enough to work with some of the best minds and bosses who absolutely led by example. Some of them, such as Ms. Atsi Sheth and Ms. Sonal Varma, played a pivotal role in shaping me as an economist.

In my journey as an entrepreneur, I look at authors of books like “The Lean Startup” and “My Life in Full” as my mentors. Over the years, I have also built a network of trusted friends who run businesses too. I reached out to them for advice.

How do you believe organizations can better support and foster the professional development of women in leadership positions?

I believe that women are best supported through flexible work policies. This could mean flexibility in working hours and also workplace flexibility. Adopting a hybrid model for the workplace helps women do justice to the various roles they play. Most women are efficient time managers and can develop their careers much better with this flexibility around time and place of work.

The other way to foster the professional development of women is to establish mentorship and sponsorship programs specifically tailored to support women in leadership roles. Pairing female leaders with experienced mentors and sponsors can provide valuable guidance, support, and advocacy for their career advancement.

In your experience, how can companies cultivate a corporate culture that promotes diversity and inclusion, particularly for women in leadership roles?

Cultivating a corporate culture that supports diversity and inclusion requires a multi-pronged approach.

First, a diverse representation in leadership can go a long way toward providing tailored opportunities for women.

Second, policies and practices should be inclusive. For instance, policies around flexible working hours and work-from-home options can be supportive of women.

Third, transparent communication can be instrumental in fostering a well-functioning feedback loop. Finally, a great rewards and recognition policy can be a catalyst for a great corporate culture where individual and team achievements and contributions are recognized and celebrated.

How do you encourage innovation within your team or organization, and how has your ability to adapt to change contributed to your success?

Encouraging innovation within a team or organization involves creating an environment that supports creativity, experimentation, and risk-taking. An important element of risk-taking is failure. We encourage our team to adopt the perspective that failure should be read as “try again,” “tweak something,” or “think of this differently.” Innovation is an integral part of an entrepreneurial journey.

So be it adopting and upskilling in terms of advanced machine learning techniques to offer data-driven insights to our clients or using social media as our primary marketing tool, we have constantly adapted to change. I have always believed that by being open to new ideas, perspectives, and ways of working, individuals can capitalize on opportunities for growth and innovation. Being adaptable has helped me learn, grow, and develop new skills and competencies, thus helping me and the business remain relevant in evolving industries and markets.

Achieving a work-life balance is often a challenge. How have you managed to balance your professional and personal lives, and what advice would you give to others facing similar challenges?

Work-life balance will likely mean different things to different people. My understanding is that our responsibilities as moms, entrepreneurs, wives, and individuals will get varied amounts of time and attention each day, depending on addressing the most urgent ones first. No two days are alike, and there is no magic formula for it. What helps manage time better is a) setting boundaries between work and personal life, downtime, and relaxation, and b) delegating/outsourcing whenever possible.

What skills and competencies do you consider essential for success in the business world today, especially for women aspiring to leadership positions?

Resilience, persistence, the ability to dream big, and self-belief are perhaps the most important skills anyone should have. With most of us women, we usually have the first two in abundance; the latter two qualities are where we tend to falter. We need to remind ourselves that there are plenty of people out there who already have what we might consider “a crazy goal,” and if they can do it, we can too. We need to remind ourselves that “fear kills more dreams than failures ever did.”