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Vandana Tolani- Founder & CEO at Convanto | Top 10 Woman Leaders

Vandana Tolani

Vandana Tolani

"Ignite the light within and dispel the darkness of doubt with the torch of knowledge." Vandana Tolani

Shaping Stars: The Crucible of My Character and Career:

Let me take you back to my early days. Nurtured amidst the vibrant streets of Delhi, my early years and the challenges I faced became the building blocks of who I am today. When I was just three years old, my dad passed away, leaving my mom to single-handedly raise me and my siblings. This immensely shocking loss has defined our lives, forcing my mother to summon an extraordinary amount of strength at the age of 28 as she became an early widow.

That experience has been etched deeply in my heart, it has taught me the power of resilience in the face of life's toughest trials. How my mom handled everything in such a difficult situation has been my guiding light in life. 

Inspired by the unwavering spirit of my mother, I absorbed the qualities of courage and fearlessness. Her belief in my capacity to not only forge my own distinct path but also to light the way for others became an undeniable motivator. Amidst all the chaos, I found refuge between the pages of books. It gave me my escape into worlds far beyond my immediate surroundings.

In these pages, I discovered my first hero: Sudha Murty. A name is synonymous with empowerment and change. Her stories transcended pages; they etched indelible marks in my soul. Inspired by her philanthropy, her leadership, and her ability to effect positive change, I knew that one day, I too would like to leave a lasting impact.

Fast-forward a few years, and I found myself neck-deep in the world of business advisory and fundraising. With over 25 years under my belt, I can confidently say I've seen it all. From international endeavors to homegrown projects, each step was a piece of a puzzle that formed the bigger picture. But it's not just about numbers and strategies. It's about being a mentor, a guide for startups looking to make their mark. Being a part of their journey, helping them navigate the tricky waters of business, that's where the real satisfaction lies.

My heart beats for fundraising, especially for those early-stage startups that are brimming with potential. It's like giving wings to dreams; seeing them take flight is beyond rewarding. I've had the privilege of working in different corners of the world—from Singapore to Jakarta. Those experiences opened my eyes to opportunities and possibilities. And after 15 years of learning and growing, I returned to my roots, back in India, where Convanto came to life.

Resilience, Rebirth, and Radiance: Carving Success from Adversity both professionally and personally:

My journey has been far from ordinary, with each milestone marked by adversity and challenges that forged my path to success. It all began at the esteemed JBIMS (Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies), setting the stage for a transformative journey that eventually led me to the vibrant city of Jakarta. However, let me be clear that every achievement along the way was far from a stroll in the park.

Starting with a Family Office in both Singapore and Jakarta, I found my calling as an Investment Banker and Advisor to Family Offices and Angel Investors in Jakarta, Indonesia. My mission was crystal clear: guide and support startups from diverse backgrounds, spanning Fin-Tech, B2B Tech, and the colorful landscape of consumer startups. My role encompassed raising funds and offering a spectrum of services, akin to Convanto's work today.

After 15 impactful years split between Singapore and Jakarta, I felt the magnetic pull of India once more. Returning marked the dawn of a new chapter, one laden with challenges and opportunities. Balancing single motherhood with the intricacies of career and personal aspirations demanded unwavering perseverance. The desire to provide my children with a quality education remained steadfast, serving as a beacon of inspiration.

In this chapter, doubts and uncertainties abounded, but I refused to yield. A verse from the Bhagavad Gita ignited a fire within me: "Ignite the light within and dispel the darkness of doubt with the torch of knowledge." Single motherhood, often viewed as a vulnerability, saw me straddle countless challenges, facing relentless stereotypes and biases. Yet, these adversities transformed into stepping stones, propelling my ambition to prove the doubters wrong.

This epiphany heralded the birth of Convanto, now synonymous with excellence in boutique investment banking in India. Guided by a female leader, Convanto's reputation continues to ascend. My influence extends further as a Venture Advisor with Loyal VC, a renowned Canadian VC Fund led by INSEAD. With a portfolio spanning 160+ investments across 35+ countries, my impact resonates globally. I've orchestrated funding initiatives across diverse sectors, from EdTech to AgriTech and Disruptive & DeepTech.

My journey as a single mother has been fueled by essential strategies, including embracing adaptation, leveraging community support, and prioritizing mindful self-care. These pillars have fortified my resilience and propelled my continued success in the ever-evolving world of investment and entrepreneurship.

Crafting my story: From Startup Savior to Convanto Creator:

I started out with a deep dive into both Singapore and Jakarta markets. My role as an Investment Banker and Advisor was crystal clear – guide startups of all stripes, from the dynamic Fin-Tech and B2B Tech sectors to the colorful world of consumer startups. It wasn't just about securing funds; it was about offering a complete package – just like what Convanto stands for today. 

Back in my days as an Investment Banker and Advisor in Jakarta, I encountered a startup that had a game-changing idea. Their product had the potential to revolutionize the market, but they were struggling to secure the funds they needed to bring it to life. It was a pivotal moment that highlighted the importance of not just having a great idea, but also the financial backing to make it happen. 

This experience ingrained in me the significance of comprehensive fundraising. It's not just about finding investors; it's about crafting a compelling story around the idea, building relationships, and demonstrating growth potential. I realized that the journey of fundraising is as much about selling a vision as it is about selling a product or service. 

Flash forward to 15 transformative years between Singapore and Jakarta, and India beckoned me back home. I dipped my toes into the investment waters for a bit, but guess what? My heart was in advisory. That light bulb moment gave birth to Convanto. Talking about the nitty-gritty, the Jakarta and India markets – are worlds apart, right? Drawing inspiration from my Jakarta stint, I crafted a roadmap that would shape Convanto's DNA. Jakarta taught me agility, and that's become our secret sauce.

