For this special segment of Ionizer which we have initiated to celebrate the success stories of women in Tech and Science, my very first interview was with one of the most wonderful women in tech – Ms. Chhavi Firani, founder of an IT services firm, Dikonia.
Chhavi’s company, Dikonia, specializes in website and mobile app development alongside digital marketing services. Despite the short amount of time that I spent with her, it was easy for me to see how dedicated, professional and passionate she is. There was not a single dull moment owing to her effervescent nature, which you can readily absorb through her answers to my questions.
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Hi! I’m Chhavi Firani, founder of Dikonia, and the company’s management head. I started my professional journey as a programmer, evolved and expanded into more of a manager because of my skill repertoire, which has eventually led me here. I love what I do. If I was to describe my way of working, I’d say it is a healthy, dynamic composition of perseverance and passion.
Could you describe a little about your journey in the tech industry?
As I stated earlier, I started my journey as a programmer, worked as one for a year and a half, but I was not happy with it. And one of my fundamental principles is to enjoy what I do. So I left my job. After that, I started working as a Quality Control Analyst at a company in Chandigarh. That was back in 2002.
I worked as a QC analyst for a year; then worked in Sales for a couple of more years, and then I did Project Management. I worked with them for 9 years. When I left, I was the Head of Sales & Operation. After all of that, I decided to finally start something on my own. So, I started Dikonia in September 2012, and worked from home for a year and a half or perhaps a little less than that.
I was really happy with how everything had worked out. I was managing projects for plenty of clients and I was outsourcing some work as well which helped me build new ties and maintain old ones. I started this office in 2014, after which my brother joined me, and now we both manage the office together. We have a small team of about 45 people. We handle Web and Mobile apps, design, Digital marketing and websites for clients, primarily in Australia, UK, USA, and Dubai.
On an etymological basis, what does Dikonia mean?
Dikonia is derived from a Greek word, spelled “Diakonia”, and it means serving with care. When we started, while discussing as to what we really want to convey, the only thing I had in mind was that I wanted to provide a great deal of attention and quality services to my clients. I wanted to have long-term employees as well as clients. That is why we say that we truly serve with care.
Are you originally from Mohali? How long have you been living here?
I’m basically from Khanna. I have been living in Mohali since the time I got married – 19 years.
Tell me about your hobbies.
I love watching movies. I’m a big movie buff. If I don’t watch 3-4 movies on a weekend, I feel that my weekend is totally wasted. And I love playing board games with my husband and my son, especially ones that are funny and childish.
What do you read?
I used to read a lot of fiction, especially mysteries and thrillers, but now I’ve switched over to reading things that help me learn and grow more concerning my business; regarding IT.
What all social media platforms do you use?
See, for business, I use all the platforms that are required. From a personal perspective, I like Facebook for various reasons, but the one thing I do hate about it is people’s check-ins. I don’t like Instagram; I find it funny. I also don’t understand the use of hashtags on ‘Private’ profiles. I use LinkedIn a lot on a professional basis.
How do you balance your work life and personal life?
My husband is very supportive and encouraging. So is my son. My son is 18 now. He’s really proud of me. Earlier I used to think of how I’m not giving him enough time, but what I’ve realized over time is that the fact that I stepped out of home to go out and work, I have served as an inspiration for my child. He realizes that I do something important and hence looks at women and girls in the same way, as opposed to the general perception of our society.
Since you’ve started Dikonia, what is the biggest recurring challenge that you’ve faced with clients?
You know the biggest challenge when it comes to clients is, dealing with individuals who have absolutely zero technical knowledge; the ones who don’t understand anything technical that you tell them. It is very tough to deal with them. And mostly, we try to avoid those people because their expectations are totally unrealistic.
If you weren’t in the IT field now, what profession would you have pursued instead?
I would have been a singer. When I finished with school, my father really wanted me to take up Arts and Music. I love to sing. I definitely would have been a singer; nothing else.
