Roma Priya is the Founder of Burgeon Law, India’s leading boutique law firm which is on a mission to guide the distressed stakeholders of the startup sector, including promoters and entrepreneurs. She has been proactively guiding promoters on the legalities of managing the uncertainty and extension of the runway in order to tackle various issues rising up with the lock-down and its impact on India’s start-up ecosystem whereas many startup founders are consulting Burgeon Law to understand legalities associated with the force majeure. Since the foundation of her company in 2015, Roma has facilitated 500+ deals and advises and mentors early-stage and high-growth startups, incubators, accelerators, angel investors, family offices, and venture capital/private equity funds. On this International Women’s Day, Roma shares her views on the importance of a diverse workforce, women in leadership roles and many more.
Why is gender balance and having a more diverse workforce important, especially in senior management teams?
Although today, an increasing number of women are joining the workforce, they are often at the entry-level or mid-management level at best. If we consider the senior leadership teams, hardly a handful of organisations have a substantial number of women leading the company.
When there is a lack of diversity and gender balance at the workplace, organisations naturally tend to lose out on the feminine perspective and energy that women bring to the table, thereby underscoring the significance of having a diverse workforce. At the senior leadership level, gender balance also translates into fresh viewpoints and stronger top-level management for the organisation, further boosting its standing in the Market.
What are some of the factors or obstacles that deter women from actively pursuing leadership roles in India?
The world, as we knew it a decade ago, no longer exists. While there has been social progress, it has largely been conflicting in nature. It encourages and teaches women to dream and aspire, but not too much. It urges women to be successful, but not too successful. These contradictory norms that come with social progress are among the biggest hurdles that deter several women from pursuing their passion.
Moreover, in numerous cases, women are still expected to juggle their professional and personal lives, making it challenging for them to strike a balance between the two, especially as they progress to leadership roles as responsibilities at the workplace increase while familial responsibilities and commitments remain unchanged.
How can women better enable each other instead of competing? What needs to change, in your opinion?
Society often portrays women as consistently competing with each other, and I believe that this often becomes ingrained in people’s minds. Primarily, we must each focus on building a career for ourselves and carving a niche in our line of work. Constantly looking to compete will only result in pitting us against each other. So, rather than comparing ourselves to others’ progress, I believe in living in the present whilst looking at how I can improve myself.
What has made you so successful as an entrepreneur? What are the most important lessons you have learned while building Burgeon Law?
The general idea that people hold is that entrepreneurs have it all figured out. It is easy to glorify because people only see what is in front of them and the behind-the-scenes hard work, dedication, and overcoming hurdles isn’t what appears in front of them. However, this isn’t the case in most instances. I have also been at a phase where I wasn’t sure of how to do certain things, so I simply did them my way because we need to teach ourselves to navigate our way out of a problem. In fact, I didn’t start with the clear goal of building a law firm with a targeted client base and this ensured that there wasn’t pressure piling up on me.
The journey has been filled with several learnings. I think it is a never-ending process, especially as an entrepreneur and a lawyer, you never stop learning. Every day brings something new. Another key learning is that a lot of people often hesitate before commencing their entrepreneurial journey, particularly because of overanalysing the risks and challenges that come with being an entrepreneur. It’s best to simply go ahead and start when you are passionate about something and have a sense of purpose attached to it. Besides, as I mentioned earlier, I believe that we must steer clear of comparing ourselves with others’ growth constantly and competing in the rat race. Rather, we simply need to shift our focus to ourselves and work on our betterment and try to excel at what we do.
What do you feel you bring to the role that inspires others to see you as a leader?
I am determined to seize every opportunity that comes my way. I focus on building a strong foundation and pay attention to minute details and think three steps ahead of every situation.
I am fully aware of my responsibilities as a leader, and my potential to impact the career trajectories of all those working in my team, many of whom are women. I believe that the feminine perspective that we bring, along with some brilliant and supportive men, has helped several entrepreneurs and businesses survive the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What personal sacrifices have you made throughout your journey as a businesswoman?
Admittedly, I come from a privileged place and had a familial environment that encouraged me to pursue my dreams and was supportive. Although I did not attend a top-tier law school or a national law school, I was highly determined to seize every single opportunity that came my way. I channelled all my energy into being focused and building a strong foundation, continuously honed my skills, and learned to think ahead of any situation.
It has been quite challenging to build a business based on a skill because a business requires a 360-degree approach. For instance, you need an accounting team, a marketing team, you need to consider hiring and more, and this has been one of our biggest challenges when we started out, but it is certainly a part of the process.
What advice would you give to women struggling in a male-dominated industry?
As women trying to build a successful career and carve a niche for themselves, I think it is important to change our mindset. We must first consider ourselves equal in our minds before we ask someone else or look for external validation. The world is a merit-based one, at least to an extent and people look for someone who will be efficient and effective. So, irrespective of gender, it is possible to reach the pinnacle of success when you excel at what you do.
I would also like women to understand that we must facilitate a culture shift, by which I mean that we must speak up and influence parents to put their faith in our abilities when they are hesitant. Just be true to your core and hone your skills to be the best at what you do, and opportunities will naturally come your way.