[This interview is featured in my Entrepreneur Journeys book, Bootstrapping With a Paycheck; Also check out my Entrepreneur Journeys book, Seed India – How To Navigate The Seed Capital Gap in India]
Sangeeta (San) Banerjee is the co-founder and CEO of ApartmentADDA.com, an Indian web application company. She holds a degree in electrical engineering from Guindy and earned her master’s from Louisiana State University. Prior to founding ApartmentADDA, she worked for Tata Consultancy Services from 1999 to 2003 and then went on to postgradate education. After graduating from Louisiana State University she worked for Capgemini in Chicago for a year before returning to India to work for SAP India.
Sramana Mitra: Sangeeta, let’s start at the beginning of your story. Where are you from, and what were the circumstances of your childhood?
San Banerjee: I am from Kolkata. I grew up in a very conservative environment. Where I was from, girls were not supposed to ride a bicycle. I went to school on the other end of the city, and I commuted to school by myself. I would ride a bicycle to a ferry, then once on the other side of the river I would take a bus to school. Many people felt that my parents were careless with their daughter’s safety, but my parents really wanted me to be self-sufficient. They wanted me to know how to take care of myself. My belief that I can do anything I want to stems from my parents. I used to face a lot of ridicule for riding a bicycle. They would tell me to stay off the road and tell me to keep my cycle on the playground.
Sramana Mitra: What did your parents do?
San Banerjee: My father was a government employee who worked his way through the ranks to become a senior official. He became a Registrar of Companies. My mother was a homemaker.
Sramana Mitra: It sounds like you are the first entrepreneur in your family. Did your family have an entrepreneurial background?
San Banerjee: Not at all. I was the first woman who got an engineering degree in my entire family. My grandfather had a writing school, but that is the closest thing I had to an entrepreneur in my family.
Sramana Mitra: What did you do after your high secondary education?
San Banerjee: Since my father had a government job, we moved around a lot. I lived in West Bengal, Delhi and Chennai. In every location I lived in an apartment. I did not live in an individual house my entire life. That means I lived in a joint family. I have been a part of a community since my childhood. I did my college in Chennai, where my father was posted at that time. I went to the College of Engineering, Guindy. It is a top 10 engineering school in India. I earned a degree in electrical engineering.
Sramana Mitra: What did you do after you graduated?
San Banerjee: I went to work for Tata, where I focused on mainframes. I did a lot of work with Cobol and JCL. I was there for a couple of years and had a couple of promotions.
Sramana Mitra: What time was this?
San Banerjee: I started college in 1995. I graduated in 1999 and I worked for Tata Consultancy Services from 1999 to 2003.