As a part of the Morning Lazziness series about strong women who’ve made an impact through their innovative ideas, I had the pleasure of interviewing Namita Shah.
Namita was always an academic topper, and yet, due to illustrious doctor parents, the path towards her passion for accountancy wasn’t the regular one. However, this never deterred her from acquiring a gold medal in CA and then a CPA certification (CA-equivalent in the US). While practicing CA, Namita recognized the hassles organizations faced whilst dealing with India’s legal machinery, prompting her to pursue LLB.
Presolv360 was established in partnership with two like-minded college mates, aiming to create process efficiency for corporates; Namita and her team offer accessible technology resolutions for settling disputes in the absence of court visits. Here’s a chat I had with this enterprising young lady on her revolutionary concept.
How was it like to be raised by doctor’s parents?
Yes, both my parents are doctors (my father is a gynecologist, and mother, an anesthesiologist). They run their own hospital, and thanks to them, since childhood, I knew medicine wasn’t for me!
However, since a young age, I saw them becoming entrepreneurs when they decided to independently run their hospital instead of joining an established corporate hospital. I grew up in an atmosphere where it was the norm to take risks to chase your dreams, realized the value of working hard to create an impact, where learning from failures was as important as celebrating successes.
Above all, I learned to dream, dream big, and strive hard to make them turn into a reality!
Since the age of 12, I have loved numbers and knew that was where my calling lay, even though I didn’t fully understand what accountancy meant back then. I fared fairly average in school, but my ranks showed marked improvement since grade 10; in fact, I topped my school in 10th grade and went on to do a bachelor’s in commerce, further pursuing CA, CPA, and LLB.
Post that, my experiences and learnings led me to co-found Presolv360.
How did you convince them to let you pursue a non-medical field?
I guess my journey has always been about defying norms and taking the road less traveled. I was the first person from my school to take up commerce in spite of scoring well academically. This was against the advice of my science professors; I still remember my Physics professor saying to me, “CAs only book charter planes for those in the science stream, so choose wisely.”
I did go back later to tell the professor how wrong that statement was so nobody else feels discouraged to embark on their chosen path.
Coming to my parents – they’ve always advised and guided me but have also given me the freedom to be my own person and make my own decisions since a very young age; I am so grateful to them for that.
Multiple decisions I took throughout my life have been ‘non-traditional’ like being a single child of doctor-parents but pursuing commerce, quitting a well-paying corporate job to start a company, etc. My parents were supportive all along, even if they’d liked me to choose otherwise!
I feel my mother, at times, still wishes I should have a chosen the medical profession. I can only hope to make her feel proud in the field I’ve chosen to progress in!
Tell us about your shift from accountancy to law.
After CA, I began my career with Ernst & Young in statutory audit and then moved on to Ramesh Rajni & Co., a mid-sized firm specializing in the luxury goods industry.
Throughout my article ship, I got hands-on experience across the spectrum in the accountancy world, right from single entries to statutory & tax audits, income tax return preparations, to corporate structuring. During the same time, I completed my commerce graduation.
Realizing quite early that finance and law are instrumental in any business, I decided to immediately pursue LLB. To acquire international exposure, I simultaneously took up CPA (the USA equivalent of CA), which allowed me to study in India and visit the US just for the examination.
How did the idea of a legal-tech firm come about?
I’ve always wanted to do something meaningful in my life and help solve real problems. While working in the luxury goods industry (mainly diamond and jewelry), I noticed that even firms that were on top of their game filed for bankruptcy in few years, mainly due to ‘mismanaged disputes.’ This was the case with MNCs too, which I’d experienced during my E&Y stint. I also came across families struggling as they found themselves destroyed due to financial disputes.
Amidst my work, these reflections made me want to take the entrepreneurial route. I quit my job, not really knowing where my professional journey was headed.
My friend and collegemate, Bhaven Shah, also a CA, LLB, shared similar observations whilst working at KPMG on matters of retrospective taxation.
Aman Sanghavi, another friend from a management background, had knowledge of painful insurance claim settlements, even in the presence of clear documentation.
The three of us delved further into the issue, and here’s what we unearthed – the Indian court system has been dealing with a logjam of 4 crore pending cases. This translates to an unbelievable 300 years to clear this backlog if no new case is instituted. To the top of this, 40,000 plus cases are being filed in Indian courts every day, each dragging on for an average of 13 years in court!
