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BW Businessworld

The Only Woman Running A Billion Dollar Startup

Radhika Aggarwal, co-founder, ShopClues is a pioneer in her own way

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"E-retail, in our opinion is going to be commerce in India. It will be the way Indians buy in the future. It is a great way for small and medium business to project their enterprising skills to the entire Indian community," Radhika Aggarwal, cofounder of ShopClues, said when she was interviewed by BW Businessworld in January 2015.

Validating Radhika's words and her company's customer base, a year later in January 2016, ShopClues earned a major achievement. The ecommerce marketplace that deals mostly with small and medium retailers and sells to middle class Indians said they were newest unicorn in India with a valuation of 1.1 billion dollars. E-retail had officially become mainstream commerce.

That unicorn status, a possible IPO float next year and Radhika's ability to aim so clearly for gaps in the market and on top of it, make a success of it means that her star will rise just as that of Indian ecommerce will (or just commerce as it becomes the de facto way Indians buy).

We know more about Sandeep Aggarwal than his wife, Radhika Aggarwal. Sandeep is more often quoted in the media and more often than not, the founding of ShopClues is attributed to him, not Radhika, his college sweetheart back from college in Indore.

While Sandeep is still a force to be reckoned with, it won't be entirely fair to say he built the ecommerce company on his own back. There were four of them and Radhika was one of them. ShopClues was founded in 2011 . As fate would have it, in 2013, Sandeep was arrested on charges of insider trading during his time as an internet business analyst. Sandeep who was then serving as CEO plead guilty to the charges, following which he stepped down as its CEO. Over the years, he has founded another online marketplace called Droom and has distanced himself from ShopClues as one of its consultants.

There is always the possibility that Sandeep influences decisions at ShopClues, even today. But as Radhika has been quoted as saying in the media, ShopClues was never a one man band wagon. It was the work of four people. Sure Sandeep spearheaded operations and had laid out a strategic plan for Radhika and other cofounders to operationalize following his arrest, but it was a plan. It wasn't action. Radhika, who then assumed an elevated position of chief business officer has worked with the other cofounders to bring ShopClues from a gross merchandise value (GMV) of 38.6 million dollars in 2013, to 1.2 billion dollars in 2016. The company is targeting 2 billion dollars in GMV for 2017.

And that has always been a key trait of Radhika's leadership style. That she is able to work together in a team of leaders. At the BW Young Entrepreneur Awards when she spoke of how ShopClues dealt with demonetization, she said, "We all rushed in for a meeting and put our heads together to figure out what can be done." Note how it's we, not I, not they.

And what's even more admirable is that she owns her ground in a team of male cofounders, without losing any of her nurturing instincts. One must not forget that Radhika was a mother first and a businesswoman later. She was the first of the founding team to come down to India and scout out housing and offices for the ShopClues business. She is the founder that champions gender equality at ShopClues, especially for employees with children.