Swati Bhargava, the CEO and Co-Founder of, India’s rapidly expanding Cashback platform, embarked on her entrepreneurial journey alongside her husband Rohan Bhargava in the UK back in 2011. Recognizing the immense potential in the Indian market, they introduced in April 2013.

Swati, a distinguished entrepreneur is also a passionate advocate for female founders. In our conversation, she sheds light on her fundraising journey, the invaluable role of mentors, and the key insights into what investors seek.

Q: Why did you decide to fundraise for your venture? 

Rohan and I were really taken in by cashback idea seeing how people loved giving their money back while shopping. We thought taking that to India would be really good because the product market fit in the country would be great. We did an angel round from friends and family- where we wanted to raise 300K USD from our Goldman LSE contacts but we ended up raising 700K USD within 48 hours. 

At that time people were really excited about the growth India could offer and wanted to be participate in e-commerce story, and we were a story that enabled them to do that.

When we moved to India from London at the time the e-commerce landscape in India was experiencing unprecedented growth, and we were determined to position CashKaro as a frontrunner in this dynamic space. Understanding the pivotal role that strategic investments play in scaling a venture, we set out to secure the necessary funds to fuel our expansion plans. It was a critical juncture for us, and we wanted to ensure that we were well-equipped to navigate the challenges and seize the opportunities presented by the Indian market. 

Fundraising became not just a financial necessity but a strategic imperative. The infusion of capital allowed us to make key decisions that proved instrumental in establishing CashKaro as an industry leader. Whether it was optimizing our technology infrastructure, expanding our team, or enhancing our marketing efforts, the funds obtained through the fundraising process played a pivotal role in shaping our trajectory. 

Q: What is that one thing/resource/tool that helped you prepare for investor meetings and pitches?  

What really helped us was we always used to work through our numbers in advance, so knowing our data was important because when investors meet a company who know their data its very impressive and it’s also good to do some projections & financial modelling while it might seem redundant thinking that I have no idea of the future what am I supposed to model but when you do that you actually set goals for yourself you actually visualise what you want that to be in a year and you actually work towards that. 

The most crucial thing that helped us get ready for meetings with investors was a really good presentation. We created a detailed pitch deck that highlighted important information about CashKaro, like how our business works, why it’s unique, and the potential for growth. 

This presentation acted like a guide for investors, making it easy for them to understand our vision and the opportunities in the market. It included details about our team, financial projections, and the competitive landscape. Having this well-organized pitch deck was like having a powerful tool that conveyed our story effectively. 

Besides the presentation, we made sure to stay informed about what was happening in our industry and what our competitors were up to. This knowledge not only made us look more credible but also showed investors that we knew our stuff and were ready for any challenges. 

Lastly, we focused on telling a compelling story. We didn’t just talk about numbers and data with investors; we connected with them on a personal level. This combination of a great presentation, industry knowledge, and storytelling skills played a big role in making our investor meetings successful. 

Q: What were some unexpected challenges you encountered while fundraising? 

It’s really important to know whom to fundraise and who can be the best fit for you. When we started fundraising for our series A, we had no idea about the VC community the fact that there are ear investors, growth stage, and seed stage. All this seems very obvious now but 11 years ago we all were quite new, and this space was also evolving so I remember we were sometimes pitching to very late-stage investors for series A and that never made sense. So, the challenge was to understand how the VC industry is set up and when we met kalaari it was a natural fit as they are early-stage investors and we were looking for series A capital, so it made sense. 

Q: What role (positive or otherwise) does being a woman founder play during your fundraising process? 

There have been times when investors look at Rohan when they are talking about product and tech and they look at me when they talk about HR & Sales. In some sense people do bucket you, but its not hard to actually overcome tht bias because if they ask about our data and cohort from last year I could say that I could answer it and when they see that you know your data and you are taking charge in answering data led questions then next time they look at you and ask. So it’s all about planning your meetings & setting expectations about yourself with others as you are dealing with them 

Being a woman founder has both positive and challenging aspects in the fundraising process. On the positive side, diversity in leadership brings a fresh perspective and often resonates well with investors who recognize the value of varied experiences. It can set a company apart in a competitive landscape and contribute to a more inclusive and innovative business culture. 

However, it’s essential to acknowledge the challenges. The tech and startup industry has historically been male-dominated, and stereotypes can sometimes affect perceptions. As a woman founder, there might be instances where you need to navigate biases or prove yourself more, but overcoming these challenges can also showcase resilience and determination, which are qualities investors appreciate. 

In essence, being a woman founder can bring unique strengths to the table, but it also requires navigating potential biases and stereotypes in the fundraising process. The key is leveraging your strengths, showcasing your expertise, and demonstrating the value your perspective brings to the success of the venture. 

While personally, I didn’t encounter significant biases during the fundraising process, but I’m well aware that such biases do exist within the industry. My experience might not be reflective of every woman founder’s journey, and acknowledging these biases is crucial for fostering a more inclusive and equitable entrepreneurial landscape. 