It’s believed that in India, litigation isn’t only a legal issue anymore; it’s a legacy issue, passed on from one generation to another. While I had heard this repeatedly, the reality of this harsh truth hit me when a Supreme Court Judge commented to Aman, “Son, your father instituted this litigation, and your child will have to conclude it.”
This statement struck us like lightning, and that’s when we started toying with the idea of finding an appropriate solution to this mammoth problem.
Determined to make dispute resolutions easy and effective, Bhaven, Aman, and myself founded our company Presolv 360, in June 2017.
What needs does your firm address?
Presolv360’s mission is to utilize data and technology to make dispute resolution simple, approachable, and systematized.
Presolv provides an online dispute resolution (ODR) platform that resolves disputes in record time, accessible at fingertips. It encompasses proprietary electronic arbitration, negotiation, and mediation modules to enable disputing parties to resolve disputes in a fully contactless and paperless manner, with timelines ranging from few hours to a few weeks.
Our specialty is the remote resolution of commercial disputes with a unique subscription-based model encouraging parties to settle contractual disputes without the need to take the matter to a law court.
Our main focus is managing commercial disputes, but the impact of this is far-reaching, leading to efficiency in the corporate environment through ease of conducting business and, most importantly, making justice available to millions.
Does your firm manage individual client (B2C) requests?
We are primarily a B2B model where we onboard enterprise users who register and refer their cases on our platform. In case an individual client approaches us, we do provide assistance. Our platform is built to administer various categories of civil disputes, right from money recovery to insurance matters, property cases to employment issues, family and inheritance matters, etc.
Additionally, through our ‘Presolv for All’ Project, we also provide pro-bono services to the socially and economically weaker sections.
Elaborate on your team’s composition?
Myself, Bhaven, and Aman are co-founders of Presolv360. Other than being collegemates, we are bound by the vision of a litigation-free future.
Ours is a young enterprise with a lean team comprising of IT and operations members totaling 9. We also have impaneled 50+ arbitrators, mediators, and dispute resolution specialists.
United by the common goal of making justice accessibility a reality, we thrive on innovation. Right from the senior-most to the junior-most associate, everyone is encouraged to constantly deliberate on existing systems and the development of new processes for enhanced efficiency.
Our pride comes from absolute dedication to work, transparency in the actions we take, and synchronization with which we work with each other and the organization as a whole.
We call ourselves #ThePresolvFamily, and the three of us often remark that we are professionally married to each other and to the Company!
What challenges did/do you face in the market?
As budding entrepreneurs, we’ve faced hurdles throughout our journey.
I still remember when we started with our mediation platform, people mistook it for meditation!
During our first PowerPoint pitch, people couldn’t visualize disputes being resolved digitally. Normally, when one thinks of disputes, what comes to mind is heaps of papers and courtrooms. Now imagine doing this with a few clicks and without meeting in person. That’s the mindset shift we’ve had to deal with.
Also, law and technology are on opposite ends of a spectrum, and to merge these has been a herculean task. Over time, what happened is we’ve learned technology, and our IT team has learned laws!
We knew the time for legal tech was right, and the pandemic just accelerated that migration! It’s worked positively for our ODR ecosystem; people now realize that all they need is a mobile phone to literally take legal matters into their own hands. There is openness to directly participate in various legal proceedings and find a practical, non-litigation way forward, and we are enabling this for them via Presolv360.
Describe Presolv360’s growth?
Post formal incorporation in 2017, we experimented with various techniques and technologies, exploring ways to make dispute resolutions easy, effective and economical. Initially, we negotiated cases personally to understand the mindset of disputing parties to draw them into an amicable settlement. Based on our learnings, we digitized the entire dispute resolution process-flow and launched an online negotiation-cum-mediation module, followed by the arbitration module.
By leveraging technology to simplify complex regulations, we are making it more comprehensible to the common man. Anyone can log on to our platform and raise a dispute by filling a simple form, describing the agreed terms, a problem that occurred, and the resolution they are seeking.
The disputing party is then invited on the platform, and a dispute resolution expert is assigned (an arbitrator or a mediator, as the case, maybe). The resolution is then conducted via online submissions, chats, audio or video-conferencing.
At each stage, parties are intimated via emails and instant messaging regarding updates in their matter and further actions required. The entire process happens from the comfort of clients’ homes/offices, without the need to print a single sheet of paper.
Our goal was clear, yet the path to achieving it took innumerable iterations, sleepless nights, and many failures! The journey of iterations and innovations continues to date, but the satisfaction and joy of envisioning something and witnessing it solve real problems are unparalleled.
