Namita Shah is the co-founder of Presolv360, a legal-tech company, recognised by the Department of Justice, Government of India, specialising in online commercial dispute resolution via electronic arbitration and mediation. It has also been awarded a grant by The Department of Science and Technology (GoI). Her work has been featured in the Business Today magazine, The Hindu daily, Business World, Artificial Lawyer international publication, popular blogs like YourStory, The Chronicle, Youth Ki Awaaz, and The Legal Forecast, and radio shows on 94.3 and 91.1 FM. Namita has been recognized among the Top 60 of the Women Transforming India, 2018’ initiative by the Government of India. She is a CA (gold medalist), CPA (USA), and LLB, and is an alum of Government Law College and HR College. She has also studied cybercrime management at the 'Asian School of Cyber Laws'. She is passionate about writing, learning, teaching and mentoring. She writes about her learnings through life and work under the brand 'eNpowering Minds'. She has delivered several lectures and video series on various topics for the Indian government, MBA colleges, and corporate panels.
You have a background in law and accounting. What sparked your interest in legal technology and entrepreneurship?
Namita: As surprising as it sounds, I come from a family of doctors. My parents are doctors and run their hospital, and thanks to them, since childhood I knew that medicine was not my calling. Before I even understood what chartered accountancy meant, I knew I’d become a chartered accountant one day (I had decided I’d pursue chartered accountancy at the age of 12 – owing to my love for numbers I guess). But I didn't know the plan ahead. Whilst working for almost half a decade post articleship, across segments (audits, transfer pricing, tax planning, indirect taxes, etc.), I realized that I want to go to bed daily knowing that I’ve helped solve a problem for someone. And I knew that the best way to do impactful work was starting up. So, I started observing 'problems' around me (waiting to be solved)! Whilst working in the diamond and jewellery industry, I noticed that firms that were on the top of their game filed for bankruptcy in a few years, and families were destroyed alike, all because of ‘mismanaged disputes’. This was the case even for MNCs which I experience during my stint with EY. Around the same time, my co-founder, Bhaven Shah, also a chartered accountant and LLB, observed this problem of disputes whilst working at KPMG on the retrospective taxation matter. Same was the case with my third co-founder, Aman Sanghavi, who comes from the insurance and management background, who noticed the painful claim settlement procedure in insurance matters even where papers were clear. Upon delving further into the problem, here’s what we realized: the Indian court system is currently dealing with a logjam of 32 million pending cases. This translates to an unbelievable 300 years to clear this backlog if no new case is instituted. To top this, 40,000 plus cases are being filed in Indian courts every day, each dragging on for an average of 13 years in court (note that these are pre-COVID numbers)! And that's when we knew what we want to do for the rest of our lives: make dispute resolution easy and effective. That gave birth to Presolv360.
The journey of a start-up can be very challenging, but also very rewarding. What are the challenges you faced while setting up Presolv360? What motivates you to push past challenges?
Namita: As budding entrepreneurs, we’ve eaten challenges for breakfast, obstacles for lunch and hurdles for dinner. I still remember when we started with our mediation platform, people mistook it for ‘meditation’. When we made our first pitch (via a powerpoint presentation), people couldn’t imagine disputes being resolved digitally. Normally, when one talks about disputes, what comes to the 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 the opposite ends of the spectrum and to merge these two has been a challenge. Over time what has happened is that we’ve learnt tech and our tech team has learnt laws! These challenges have taught me that nothing is impossible and in fact, this is what makes the journey more exciting and satisfying!
Could you tell us a little bit about Presolv360’s mission? Who has access to it?
Namita: Presolv360 started with the vision of becoming a hub for new-age dispute management, trust-building and bringing accountability in commercial relationships. It is an online dispute resolution (ODR) platform that makes dispute resolution data-driven and inclusive. Every dispute is resolved in a 100% contactless and paperless manner in record time, using a combination of technology and human judgement. It results in savings of over 80% in time and resources otherwise expended in dispute resolution. It's mission is to use data and technology to make dispute resolution simple, accessible and systematized. Presolv360 specializes in online commercial dispute resolution (through its proprietary e-arbitration and e-mediation modules), and, also offers a subscription-based model that encourages parties to resolve contractual disputes without the need to litigate. Through our 'Presolv for All' Project, we provide our services free of cost to the weaker sections of the society. Whilst we are focused on commercial disputes, the impact is far reaching, by improving the business and investment climate, supporting the ease of doing business and most importantly, bringing access to justice at the fingertips of millions.
Do you think your legal training helps your entrepreneurial journey? If yes, in what way does it help?
Namita: I do believe that every training has something to offer, and gives us another view-point to ponder upon. More specifically, since Presolv360 does fall in the legal domain, yes, legal training definitely adds value. Above all, it gives practical insights into how we can solve problems in the legal ecosystem more efficiently.
The club of women entrepreneurs is very small. Why do you think this is so? Do you think it’s changing? Could you share any experiences from your journey that either spotlight the issues or give hope for the future?
Namita: I do believe it has never been a better time to be a woman entrepreneur, especially in India. While it is true that the club of women entrepreneurs is very small in our country, and globally as well, I do believe women have an innate ability to manage, multitask and beat targets (it's almost as if we've been prepared to do these from the womb itself). All we have to do is apply our abilities in the business world. The government, too, is encouraging women to turn into entrepreneurs, and there are several mentorship courses (free of cost) and grants as well which the government is providing to women entrepreneurs to help them start and scale. All we need to do is take the first step, and the road will appear on its own!
What advice would you like to give other women who aspire to enter entrepreneurship or legal technology and have a career path similar to yours?
Namita: "Just do it!" Ill reiterate, there has never been a better time to be a woman entrepreneur. Take the leap of faith, you'll fall, but you'll learn along the way. The learnings are tremendous, and it is one of the most satisfactory things to do - to find a problem and do your best to offer a better solution to the world!
Can “women have it all” according to you? The picture of Bumble CEO putting her company in the IPO club with her infant on her hip comes to mind. We would love to know your thoughts on this.
Namita: I do believe women have always had it all, they just need to see it for themselves. Women run households, raise children, nurture the family - all with a smile. That's proof right there. They just need to set their eyes on the goal, and suddenly the path will get clearer. There is no need to pick between a family and business. Both can co-exist, just like it has been co-existing for their male counter-parts. Once they decide to do both, the families, the businesses, and the world will have no choice but to accept it too! PS: Michelle Obama (First Lady, USA) Indra Nooyi (Pepsi Co), Anita Roddick (The Body Shop) are some great examples!