‘Of course, women can have it all. It really depends on your outlook,’ Ashpi Gupta, AVP, Mumbai Angels
This story is a part of Mia Women Series, sponsored by Tanishq, where we showcase bold, beautiful and colorful stories of inspiring women. (HerStory exercises full editorial control over all the posts.)
She is her own competition, always pushing to get herself to do better. She is a woman of the world literally!
The lady with a unique name, Ashpi Gupta is one of the very few women in the early stage investment industry in India. After over four years of experience across Consulting, Valuations and Corporate finance with firms like E&Y, PwC and Merrill Lynch, she has now chosen to work with Mumbai Angels and holds the post of Assistant Vice President. Mumbai Angels is one of India’s leading angel investment network that invests between $250K to $1M in promising Indian start-up and early stage companies.
Ashpi Gupta is an intense individual. The usual list of milestones and achievements that most people share, simply do not figure on her list. Her list is personal and displays her innate strength and steel. She says, “I realized very early in life that additional marks in academics or an early promotion or a raise at work fades away in the long run. My milestones are personal in nature. Be it the 3rd anniversary of our marriage, the visa stamp of the 25th country on my passport or people whose life I have impacted.”
She shares with us her life experiences and what makes her who she is. A strong foundation is the basis of great feats. That worked in Ashpi’s case too. With a smile, she shares, “I sailed through my academic life due to a strong foundation.” Born in February, Ashpi fell short of entry age for preschool and had to do nursery twice. She reveals, “Because of this I knew the alphabets and numbers backwards and loved going to school because I was the teacher’s favorite.”
Ashpi has spent most of her life in Mumbai. “My childhood was an exciting and busy time with school, friends and tons of extracurricular activity, most fun and easy part of my life. Reality struck when I had to choose my major after the 10th. Following the bandwagon of most kids who scored well, I chose science,” says Ashpi.
She shares that engineering honed her analytical capabilities. Soon after completing her graduation, she joined PwC as a part of their process consulting team. As a fresher, being a part of a small team she got massive exposure primarily because of the responsibilities she shouldered. This was an exciting time and she says, “It was literally baptism by fire for me.”
While at PwC, Ashpi set her sights on the MBA degree. She says, “The aspiration was always there and one fine day I just decided to give GMAT. Without much planning, I took the earliest available GMAT date and 15 days off from work.” Even with the short span of prep time, she managed to crack it well.
The usual two-year MBA in the States was not something she was looking for. She wanted to stay in Asia so she applied only to the University of Singapore. However, her newfound love for economics, after reading ‘Freakonomics’, saw her applying to the London School of Economics as well.
Ashpi says, “Fortunately, I was accepted by both and picked National University of Singapore.” Singapore was Ashpi’s first long stint outside home and brought her more than just an MBA degree. She says, “It improved my cooking, interpersonal and management skills.”
She was also a part of an exchange program in Madrid (IE, Spain). The program was excellent but she reveals that she joined it primarily for her love of travel. “Singapore is quite desi, living in Madrid was the real challenge and upon landing there I discovered that my visa was only for travel in Spain. I got a French classmate to sponsor my Schengen Visa. I travelled around Spain every weekend and did a Eurotrip for a month with 3 other boys! Spain was quite an experience,” she says.
Ashpi graduated from National University of Singapore in December 2008, just around the time recession was making its presence felt. She says, “I always wanted to be on the buy side and needed to improve my finance fundamentals so I jumped on the offer from Ernst and Young. In addition to perfecting financial modeling and analysis, the rigor of the place really pushed me to the limits.”
While at Ernst and Young she fractured her right hand and then had a spate of bad health. While she was recuperating she realized that she did not miss her work at all.
Around the same time, she got an offer from Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs. Ashpi says, “Earlier, I would have given an arm and leg for it. But by this time I was looking for something more exciting. I discovered Mumbai Angels. A meeting with Sasha (Co-founder of Mumbai Angels) and a chance to work in the exciting startup space in India booming with a myriad of ideas was an opportunity at Mumbai Angels I could not miss.”
Working at Mumbai Angels has been a great learning experience for Ashpi. She loves meeting passionate entrepreneurs, especially those who have given up their cushy jobs to take the brave path. “The energy and enthusiasm, and being a small part of their journey excites me the most,” she adds.
She herself has been on the entrepreneurial path, as she says, “My quest to do something entrepreneurial has resulted into a travel related venture recently alongside my role at Mumbai Angels.” She adds,
The world is male dominated, and the venture space is no different. Gender does not matter. Life is no different for men and women. Everyone gets a chance sooner or later. How prepared you are and what you make of it makes all the difference.
“Of course, women can have it all but it really depends on your outlook. I believe having it all is not important but happiness is. For me happiness is pretty simple — someone to love, something to do and something to look forward to. This may not sound unique or out of the world but it struck a chord with me.” Ashpi is on a journey of self-exploration, pushing boundaries and extending her horizons in the process.
Love holds a special value in her life. “On a more personal level, I had to kiss a lot of frogs to find my prince charming. When things didn’t work out with some of these frogs, I had started doubting myself. But when I look back I think it was all for the best, I had someone wonderful in store for me all along.”
Even the strongest of us need the love and support of loved ones. Ashpi’s parents and her husband think that she is a rockstar. “Their unconditional support and belief in me gives me a lot of strength,” she says.
Ashpi is passionate about two things – art and travel. “I have been painting since childhood and find it very relaxing. My family owns an art gallery and I hope to be more involved in it soon.” As an artist, she claims blue is a colour that resonates with her persona. “I am a water baby,” she says. But adds sheepishly that half her wardrobe comprises of outfits in the cliched pink.
Given her personality, Ashpi is not brand conscious at all. “I go for what suits me best irrespective of whether it is from a flea market or high street. I love to accessorize but prefer simple pieces with less bling.”
Passion for travel is the common thread that connects Ashpi and her husband Shobhit. “We make it a point to get out as much as possible — four holidays in a year are a must. Whether it is world war history (visits to concentration camps in Germany) or Spanish art (time spent at Prado, Madrid), I have learnt more via these travels than any history book. I believe travel truly broadens your outlook towards life and everyone should travel irrespective of budget, time and company. In fact, I feel so strongly about it, that I will be launching a crowd sourced travel stories platform which inspires people to travel.”
If you are a Mia woman like Ashpi Gupta or if you know someone who is, tag her on Twitter and let us know why she is a Mia woman using #MiaAtWork. We are listening to you.