Q: How important was mentorship during the fundraising process?  

It is indeed very important coz if you have a mentor from the industry itself then they can help you figure out who is the right investor for you, who invests in your space who is likely to look at your kind of industry and your kind of capital need. And more importantly, who is likely to stick around as well. You need them to guide you on how you build the business model, what kind of projections to do, and what valuation to look at. 

When it comes to termsheets mentorship becomes extremely important because most of us are seeing it for the first time so we don’t know what it means in terms of what you should you expect in terms of your rights and investor rights. So, I found our lawyer at Tri legal a great mentor because he showed how other companies do it, this is what you can ask for and this is what you can get away with or not.  

I also found mentors in other entrepreneur friends who had raised money and also in other VC friends whose company and funds were not our target but knew how things work. So, it’s good to have a mentor who is like you as a founder, who is from the legal side and VC side as well, so you have all perspectives. 

Q: Are there specific strategies or approaches you found effective in addressing challenges unique to women?  

Certainly, addressing challenges unique to women in the entrepreneurial journey involves adopting specific strategies and approaches. Firstly, building a strong support network of mentors, advisors, and fellow women entrepreneurs has been instrumental. Sharing experiences and insights within this community provides valuable guidance and encouragement. 

Secondly, actively seeking out opportunities to showcase expertise and thought leadership helps in overcoming preconceived notions. By participating in industry events, speaking engagements, and contributing to relevant discussions, women founders can amplify their presence and challenge stereotypes. 

Thirdly, emphasizing the diverse strengths that women bring to the table, such as collaboration, empathy, and adaptability, can turn perceived challenges into assets. Demonstrating how these qualities contribute to the overall success of the venture can reshape perceptions. 

Lastly, promoting a culture of inclusivity within the company fosters an environment where everyone, irrespective of gender, feels valued and heard. This not only attracts diverse talent but also contributes to a positive and innovative workplace culture. 

 Q: Are there any standout moments in your fundraising journey?  

One standout moment in our fundraising journey was receiving a call from Ratan Tata’s team expressing interest in investing in CashKaro. It was a defining moment that truly set our journey apart. The prospect of having someone of Ratan Tata’s stature and experience onboard was not only immensely validating but also represented the culmination of our hard work and vision. 

Ratan Tata is not just an iconic figure in business; he is a symbol of wisdom, leadership, and innovation. The entire experience, from the initial meeting to the eventual collaboration, stands out as a turning point in our fundraising journey. 

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Q: What according to you do investors look for while investing? 

Investors usually look at 6 things viz.  Market size – what’s your addressable market, what is the traction you have so far, what are the unit metrics of the business (how much are you earning on each transaction, what’s the path to profitability, your team – the bigger your dream the more important your team! & lastly founder quality & capability.

Q: What advice would you offer to fellow women founders as they navigate the fundraising landscape? 

When women are fundraising, they should only think of themselves as entrepreneurs not as women founders. We are no different compared to any other male counterpart. At the end of the day, the investor will invest money if they think it’s going to make money for them. If you are confident, and you are showing the way for people to make money why will they say no!

 To fellow women founders navigating the fundraising landscape, I would offer the following advice: 

  • – Build a Strong Support Network: 
  • Surround yourself with mentors, advisors, and a network of fellow women entrepreneurs. Having a support system to share experiences, seek guidance, and offer encouragement can be invaluable. 

– Own Your Narrative: 

Take control of your story and emphasize your unique strengths and experiences. Clearly articulate the value you bring to the table as a woman co-founder. Confidence in your narrative can help reshape perceptions and highlight your venture’s potential.

  • – Seek Opportunities to Showcase Expertise: 
  • Actively participate in industry events, conferences, and speaking engagements. This not only establishes you as a thought leader but also provides opportunities to connect with potential investors and partners. Be Resilient and Persistent: The fundraising journey can be challenging, but resilience is key. Don’t be discouraged by setbacks, and persistently pursue your goals. Learn from every experience, adapt, and keep moving forward. 
  • – Foster an Inclusive Company Culture: 

Cultivate a workplace environment that values inclusivity. A company culture that celebrates diversity not only attracts talent but also contributes to a positive and collaborative atmosphere. 

  • – Stay Informed and Prepared: 

Stay abreast of industry trends, market dynamics, and investor expectations. Being well-informed and prepared enhances your credibility during investor meetings and positions you as a knowledgeable founder. 

– Negotiate with Confidence: 

Approach negotiations with confidence. Know the value of your venture and be assertive in advocating for fair terms. Don’t shy away from negotiating – it’s a standard part of the fundraising process. 

  • – Learn from Every Interaction: 

Treat every interaction as an opportunity to learn and improve. Whether you secure funding or face rejection, extract lessons that can inform your strategy and strengthen your approach in the future. 

  • – Celebrate Your Achievements: 

Take time to celebrate your achievements, both big and small. Recognize and acknowledge your milestones, as they contribute to the overall success of your venture and inspire confidence in your ability as a founder.