Rasmegh Srisethi, managing director at DeeMoney, is a third-generation Thai-Indian. She grew up in the 1990s and was raised in a traditional Punjabi community, although with a global perspective, thanks to her education in an international school.
At home, traditional roles were reinforced in her on a daily basis, which she said was “confusing.” She was being groomed to fit into the quiet, submissive mould of a “perfect girl.” On the other hand, Srisethi was also being celebrated for her boisterous, confident leadership and excellence at school.
Her pathway to co-founding a fintech company has not been a straight line. Here too she had to navigate many cultural obstacles and expectations. To get to where she is now, Srisethi relied on her conviction in the “ability to lead, to unlearn a lot of mental programming, and to relearn the knowledge and skills required.”
KrASIA recently interviewed Srisethi to hear about what it feels like to run a startup—DeeMoney—with her husband, and the challenges that she has faced as a woman in the fintech industry. Headquartered in Thailand, DeeMoney provides remittances and cross-border payment services.
KrASIA (Kr): What was your motivation behind establishing DeeMoney in Thailand?
Rasmegh Srisethi (RS): While raising my two young children, I stayed actively involved with the three businesses I co-founded, one in the early childhood education space (Speech and Drama Co Ltd), one in the coaching space (Parent It Forward), and also a telecom and tech company (SawasdeeShop). However, once I had my third baby, it became clear to me that I was unable to give my best to all my companies, while being the mother that my children needed me to be. I sold my shares in the education and coaching companies to focus on SawasdeeShop, which I had co-founded with my husband.
While I truly enjoyed the early childhood field—it was a natural complement to my role as a young mother—my passion was in the technology field. Seeing the potential to which life could be simplified, how costs could be reduced, and just the overall benefits offered by technology was exhilarating. With technology, the feedback loop is quick and clear, benefits and impact are felt almost immediately.
Kr: Was it difficult to enter the fintech space considering that you hold BAs in psychology and anthropology?
RS: I believe that pivoting into any new industry is always a challenge, regardless of what the industry is, or what your background is. One of my favorite sayings is by Alvin Toffler: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” My background in psychology and anthropology gives me deep insight into how to work with people, to motivate them, to communicate effectively, and to lead them. All companies are in the business of unlocking potential, and I believe the team you work with determines the extent to which that potential will be unlocked and realized.
The transition into the fintech space was an exhilarating journey. We were lucky that our pivot into this space coincided with the boom of fintech in this region. We were able to learn as we grew, hired industry experts to support the company’s transition, and are trailblazing our way into becoming platform players in the space. Of course, the ride has been challenging, but the important thing is learning and marching on from mistakes, disappointments, and curve balls.
Kr: Can you share with us what it is like running DeeMoney with your husband, Aswin Phlaphongphanich?
RS: I’m a strong advocate for working with your spouse. I believe there is a higher level of trust, shared expectations, standards, goals, and an intrinsic understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I realize it’s not for everyone, and even though we work very well together, there are times when we have to remind one another of certain boundaries.
I believe there are more pros than cons. Decisions are made quickly as we are aligned in our vision, there is a deep camaraderie that sets the tone for all those who work with us. And we divide and conquer different aspects of the business based on our strengths, but have the perfect sounding board when we need more insight or clarity.
However, it’s not all roses. There are times when it’s hard to switch off because we are both so passionate about what we are building together. We have to keep a respectful tone in front of our team, even if we are annoyed with each other, which does happen. Overall, we really enjoy each other’s company and really are having fun working together. We are in awe of and in gratitude for how far we have come together on this journey.
Kr: Can you share more about your experiences at your previous roles? How has this shaped your work at DeeMoney?
RS: I founded Speech and Drama Co Ltd and Parent It Forward when I was 23 years old and a new mom. From building a business from scratch, to making it profitable and successful, these businesses taught me grit, but more importantly, that—no matter what my title was—no task or job was too small for me to do. In fact, as a founder, you end up actively involved in every part of your business until you find the right person to take it forward. My stint with SEAC [Southeast Asia Center, a learning and development consultancy] taught me the mantra “whatever it takes” and I learned some incredible facilitation, positive-psychology, and corporate coaching skills.
All these experiences are highly cherished and make me a kinder, more empathetic but strong leader. When we started DeeMoney, I was prepared to do whatever it took and work across the board—recruiting, marketing, product design, pitching, working with compliance, setting up a strong treasury—to ensure smooth and effective operations, as well as the success of the company.
Kr: What were the challenges that you have faced in fintech as a woman leader? And how did you overcome them?
RS: Thailand ranks second globally for women represented in senior management, with the highest percentage of female chief financial officers and the third-highest rate of female chief executives. In this regard, especially in the financial industry, it is the norm for women to be in senior positions or even leading regulatory bodies. I would say, locally, the challenges have not been overt.
However, it is a different story when I travel to fairs or meetings abroad with my team. Potential partners or banks we speak to would defer to my male subordinates, avoiding eye contact with me, and try to drive the conversation forward with them. It used to bother me in the beginning, but I’ve grown immune to it. Sometimes, I blatantly call them out, if they are too obvious or offensive!
Kr: Can you talk about your experiences outside of work—parenthood, for example? Do you see any parallels to being an entrepreneur?
RS: As a mother of three incredible individuals, raising my children with balance is important to me. They see mom and dad working hard to create a successful business and reap the benefits, so they must also understand the value of everything they have. We are constantly engaged in opportunities of service, whether it is preparing food packs and handing them out to homeless individuals, or actively raising funds to support children’s education. These are experiences we consistently immerse ourselves in as a family.
As an adult who has experienced struggle and hardship, being in a consistent state of gratitude comes more naturally for me. But for my children who grow up lacking nothing, there is a fine line between valuing what you have and then crossing over into entitlement.
Hence, for me, it is important to engage my children consistently in these experiences, as well as to foster a sense of responsibility for what we have. It is our duty to serve and to pass it on.
Kr: How do you juggle motherhood with the stress of running a startup?
RS: Some days I manage well, other days I don’t. I definitely attribute the success of my balancing act to a strong support system, as well as to my children for their ability to adapt to the craziness that is life with both parents running a startup.
There is a dangerous and misleading concept of the “superwoman” or “supermom” out there, a woman who is able to do it all. I believe this is one of the biggest fallacies that keep most mothers in a constant state of not feeling good enough. I bought into it, tried to be a superwoman, worked hard, parented hard, socialized hard, exercised hard, and ended up burning out, doing nothing well. It’s a dangerous and unhealthy concept to buy into.
Meditation is a big part of my life. Consistently tapping into that inner reservoir of unconditionality helps me to reduce stress, accept the situation, and march through it in the best way I can.
This article is part of “Profiles in Tech,” a series by KrASIA that highlights the achievements of people who are the driving force behind South and Southeast Asia’s tech startups.