A Passion and a Mission – Priya Krishnan

This article is a part of Discere’s ‘Insights with Experts’ series, where Discere co-founders Joao and Shyam interview professionals across various industries. Read more here.

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Priya Krishnan is the founder of KLAY, the largest owned pre-school chain in India with over 200 centres. KLAY has enabled over 20,000 women to get back into the workforce. In addition, KLAY also employed 3,500 women in its GPW Top 100 team. Priya has won numerous awards, some of them include ET Startup Women Entrepreneur of the Year 2019 and ET NOW Business Leader of the Year 2020. Beyond entrepreneurship, Priya has over 20 years of experience in numerous strategic, corporate and leadership roles which spans across multiple continents.

A Quick Summary

It was the combination of a passion and mission that motivated Priya Krishnan to start KLAY. Being someone who has years of experience in not just entrepreneurship but working in a corporate environment, Priya could genuinely empathise with women who faced the choice of caring for their children or remaining in the workforce. While Priya was fortunate enough to have good quality childcare and remain at her job, she noticed many other people in her teams quitting due to a lack of good quality childcare. Priya strongly believed that all women should have the choice to remain in the workforce as they wish while having access to quality childcare. This prompted Priya to start KLAY, the result was a company that allowed 20,000 women (and counting) to get back into the workforce. 

When asked about the challenges Priya faced as an entrepreneur, she spoke about the overwhelming accountability that can often be placed on your shoulders, specifically stating that “Entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey”. Priya talked about 3 lessons she learnt as an Entrepreneur:

  1. Surround yourself with people who have the ability to support you on your journey. Whether it’s friends, family or co-workers. 
  1. Be conscious of how your teammates and workers evolve as your business moves forward. The mindset of your first set of employees may not be identical to the 5th or 6th wave of employees, as an entrepreneur one needs to be able to sympathise with this constant change. 
  1. Ensuring your business vision is carried over as you attempt to expand. Whether its private equity or venture capital, the other end should be able to acknowledge your vision and intentions for the company. 

When asked about the qualities and characteristics Priya looks for as she brings new people into her business, she spoke about four features:

  1. Attitude. Whether it’s possessing a growth mindset or being positively predisposed, this is a key indicator of their approach to the business. 
  1. Experiences. For example, indicators like whether this person has lived in the same city for all their lives or stuck with the same set of friends can provide insights into their social approach. 
  1. Skills. Considering the uncertainty of which skills will be in demand in the future, Priya expects this quality to rank lower as time goes on. What Priya looks for is specifically the potential of a person to learn new skills and be open to change. 
  1. Work ethic. From schooling life to previous jobs, knowing how the person has functioned in their past experience is a good indicator of how they will function at your firm. 
  1. Personal Discipline. This revolves around not necessarily how the person will balance their work lives with personal lives, but otherwise integrate it with them through discipline. 

Priya’s overall judgment takes into account a confluence of factors, however as a concluding statement, Priya would often empathise and question whether she would want to work for the person she is hiring, if the answer is yes, she is presented with a pretty good indication of the person. 

When asked about the importance of possessing a role model, Priya states that everyone should have one, however should not be limited by only a singular figure. From Priya’s point of view, she talked about having utmost respect for her mother and tried to emulate her qualities throughout her life. In addition, she talked about other figures she looked up to such as Indra Nooyi, an inspirational leader who currently stands as CEO of Pepsico. The effect of having a role model can be amplified by the extent to which we are clear about the qualities of them we wish to emulate. 

To conclude the interview, Priya left us with a valuable piece of advice. That we should maintain trust in ourselves and not be dependent on external validation. Using an example of social media, Priya talked about the need to not peg the value of ourselves to the amount of likes/comments/views we receive. Instead, we should trust our instincts and believe in ourselves. 

“Trust in your instincts and believe in yourself”

Priya Krishnan

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