Give our readers few Presolv360 case resolutions.
*Names changed for confidentiality reasons
The demise of Mr. Ram due to a prolonged cancer battle caused a dispute to arise between his wife and mother, both claiming the insurance amount in its entirety. During the mediation proceedings, it was uncovered that the wife felt the insurance amount should come to her so she could repay loans her husband had taken; the mother laid claim on the amount to compensate for his medical expenses. The final decision was a division in the amount so they could both repay 60% of their financial burden with independent arrangements for the balanced funds.
An EdTech company contracted with an educational channel to showcase a wildlife film to school children (aged 7-12). The former ended up using the channel’s logo to give participation certificates to the children without seeking the latter’s permission. On discovering this, the channel preferred to mediate instead of active litigation on the matter. As a result, for certificates already issued, the EdTech company had to pay compensation to the channel for using their logo. Also, going forward, revenues would be shared between the two, and a joint certificate would be issued to the children.
In brief, this is the impact of Presolv360:
- From an average of 13 years for case disposal, collaboratively resolving a dispute within an average of 27 days.
- From expending lakhs of rupees in litigation to resolving disputes at a fraction of that amount.
- From uncertain outcomes and irreparable loss to certainty of resolution and conserving resources.
- From litigation ruining relations to safeguarding them.
Do you have time for hobbies in your busy schedule?
While finance and law have been my pursuits, I am also passionate about writing, learning, teaching, and mentoring. I run a website that is energizing a movement of legal innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology.
I write about my learnings through life and work under the brand’ eNpowering Minds’. I have delivered several lectures and video series on various topics for the Indian government, MBA colleges, corporate panels, etc. On the creative side, I practice Ikebana (Japanese art of flower arrangement), sketch, and paint regularly.
What do you consider as milestones in this entrepreneurial journey?
Noticing Presolv360’s operations and impact, we’ve been recognized and enlisted by the Department of Justice, Government of India, as a provider of Online Dispute Resolution services in India.
Our first case is etched in my memory due to the impact we could create in someone’s life – A young widow had lost her husband in a fatal motor accident, leaving behind three children and insurmountable debt for her to handle. For 6 years, she ran pillar-to-post without receiving a single penny she was promised. We facilitated a resolution with the insurance company, and in three weeks, the negotiated compensation was credited to her bank account. With deep gratitude, she said to us, “Thank you for saving me!”
Till today, that moment inspires me to do more, strive harder, and make things happen, come what may!
Working with India’s largest banks and NBFCs, resolving each of the thousands of cases referred on the platform are surely some of the crucial milestones!
Having said that, there’s a long way before justice accessibility on peoples’ fingertips becomes a reality in our country!
On the personal front, it’s been humbling to be recognized amongst the top 60 ‘Women Transforming India’ (a GOI initiative), and my story is published in the book ‘Eves Against The Odds’ amidst 24 other phenomenal women.
Who’s been your cheerleaders in this phase?
There are so many people who’ve guided and mentored us along the way. Naming all would mean a long, long list, and naming a few would do injustice to the others.
But let me say this, what’s been a major inspiration is seeing the pendency in courts (4+ crore cases as we speak). Knowing that majority of the country has no real solution if they encounter a dispute, we want to change that. We envision a future where no one feels helpless when a dispute arises, where disputes are resolved effectively in record time with minimal resource outflow. Achieving that is our biggest motivation!
Tips for those wishing to undertake a route like yours.
Entrepreneurship is not easy – lonely days, no safety nets, recurring bills, uncertain outcomes, market fluctuations, and the list goes on. But, when you see that one satisfied customer, that one powerful story that you made possible, that one 5-star review, it all seems worth it.
Here’s my checklist for anyone who wants to rock the entrepreneurship boat:
- Why do you want to do it?
- Is there a problem to be solved?
- Are at least 100 people you know looking for a solution?
- Is the general public looking for a solution?
- Can you make more money than you will need to burn?
- Are you passionate about it?
- Can you give up on outings, vacations, weddings, parties, etc., for the next 10 years?
- If everything was unlimited, is this what you would do?
If you answered ‘yes’ to all of the above, what are you waiting for?!
Another important lesson I’ve learned – if we aren’t making any mistakes, we are definitely doing something wrong. It’s important to fail; if we don’t fail, we aren’t aiming high enough; keep learning from every failure and continue trying after applying the learnings.
Presolv – Linkedin