In essence, my journey has instilled in me the importance of a holistic approach. Fundraising isn't just about securing capital; it's about.

Business advisory isn't just about strategies; it's about agility, collaboration, and nurturing a network that can open doors. These lessons have become the bedrock of my approach, ensuring that I provide not just guidance, but a comprehensive toolkit for success. From EdTech to AgriTech, Disruptive & DeepTech, my journey is punctuated by the application of lessons forged in Jakarta. They've contributed to Convanto's narrative as a trusted partner in the investment landscape, propelling us to craft tailored strategies, embrace innovation, and provide holistic support to startups across India. These elements have been pivotal in Convanto's journey of becoming a respected player in the investment banking landscape in India. They've enabled us to not only weather challenges but thrive in a dynamic and competitive market, all while providing startups with the tools they need to succeed.

Breaking Barriers, Shaping Finance: A Journey Beyond Gender:

Challenges? Oh, they've been part of the journey. Stepping into the finance world as a woman wasn't just about showcasing my skills; it was also about breaking down barriers. I've encountered situations where my expertise was questioned solely due to my gender. But those challenges fueled my determination to prove that competency knows no gender boundaries. 

Opportunities have increased with changing times. The finance industry has gradually embraced diverse leadership, allowing me to bring a fresh perspective to the table. I've seen how my unique approach, molded by my experiences, injects innovation into the field.

Speaking of women's representation in leadership, it's a topic close to my heart, one that has both inspired and driven me on this journey. Looking back, I recall being inspired by other women who defied conventions and assumed leadership roles. Witnessing their strength and impact motivated me to challenge the status quo and carve my own path in the finance industry. 

The recognition I've earned as one of the Top 10 Women Leaders in Wealth Management 2021, Women Entrepreneur of the Year 2021 and 2023, Global woman leader by world women congress Feb 2023, and best financial institution in supporting startups in India (awarded by Kiran Bedi) and many more.

My insights are frequently sought by prominent business news channels and publications like VCTV and Business World. Over 160 speaking engagements, available on YouTube, showcase my expertise and passion. My network, comprising 300+ global investors, reflects my global perspective and sector-agnostic approach. With an investment range of $1 million to $50 million, I navigate diverse deals with finesse.

Falguni Nayar: A Guiding Light in Breaking Barriers:

While I've never had the opportunity to personally meet her, I've always observed Falguni Nayar from afar and have been truly inspired by her ability to excel in male-dominated business landscaping. Having influential mentors in my corner has been nothing short of transformative. They've been like guiding lights, illuminating my path with their insights and wisdom. 

One such mentor who has profoundly impacted my journey is Falguni Nayar, the visionary founder of Nykaa. Her journey from investment banking to revolutionizing the beauty industry with Nykaa is a testament to the power of perseverance and innovation.

I've gained profound wisdom. Her relentless pursuit of excellence, even in the face of challenges, has taught me that setbacks are stepping stones to success. 

I remember reading about how she disrupted the beauty market by creating a platform that catered to the diverse needs of consumers. This taught me the importance of identifying gaps in the market and finding creative solutions to address them. 

Falguni's approach to leadership has also left a lasting impact. Her emphasis on customer-centricity and building a strong team resonated deeply with me. I realized that nurturing a supportive and motivated team is essential for sustainable growth. Her commitment to providing value and creating an enriching experience for customers is something I've embraced in my own entrepreneurial journey.

Falguni's journey has shown that it's not about competing with men; it's about embracing one's unique strengths and leveraging them to thrive in any field. Her success has ignited a flame of inspiration, proving that with vision, hard work, and a refusal to be confined by societal norms, women can achieve remarkable feats. For me, her story serves as a reminder that barriers can be overcome, and ceilings can be shattered when passion and determination drive us forward.

Pioneering Tomorrow: Convanto's Vision for the Future of Startups:

As I look ahead, the evolution of Convanto over the next 5-10 years holds exciting possibilities. Our journey has been one of continuous growth and adaptation, and I envision this trajectory continuing with even greater momentum. 

In the coming years, Convanto aims to solidify its position as a trusted partner for startups across India and beyond. We're committed to expanding our portfolio of services, offering not just financial solutions but also comprehensive guidance, mentorship, and access to a global network of investors and industry experts. This will empower startups to not only secure funding but also to navigate challenges, seize opportunities, and scale sustainably. 

Our vision is to contribute significantly to the startup ecosystem in India. We aim to foster an environment where innovation thrives, and promising ideas receive the support they need to blossom into successful ventures. By connecting startups with the resources, expertise, and mentorship they require, we hope to play a pivotal role in driving economic growth, creating jobs, and propelling India's position as a global hub for innovation. 

Beyond India, we aspire to have an international footprint. With our commitment to agility, adaptability, and diverse network, we aim to support startups from various corners of the world in their pursuit of growth. We want to be recognized as more than just a financial intermediary – we want to be known as a catalyst for positive change, a bridge between aspirations and achievements.

Convanto's evolution will be characterized by deeper engagement, broader support, and a global outlook. We aim to leave an enduring impact by empowering startups to transform their vision into reality, contributing to economic development, and shaping the startup ecosystem in India and beyond for years to come.

Empowering Future Financial Leaders: Three Keys to Success:

I'm hopeful that my journey might have inspired others in turn. As a visible female leader in finance, I strive to show that leadership knows no gender boundaries Now, for those aspiring to enter the finance field, here's my advice.