How to Build an Inclusive Supply Chain Software Company

Suuchi Ramesh shares her experience of building an inclusive SCM company and the need for more diversity in the supply chain space.

Q: Why supply chain? What attracted you to this space?

Key takeaway: There were three parts to the attraction: data, the market size, and how ripe the market was for some disruption. Supply chains are so critical because the supply chain touches every business function. The data collected across the departments were sitting in silos, so there was the opportunity to have the data communicate with each other through easy-to-use analytics reports.

Q: You started your career as an engineer. Was it by accident that you wound up in supply chain?

Key takeaway: I was always dealing with supply chain data in some shape or form at my first job with Intel. After that, I went on to join two venture-backed tech companies that were selling data, so most of this data was directly or indirectly touching the supply chain. After that, moving into supply chain made sense.

Q:As you got into supply chain, were you pleased or surprised to see the number of women who were really successful in supply chain? What can we do to encourage more women to enter supply chain?

Key takeaway: There are two ways of looking at participation for women, and there are two playing fields for the supply chain. The first is the physical supply chain, for example, the factory floor, the warehouse floor, and the 3PLs. A lot of work across the supply chain does not happen in a corporate office with glassdoors; it happens on these floors. The second playing field is the software or platforms used to run supply chains. There aren’t enough women across both these dimensions, but the real opportunity is the software side of digitizing and producing solutions to run these supply chains and have women leading these initiatives.

So, then the problem statement isn’t why there aren’t more women in supply chain technology, but why aren’t there more women building technology companies? There are different perspectives on this, but there are two parts. We need to encourage more folks with a STEM background to get involved. The second is, and there’s some self-bias, but we need to encourage more immigrants to get involved. Most immigrants coming from particularly Asia have post-graduate degrees in these fields to bring that expertise. As I have gone through the immigration and visa process, if we reduce the barriers to start your own company, that will help a great deal for men and women alike.

Q: Do you think we promote the industry enough to potential leaders to showcase the potential opportunities?

Key takeaway: Not enough, and I wonder why not. Perhaps, when you think about supply chain, it’s not as glamorous as building sales software or marketing organizations. However, to me, that’s where the opportunity is. There’s so much opportunity to disintermediate and build the next generation of platforms just because it has been untouched. So, if there are women or men who want to be entrepreneurs, supply chain has so much to tackle. In the past few years, most startups focused on the outbound supply chain — trucking, fleet, shipping, logistics — but if you look at the value chain, it is massive. It starts upstream, at the point of raw materials, and then products are made, and then it goes out. This workflow has been pretty much untouched.

The other massive opportunity is venture funding. In the last five or six years, venture funds started to recognize that supply chain is a hot space. Before that, technology investments were focused on sales, marketing, and ecomm software. So, the timing is right! It would be great to see more people attack the problem statement with technology.

Q:If people were watching this and wanted to get into supply chain, what would you say to them? What is the attraction?

Key takeaway: Number one is that supply chain is a large market. If you’re an entrepreneur, you want to take a large market because then you have the optionality to grow. The second is that there are many upstarts and young companies, and at the other end, you have almost a monopoly of older, big players in the technology space. There’s this white space for mid-market waiting to be captured. Both of those are very attractive, and of course, there is a lot of venture funding. If you want to scale in tech, you want to know that there’s money in the space. All of those three are really great motivators.