Kanika Gupta Shori: Shattered the Glass Ceiling in Male-Dominated Industry

A lot can happen over a cup of coffee as it happened with Kanika Gupta Shori, Co-Founder & Chief Operating Officer of Square Yards and some of her NRI friends who had extremely bad experience of managing their real estate portfolio in India. Informal conversation on being disappointed at the lack of transparency and professionalism in the sector led to the idea to start a ‘service play’ targeting large unorganized brokerage industry in India. Thus, way back in the year 2013, Kanika and Tanuj started Square Yards with an objective to offer unbiased, transparent and trustworthy information to those looking to buy/invest in real estate. “Real estate has been the backbone of what we are building to be an enterprise capturing a pie of industry transformation towards an organized and regulated play. We believe real estate is the most versatile asset class, which provides broad-based solutions for various investment philosophies. Having asset management background, being a self-starter and managing our own real estate portfolio was the potent mix, which led to both passion and niche,” proclaims Kanika.

Business Success Stories
Within no time, Square Yards has become India’s largest real estate aggregator with an integrated online to offline transactional model serving India’s highly fragmented under construction mass marketing housing. The company markets and distributes portfolios of over 500 Grade-A developers to homebuyers and investors across the globe. By leveraging powerful research tools and cutting-edge innovations, the company also assists buyers in discovering and identifying the most suitable investment options. Today, Square Yards enables 1000+ transactions monthly with over $65 million GTV, clocking revenue run rate of $2.7million/month and achieved divisional profitability in March 2018. The growing popularity has given the company a much-needed push to become one of the largest online ‘primary residential sales’ platforms receiving over one million monthly unique visitors, and 60k-100k monthly buyer leads.

To add, the company’s subsidiary ‘Square Capital’ is India’s largest integrated mortgage distributor with mortgage disbursals worth $500 million annually. The company also owns India’s first and largest mobile-based aggregation platform, ‘Square Connect’, for real estate brokers, independent financial agents, and stockbroking firms. The sole aim of this platform is to provide brokers access to a much larger market and make them more efficient by providing tech solutions to manage their operations. Square Yards’ strength lies in serving the entire customer lifecycle starting from search & discovery to facilitating transactions and arranging mortgages to post-sales customer management. The company runs an asset-light model with no inventory risk and potential underlying EBITDA margins of 30 percent and ROE of 40 percent.

Breaking the Barriers
Gone are the days when the dream of breaking through the glass ceiling and reaching the pinnacle of success in the corporate world was next to impossible for women. Today, women of our nation have come a long way from just being a homemaker and are an equal match to some of the most powerful men in the corporate world. Kanika firmly believes that as a female leader, one has to be far determined than the male counterparts. It is a tough journey to be seen on the same pedestal, and taken in the same serious breath as the other species. She believes that the most significant barrier women face is perceptions. She says that the rules of failure are the same in entrepreneurship for both men and women, but the rules of success differ a bit. A woman needs to be more disciplined, firm, articulate, versatile and patient in this journey. “It is a great feeling to be a women entrepreneur and create an organization from scratch in a male-dominated industry. In my entire career, I have never faced impossible challenges just because I was a woman; and I believe the pace at which perceptions are changing, soon there will come a point where gender will simply stop mattering,” she adds.

‘Stop thinking of yourself as just a woman. Think of yourself as a possibility in the process of becoming a success’ is Kanika’s one piece of advice to the generation next leaders. To move up, you need to work harder and sometimes make tough choices between your responsibilities at home and work. But if you wish to be successful, be ready to go that extra mile and burn the midnight oil. Kanika, a mother of two, maintains the perfect balance between her work and life responsibilities. She has created a robust support system and routines, which continue, irrespective of her presence both at work and home. All this has been possible because of her family’s unconditional support.

The Hiccups
Akin to start-ups in every vertical, Square Yards too faced the initial challenges, but getting venture capital, building the right process, and industry relationship were the toughest one. As an organization, Square Yards overcame these glitches by maintaining a perfect balance between desired profitability & growth and fine-tuning the business model to match the business objective. Human resources have been a key propellant of company’s growth. Kanika always emphasized on hiring the right set of people who are not just skillful but are capable of taking ownership. Under her leadership, Square Yards has grown exponentially to a team of over 1800 employees spread across 40 offices in 10 countries in just 4 years.

Future Road Ahead!
As a business owner, Kanika provides an environment which is conducive for the people to grow and succeed in their respective jobs and builds a strong support system in terms of processes which enables ease of scaling up. She also understands the importance of learning and development programs and ensures all her employees upgrade themselves from time to time to fulfill the ever-evolving needs of the job. Not only this, Square Yards tries to maintain a very exciting work culture and she strongly believes that a change-ready culture is the best DNA a company can ever build. “I believe there is still a long way to go and hard work starts now as opportunity costs have arisen. Being the largest player in a dynamic state of the industry, it is now not just the opportunity but a fiduciary responsibility of Square Yards to lead the sector through the flux and set the best practices,” she concludes.

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