In this special column called the “TLC x Fempreneurs Series”, we will be featuring inspiring Female Entrepreneurs (Fempreneurs) in short. You will be able to have a sneak peek at their mindsets and their daily habits.
Believe in the power of community. On some days when you feel big goals are impossible, or when you feel like giving up, you need to lean on your like-minded community. You can even “borrow” motivation, and in turn “return” with your own inspiring stories to pay it forward.
Meet Viveka Kalidasan (Ultra Clean Holdings Inc.)
Tell us a little about yourself. What is your business/ brand about?
I have been recognized as MIT Technology Review’s 35 Innovator under 35 and also one of the top 100 Women in Technology in Singapore. I’m a tech agnost, who believes that impactful technologies empower lives. I head the innovation lab of Ultra Clean Holdings Inc., (UCT) in Singapore, called Let-Lab, and help create new ventures out of startups and innovations that solve unmet needs in the semiconductor industry 4.0 space. I’m a strong proponent of sustainable innovations in the field. Most of my joy in heading the corporate accelerator stems from building it from scratch- building the physical space, team, onboarding startups, and an ecosystem of like-minded players.
I support and accelerate the creation of sustainable industry 4.0 innovations. My translational research work on wireless sensing (WiSe) sutures is published in the prestigious Nature Biomedical Engineering and made it to the cover of the October 2021 issue, which was spotlighted in nature news and views.
I believe in empowerment through education and mentorship. I’m a mentor to startups, venture creation programs, and aspiring talents. I co-founded The Edify Project (www.theedifyproject.com) to empower deserving talents across the globe through innovative mentorship strategies. I have strong leadership, presentation, networking, and negotiation skills. On the lighter side, I’m a fitness freak, a globetrotter, a bookworm, and a light political observer. One can connect with me via LinkedIn, coffee, tea, or much easier, a smile.
What got you started on your business?
I was heavily pregnant when I got an opportunity to build Singapore’s first industry 4.0 startup accelerator and ecosystem. The fact that I’m building an accelerator which gives me the pleasure of building multiple startups and the fact that I will be spearheading a revolution in a fully male-dominated space is what excited me and propelled me.
Before you started on your business, what did you do on a full-time basis?
As an Innovator and Technopreneur, I have developed and commercialized patient-centric deep-tech medical devices with a spotlight on FemTech solutions, with a holistic focus on the R&D, clinical & regulatory pathways, and commercialization of MedTech. I have invented, innovated, and commercialized WiSe- a wireless sensing platform technology that detects post-op complications in a real-time manner. As a tech-agnoctic innovator who believes in creating and supporting inno-ventures, I help spearhead the commercialization of FemTech innovations.
What were some difficulties you faced in your life and how did you overcome them?
The challenges are multifold. Every step has been a challenge and found strength from within and from my family to overcome them.
I was almost about to lose my PhD because of my grades. But I worked hard and smart to retain the PhD and now I’m recognized as one of the most distinguished and celebrated alumni of my department at the National University of Singapore. I never gave up even when everyone around me (except my family of course, as they were my only support) asked me to quit. I never quit.
At work life, I started facing challenges that any brown woman would face. But I’m not any brown woman- I’m a fighter, I’m a survivor. Even after being the inventor, innovator, and business face of the medical device that I had invented, I was asked to take a backseat, as a brown woman with a kind heart ‘presumably’ cannot run a business in the MedTech ecosystem. But with my continued excellence, I went on to become of one the top 100 women in technology in Singapore and MIT tech review 35 innovators under 35.
Even in my personal life, I have had my fair share of challenges, post-marriage. My pregnancy too was a very traumatic journey due to some misdiagnosis in fetal health. I continued to take informed decisions and nurture my fetus. I’m now, the proud mother of a soulful, beautiful healthy, and accommodating baby girl. Even while I was going through a traumatic pregnancy, I was given the opportunity to build and head a startup accelerator from scratch, that too within a well-established corporate. I was in a very comfortable (corporate) job and was mostly focusing on my pregnancy when I got the opportunity. As always though, I jumped on to it. Suddenly I woke up to be a pregnant woman walking the hot factory floors and warehouses, trying to set up Singapore’s first semicon-based industry 4.0 (a field in which I have no expertise) startup accelerator, within a US-based MNC. That’s just me. Fearless, relentless, and a person who values opportunities.
Setting up an accelerator that supports startups, within a well-established corporate is not an easy joke. It was almost a one-woman show, trying to convince the corporate on why it is necessary to engage startups to address unmet needs within the company and infuse innovation in the fragment of it, to give it a better competitive edge. Moreover, since they have their traditional suppliers, it was important for me to convince them how startups can give customized solutions for a lower cost. This way, I helped startups get the corporate as their customer so that they can scale up. Sitting inside a corporate, I’m also building an ecosystem of industry 40 players who can proudly call Singapore their HQ to the world.
Who inspires you?
My one and only inspiration is my MOTHER. A woman who truly converts every threat into an opportunity. Even 3 decades ago, she balanced her professional life as a medical doctor and family, effortlessly. She is a bundle of positivity and always pushed me and inspires me to better myself.
What excites you most about your industry?
That it is supremely male-dominated. That gives me an opportunity to excel.
What is your vision / personal motto?
To empower women to create industry 4.0 ventures.
Do you have any words of advice for other ladies who are starting their business/ starting to pursue their dream?
Please, do not think much and waste an opportunity. As women, our opportunities are lean and it is upon us to take them and make them big successes.
What have you learnt recently that you hope the other ladies can take back?
Manufacturing is not a difficult space for women.
How do you think you can help ladies to feel confident and empowered?
What I tell myself is, “I can do this; If not for me, no one else can”..I want every women to first find inspiration from within…only then the external ecosystem will open up.
What is one thing you are grateful for?
My parents and the opportunities they gave my sister and I.
What do you do in your free time as self-care? How do you unwind?
I love meeting people over coffee and listening to human stories, swimming, travelling and reading.
Let us know more about what you do!
Empowering startups and building Singapore’s industry 4.0 ecosystem.
You may also find us featured on CNA, MoneyFM, and Business Times.
Connect with Ultra Clean Holdings Inc.!
Are you a Fempreneur too?
Connect with us – we’d love to feature you! Say hi to us at [email protected] or reach out to us via our social media.
Read TLC x Fempreneur Series:
- Margaret Wu, For Beloved One (Singapore)
- Nerissa Low, Liht Organics (Singapore)
- Maddy Barber, Madly Gems (Singapore)
- Dr. Menka Gupta, Nutra Nourish (Singapore)
- Lily Kew, Kew Organics (Singapore)
- Vikki Tear, SoyCraft (Singapore)
- Ezza Yusof, 2morrow Official (Malaysia)
- Julie Yim, Lilin+Co (Malaysia)
- Zairin Azman, UMMA (Malaysia)
- Liza Morales, Ecotecture Design Studio (Philippines)