Would you call yourself a tourist or a traveler?
I’m not a traveler; I’d call myself a tourist.
Would you call yourself a party person?
Oh, yes! I really love parties. I love meeting people. I don’t like dancing as much but I do love singing. I love to host parties; I love to entertain. I’m a people person.
What do you do to relax yourself?
I either go for a walk or watch TV. I like light-hearted movies; mostly chick flicks.
Theme: Women & Tech
It’s a general notion that women in tech find it difficult to deal with technology. Being a woman, I personally find it very disconcerting. How do you feel about it?
When I started with my second job, I joined as a QC analyst, and my growth was really fast because my boss knew of my skills very well and she gave me really good opportunities to expand my repertoire. When I became a Project Manager, all the technical team leads were men and they had a huge issue with me being the manager. They always had their doubts about me solely because I was a woman, while I was the one who would come up with solutions. It’s not always about code, it’s so much more the logic that counts, and I’m creative with my thought and logic.
These are some little challenges that I have faced. This went on for about 2 to 3 years. They would refuse to treat me as their Project Manager. They would simply refuse to even explain the problem to me. I’ve never faced this problem at Dikonia, maybe because I’m the boss but I’m certain that they’re aware that I know my stuff. People forget that dealing with tech and knowing about it, is just a matter of interest and should be treated as that instead of the general negative stereotype. All you need is the logic and the smarts, irrespective of your gender.
Second thing, I’ve met people who cast doubts about me being able to run a company because I’m a woman. It is something that goes beyond my understanding. People tell me that doing so is a very stressful task, to which I only have questions. It’s stressful, so what? Can women not deal with stress? Only men can?
Eventually what’s required is that women need to stand for themselves. Women who work need to embolden themselves.
Do you think that the trend of recruiting males over females is still prevalent?
Yes, it is. The very first company that I worked at had a team consisting mostly of males. The boss was condescending when it came to the female staff. It is largely prevalent in the IT sector, especially in Chandigarh.
Do you think things have changed for women over the years?
I think things have gotten a lot better for women. And we can expect the scenario to keep changing for the better. My family is very supportive of my work. Among my team of 20, I have 14-15 girls, all of whom have families that are supportive of their jobs and lifestyles. And all of this is to quote the very least.
One of the girls in my team is so overly responsible that she doesn’t leave office if she isn’t done with her work. Her brother comes to pick her up and keeps waiting for even an hour at a stretch if he has to. That goes to show how supportive her family is. To add to that, women supporting women has also become a thing.
Let’s Have Some Fun!
You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?
I would be red; because I’m fiery in my approach towards life. I can’t sit idle. I like to associate myself with the color red.
What were you like in high school?
I was extremely mischievous. I was a hosteler and I used to lock the warden inside. I got suspended twice. I was really naughty.
What is your favorite question to ask in an interview?
You know what, I know it’s a very clichéd question, but my favorite question to ask in an interview is the question, tell me about your strengths and weaknesses. People are way too much into humble bragging and rarely talk about their weaknesses, so it gets very funny. It gives a lot of insight into an individual’s personality.
Describe yourself in one word.
Funny. (I can vouch for that, people!)
Tell me the first thing/word that comes to your mind when I say a word:
Challenge – Gyming
Client – Happy
Microsoft – Changed lives
Shoes – Plenty
Selfie – Too many of them; my phone’s camera is always on selfie mode.
Smartphone – A necessity
Tea – I hate it
Coffee – I have never had coffee in my life
Office – Very, very fun
Woman – Talented, sexy, dedicated, efficient. I have too many words for ‘woman’. Epitome of efficiency I’d say, and I truly believe in this.
So, with Chhavi and with her amazing interview, we kick off our new segment #include “women.h”.
Chhavi is a source of inspiration to many woman entrepreneurs who aspire to set up their own businesses and make it big with their talent. After all, the world needs more successful women in tech!
I will catch you again with another lady love, soon enough!