Manju Mohan’s entrepreneurial journey began in the living room of her Toronto childhood home, stuffing envelopes for her parents’ software startup. She was about 5 when her father developed a GUI Converter that he built at home, which led to the birth of their technology company Kumaran Systems. Manju has been a part of every family enterprise ever since.
An entrepreneurial spirit runs strong in Manju’s family. One grandfather was a mango trader and another ran a saree shop. Her mother, who had Manju at 18, became an accountant with the support of her husband and managed the accounting and sales aspects of the business.
Manju’s path to success today did not come in a linear fashion. Soon after college where she studied Computer Science and Economics, she started an e-learning company for corporate training – Iora Learning Solutions. But the timing was not great; it was smack dab in the middle of a recession when corporate budgets for learning were low. But during that time, she also got a masters in Instructional Technology where she learned about design; that helped her pivot to where she is now.
Today, she is the CEO and Co-founder of Ionixx Technologies and the secret sauce behind the success of Ionixx is design. “The DNA of Ionixx is that we are design driven – we think MVP.” Of her three years in the Bay area says Manju, “One of the most important learnings for me was the importance of design. Building any software, without giving enough significance to design, just won’t work.” Really understanding the user before building anything, and prototyping, is a big part of her success with customers.
Ionixx’ clients include Tenshey for whom they built a platform to advance gender diversity through executive coaching, and Wow Laddus, for whom they are building a blockchain-based application to track the quality of the sweets during production.
Today, they work mostly with startups providing web and mobile application development. “Design differentiates us. We focus more on emerging technologies like mobile technologies, micro services architecture and the blockchain space”.
Ionixx first got started by digitizing loan approval workflows for the microfinance industry in India. Field officers equipped with android mobile phones would go to villages to photograph documents to onboard a customer and transfer information to data centers to be digitized so they could verify and approve loans immediately. This automated system transformed what was a laborious, time consuming process involving lots of paper, with technology that created a near paperless office, and saved money and time.
Many of Manju’s clients also have female founders or strong female representation in their management. “… when I talk to other women entrepreneurs, they connect with me,” she says, because being one of the few tech companies founded by a woman is what attracts these female entrepreneurs to Ionixx.
“I see a lot of that,” reflects Manju, “where women are trying to help other women out, rooting for them.”
Strong family ties and support are in Manju’s DNA as well as the penchant for risk taking. “My parents have always said – try it out. What’s the worst that can happen?” This is an attitude that is encouraged in her company where every employee is empowered to try new ideas. She credits her sister Swathi, Co-Founder and VP of Growth for the increase in sales.
“The company took off just as my son was born but,” she says, “somehow, I found that I became more efficient. Getting things done, instead of getting done perfectly. I have learned to use help – family, friends or paid. It does take a village.”
Manju, who lives in the LA area with her family defines success as inner happiness.
“I don’t actually believe in work life balance. You cannot be a different person at work or home. You need to be happy with what you are doing, day in and day out.”
Anjana Nagarajan-Butaney is a Bay Area resident with experience in educational non-profits, community building, networking and content development and was Community Director for an online platform. She is interested in how to strengthen communities by building connections to politics, science & technology, gender equality and public education.
Edited by Contributing Editor, Meera Kymal