South Asian Gen Z women breaking into business

South Asian Gen Z women breaking into business

Why we’re starting the Desi Women Demystify Business Clubhouse series. 

By Zehra Naqvi & Anjali Barnabas

We’re on opposite ends of the college spectrum: Anjali is just about to finish her first year at Barnard, and Zehra is wrapping up her final year at Columbia. Although we’ve both had completely different experiences, what’s certain is that community was a pivotal part in uplifting both of us on our career paths.  

That’s why we’re launching our new Clubhouse series under Kulfi Bites called Desi Women Demystify Business. This series will cover various aspects of successful career paths, community as a part of professional development, and allies of the South Asian experience. We hope we can become a community where we learn together about different business paths and highlight the South Asian experience. 

Our first chat will be on Friday, April 9th at 4pm PST / 7pm EST: Breaking into VC as Desi Women. Two (almost) Columbia graduates, Zehra Naqvi & Pritika Gupta, discuss their experiences breaking into Venture Capital (VC), as a Gen Z undergrad and Millennial MBA respectively. You can stay tuned for upcoming career chats by joining the Kulfi Bites club on Clubhouse!

Read on to learn about our respective pathways, how we got involved in the world of VC and entrepreneurship, and what we wished we knew when starting out. 

Zehra Naqvi, Senior at Columbia University 

When I got an Early Decision acceptance at Columbia, I knew I was going to set myself up to continue broadening my experiences in entrepreneurship and start-ups. I had come out of high school as a small business owner — or rather, a founder out of Hong Kong — the successes I accomplished and the achievements I had celebrated were a sliver of what I would experience at Columbia. 

However, upon entering college, I knew I was going to take time to discover what I wanted to study academically, but what I was unaware of was the immediate career search. I was thrust into a whirlwind of opportunities, pre-professional clubs, events, and coffee chats. At a time like this, I don’t think anyone realized how lucky they were to be able to step into a room full of strangers and ask questions, learn, talk, and support each other. Luckily, I joined several organizations on campus that helped me accomplish my goals in different ways, particularly Columbia Women’s Business Society. 

After spending 8 semesters scouring through various programs, attending multiple information sessions, and taking on coffee chats frequently, I came to realize that: 

Some of the most inspiring discussions I had were with South Asian women and people who had accomplished similar goals to me. 

Creating a community where people can support one another is imperative, and I truly feel that learning from other South Asian women has been so pivotal for me. Speaking with Pritika Gupta, Columbia MBA student and Kulfi Head of Partnerships, when I first joined Kulfi taught me so much about how I should be thinking about my career in the long run. Even speaking with Priyanka Ganjoo, Kulfi’s incredible founder, for the first time filled me with so much energy and excitement for what I could potentially build in the future. 

Creating for Kulfi these past few months has taught me far more than I anticipated. 

Anjali Barnabas, First Year at Barnard College

Entering undergrad is an intense process especially during a global pandemic. Before I’ve ever been in a Barnard classroom, I’m already networking with professionals in career fields of interest and attending graduate school info sessions. Especially with a non-technical education, I feared that I wouldn’t be able to really explore the different paths in finance and business that I could pursue. 

Who was I going to be after college? I didn’t even know who I was in college! 

I started a new phase in my life, while simultaneously thinking about the one afterwards, all alone in my neon-green childhood bedroom.

However, it wasn’t until I joined campus organizations like Columbia Women’s Business Society (CWBS) and Columbia Venture Partners (CVP) where I found a community of kind upperclassmen that went through the same distress I was going through. Through these experiences, I built an online community where we learned about the nontraditional paths in business that suited liberal arts mindsets and talked about the endless IPOs we would read in the Morning Brew. I realized that pursuing a liberal arts curriculum actually opened my eyes to other avenues of business, like VC and entrepreneurship that was awaiting my discovery. We learned from each other; I applied whatever I could from my previous experience from high school at Rosecliff Ventures and the Fintech Focus program to lessons and conversations and took in everything I could. 

Inspired by the brilliance of my sophomore, junior and senior peers, I found a community where I could openly ask questions, feel empowered to break glass ceilings, and always feel intellectually stimulated outside the classroom while professionally maturing as a young woman. Not only did I find mentors, but I found friends that were truly rooting for me and helping me do the research to find the right career fit after college. I still haven’t been in a Barnard classroom, but I have an extensive community of like-minded peers on similar yet unique tracks, lifting each other up in every way possible. 

While Zehra is ending her undergraduate career at Columbia, I’m just starting mine. Although we have had completely different experiences, I think a lesson that we’ve both learned is the importance of community. 

Finding a group of people that you can identify with is essential to success. 

So, we’re so excited for you to join us for the Desi Women Demystify Business series on Clubhouse. Together, we will listen, learn, and share experiences to demystify career pathways and entrepreneurship so everyone feels like they have a place in business world.


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