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Safety and Inclusion through Tech

Updated: Oct 26

Meghana Srinivas is the founder and CEO of TrustIn - a Bangalore-based legal-tech startup for reporting and redressal of POSH (Prevention of Sexual Harassment) cases and also supports end-to-end implementation. She has managed and worked in multiple programs and non-profits in the social impact space, and is committed to facilitating safety in workplaces.



Gayathri Suresh: So to start off, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your company?

Meghana Srinivas: My name is Meghana and I’m currently a solo entrepreneur - I’ve built a company called TrustIn. We help build safer workplaces at scale, a lot of which is through POSH (Prevention of Sexual Harassment law) compliance. We have a system we call the 3Ps - Policy, Programme (where they do training and sensitization), and Product (which handles cases of sexual harassment as and when they come up). This is how we’ve helped around 45 clients across India become fully POSH compliant


Gayathri Suresh: When did you start your company? What is its history?

Meghana Srinivas: I started TrustIn in September 2019 so we’re about three years old now, and most of our life has been during the pandemic, so it’s been quite a journey. Most of my thinking around this company started because of the #MeToo movement, especially when I saw that there were a lot of solutions for this problem in the USA and the UK, where they would shield the survivors, and shame the perpetrators on college campuses and companies.

But what I started noticing was that in India, in Asia, and in general the global South, no one was thinking of solving the problem using tech. And more importantly, nobody was thinking of addressing the core issues, like consent, gender discrimination, sexism, and how these played out in professional environments. So, I started building something on the side, when I was working at a venture capital firm and started doing this full-time in September 2019. Since then, it’s just taken off on its own because I think there is a real need for it in our country


Gayathri Suresh: So how exactly did the idea to start a social enterprise come about?

Meghana Srinivas: I think TrustIn itself is essentially a legal services and legal tech start-up and I’m not a lawyer, so I get this question all the time. For me, it was a lot about lived experience. I once tried to issue a POSH complaint against the CEO of a company I was in, but he was a very powerful person, so I know firsthand how many barriers there are. When I started talking to my friends, I realised that this was one of the biggest systemic reasons that non-men were either marginalised or not able to climb as quickly as men.

There are just so many reasons this happens - from microaggressions to sexual harassment, such a wide spectrum of behaviors that we were all facing. I think I was stubborn enough to think, “Why can’t we solve this problem in a different way?”. That’s when I started looking into these solutions in the USA and the UK. The idea crystallised a lot more when the #MeToo movement hit our country. A very accidental company as such.


Gayathri Suresh: What kind of change would you aim to bring about? What do you think is the connection between what you aspire to achieve and what your brand does?

Meghana Srinivas: I think this is always a good question in a company like ours, where the customer and consumer are quite different. Who we’re serving is the employee or the survivor, but the person who’s paying is the company they’re working under. It’s been quite a journey just walking that balance. Where we really want to see ourselves is as being the gold standard of safety for the global South. If you’re a TrustIn certified company, that means you’re actually inclusive, there’s no toxic politics in the workplace, no misconduct or microaggressions at the place. We’re thinking about how we can give voice and choice to employees in general, to make a more democratic and transparent system. It’s not something that’s super glamorous or pays us very well, but I still think it’s a pretty worthwhile problem to solve.


Gayathri Suresh: Have you faced any major disappointments or failures in your journey so far? If you have, how did you overcome them?

Meghana Srinivas: I think that’s generally every day of entrepreneurship. But I would say one major failure for me, would be the inability to find a co-founder. Since I’m not a lawyer or an engineer, building a product like this by myself was quite difficult. I’d always wanted to find someone with complementary strengths and skill sets. After a while though, I realised it didn’t make much sense to find a co-founder anymore. I’ve found a team, who’s built it with me, and they’ve equally invested, so it’s about building them to be leaders. Another problem I’ve faced is finding venture capitalists to invest in. A lot of them would say, “Why don’t you try building something else? I’d love to build with you, but not on this specific problem”.

So I think harassment is a problem that you might only resonate with when you’ve experienced it. All of this made me realise it’s a very niche solution for a very niche audience right now, so it’s not very fundable. While these things have been disappointing and have made us grow at a slower pace, at least it means the only people we’re answerable to are our clients, the survivors. We’re able to stick to our mission and vision because of that.


Gayathri Suresh: In spite of the obstacles, what motivates you to continue running a social enterprise?

Meghana Srinivas: It seems like a different thing every day, but if there’s one thing I learned, it’s that it’s really about the people. I have a lot of mentors, some of whom have been doing this work for three decades, and the way they talk to every single survivor - the empathy and patience they show - motivates me in so many ways. Every time I speak to survivors or people who’ve used the platform and found it helpful, it makes me realise that we’re empowering the law, we’re helping it be implemented better. In a country like India, that’s of immense value.

POSH is an amazing law, but as long as it stays on paper, it’s useless. That is something that always brings me back to our mission. On an everyday level, it’s also about the team you’re building. They’re all people who’ve taken a leap of faith with you, so you don’t want to let each other down. So I think it’s just different people every day who motivate me to keep going.


Gayathri Suresh: What special skills, if any, do you think you need in this kind of work ?

Meghana Srinivas: For any entrepreneur, I think the most important skill is learning how to learn. Every day you’re doing something new. It’s very important to learn and unlearn quickly. And I think for anyone working with gender equity and social impact, I also think it’s important to have a support system of your own. It might be a therapist, a mentor, or friends who work in the same field. You need to have like-minded people who understand it, or it’s easy to burn out.

Finally, I also think it’s about having a certain kind of mental agility to keep juggling things. Your priorities will keep changing. For anybody who’s working in the space of gender equity, it’s very important for you to not have compassion burnout. When you’re pouring a lot of emotion into your work, you need to know when to switch off and take care of yourself too. It’s battle after battle, but you have to remember the war and keep yourself going. So I think there are a lot of things, but your mindset is the most important thing.


Gayathri Suresh: What would you say you like the best about your work?

Meghana Srinivas: I think most boomers would call this a ‘millennial thing’, but before I started TrustIn, I used to have a lot of existential crises. Even though I have worked in social impact most of my career, there was always this sense of “What am I doing with my life? How is it aligned to a larger purpose?”. These are the questions I asked myself all through my 20s. And then I started TrustIn when I was 29.
Even though the time during the pandemic was laborious and it was a struggle for survival, at least I don’t have that question in my head. I know why I get out of bed in the morning now. There’s this sense of purpose, work that I can do, a team that I can lead. So even on the days that it gets really frustrating and I feel like I’m going to quit, I know I won’t stop. There’s always that purpose that makes me get up and do everything again.


Gayathri Suresh: Lastly, what are some ways you think young people can take effective action for change in this community?

Meghana Srinivas: I think young people are already doing a lot. I see so many younger people speaking up these days, and their bravery and courage just stun me. I also think the decentralisation of platforms from male voices to non-male voices has been amazing. From Tiktok to Twitter, you’re always seeing these people sharing their lived experiences and learnings, which makes other people feel less alone. That’s something the younger generation should definitely continue to do. You have a voice and the choice to exercise it, and you never know who could get inspired by your story.

Another thing is, from our generation, there’s already been a shift from competition to collaboration. There’s a lot more awareness now about how toxic masculinity and patriarchy and all are interconnected. There’s a lot we can achieve by working together, and it’s important that we do that instead of working in our little silence

 
Contributing Writer:
Gayathri Suresh, Student, Christ University
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