In Conversation with Janani Prabhakaran

Born and brought up in India, Janani came to Scotland seven years ago to study at Strathclyde University. In 2022, while at University, Janani launched Unbaggaged ensuring exploration is never burdened by luggage.

Featured in the Daily Telegraph’s ‘100 Female Entrepreneurs to Watch’ list, with a recent appearance in the 2024 season of Dragons’ Den, Janani is also a winner of the Scottish EDGE awards and has successfully raised over £100k in grant funding… all at the tender age of 25.

Judith: What led you to become an entrepreneur?

Janani: My father is an entrepreneur and I have always looked up to him. Even as a child, I remember selling juice by the side of the road. I always knew I would one day follow in his footsteps.

Judith: It must have been a challenge leaving home and setting up a business in Scotland?

Janani: I am not sure I would have been compelled to set up a business so young if I remained in India as I was very much in my comfort zone. Moving to Scotland meant that I was already striving to find my place, so setting up a business helped me make new connections and carve out my own path.

Judith: That’s interesting to me as I am from Ireland and moved to Scotland to pursue my career. I agree that there is a growth mindset that comes with starting fresh. From your experience, what unique challenges do female entrepreneurs face today?

Janani: I wrote my dissertation on female entrepreneurship, so coming from a place of experience and research I have found that whilst being a female entrepreneur comes with its challenges, we also have unique strengths. You lead differently than your male counterparts, there are maternal instincts that can make you a great leader. From my experience, the biggest barrier to being a woman in business is mindset – I suffered from imposter syndrome and saw that it was really holding me back.

Judith: How did you overcome this?

Janani: The one thing that works for me is what I wear. I have a dress that I wore on Dragons’ Den, which completely changed my mindset. I know it makes me feel like a Boss Lady, and when I wear it, I gain that confidence.

Judith: Like armour almost, would you say that pitching feels like going into battle?

Janani: I feel like I’m going in to lead. I am very clear in my vision for Unbaggaged and whilst I am always willing to listen to advice from others I respect, I also need to focus on my path to growth. I live and breathe this business, there is little I haven’t already considered and either discounted or taken forward. I try and focus on myself rather than agonising over detractors!

Judith: How do you find leading a team?

Janani: I lead by passion – which is infectious! A start-up means everyone has a role to play in our success and my staff are invested. I am learning as I go and not every day is plain sailing, but I am enjoying leading – it’s a natural fit for my skills.

Judith: How do you find Scotland as a place to ‘do business’?

Janani: I think it is a great place to set up a business – we are a tight-knit community that seems to find strength in being a challenger to London which is often considered as the centre of the tech revolution. There are many supportive funding groups – Business Gateway and Barclays – and as a woman, I am made to feel very welcome. Men are curious as to what I do and how I have gotten to where I am being so young. It is a great conversation starter and I hold my own – my success speaks for itself.

Judith: It is a difficult trading environment just now – do you feel optimistic for the future?

Janani: Absolutely. Scotland has already seen the success of two unicorns, and I am confident the next one is just around the corner. The first generation of tech entrepreneurs have successfully sold their businesses and are now turning their skills and resources into helping new start-ups – it is an exciting time to be in business.

Judith: What advice would you give to other female entrepreneurs?

Janani: Silence your inner critic. It is the biggest barrier to your success.

Thanks, Janani, for speaking to Represent. Congratulations, and good luck with the future of Unbaggaged.

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