Lalitha Rajagopalan talks about her career journey; the experience of founding her own business; her passion for equality; & what she loves about procurement.

405: Women In Supply Chain™, Lalitha Rajagopalan

In today’s episode of Women In Supply Chain™, I’m joined by the award-winning Lalitha Rajagopalan – product leader, creative thinker, co-founder and self-confessed procurement geek.

Lalitha has more than 20 years of industry experience, working with SAP Ariba for many years before swapping the corporate world for a start-up. Lalitha is the co-founder and head of product strategy and GTM at ORO Labs, a company that’s reimagining procurement, with a modern enterprise software platform that helps orchestrate end-to-end procurement and supplier management across teams.

Today Lalitha will be talking to us about her career journey; the experience of founding her own business; her passion for gender equality in supply chain; and what she loves so much about procurement.

SHOW SPONSORS:

 

GoFreight

GoFreight is proud to sponsor the ‘Women In Supply Chain™ podcast series, recognizing women’s vital role in the industry and the need to highlight their contributions and experiences. We are committed to promoting diversity and inclusion in the supply chain field and are honored to support initiatives that empower and inspire women in their professional journeys.

GoFreight is the world’s leading cloud-based freight forwarding management system. In addition to its comprehensive core features, including business quoting, ocean and air freight processes, invoicing and payments, accounting, and finance, customers highly favor it for providing a customer-facing platform that meets the needs of freight forwarders and their clients and agents.

With GoFreight, tasks such as quoting, booking, cargo tracking, and data reporting, which traditionally required email or phone communication, can now be quickly completed through a user-friendly online platform, similar to booking flights or hotels.

For more information, visit GoFreight.

Supply & Demand Chain

This year, we received over 400 submissions for our Women In Supply Chain™ award, the highest amount of applications not only for this award but also for all of our awards. What’s more, 118 of those applications were submitted by male counterparts, nominating their boss, co-worker, or associate. Last year, that figure was just at 75. Also this year, 39 women self-nominated, a tremendous uptick from last year’s award, which just saw 12 self-nominations. This shows progress. This shows hope that one day, we won’t need an award like this because men and women in the supply chain will be equal,” says Marina Mayer, Editor-in-Chief of Food Logistics and Supply & Demand Chain Executive. “While there’s still more work to be done, what we’re doing is working. That’s why this award is so important to Food Logistics and Supply & Demand Chain Executives. From truck drivers to CEOs, what these winners are doing matters to the future of all supply chains. What these female leaders, entrepreneurs, and supply chain professionals are doing continues to push the needle toward excellence, and every year, I feel blessed to celebrate these wonderful women of logistics. And we’re doing just that at this year’s Women In Supply Chain™ Forum, set for Nov. 14-15 in Atlanta. Go to www.WomeninSupplyChainForum to register and learn more. We’re all better together. Collaboration is key to promoting and supporting Women In Supply Chain™.

For more information, vision Supply & Demand Chain.

IN THIS EPISODE WE DISCUSS:

 

[07.40] Lalitha’s early years, and how she went from a degree in economics to the world of procurement and supply chain.

“Economics seemed to be the framework that explained how the world operates… procurement and supply chain, and the tech world and start-ups, was a big pivot that happened along the way!”

[10.20] Lalitha’s extensive education, and her ongoing commitment to curiosity.

“I’m a sucker for reading and learning… it took me a while to figure out that I didn’t have to get another degree to continue learning!”

[12.45] Lalitha’s time at Ariba and SAP; her journey of moving through various functions in product management and marketing; and the big lessons she learned along the way.

“When someone is trying to run a digital transformation, and choosing a technology, they’re putting their career on the line. So, there’s a lot of humility, vulnerability and respect that goes into being an honest and engaged partner… how to work with customers was probably the biggest lesson for me.”

[17.37] The role of sponsorship and mentorship in Lalitha’s career progression; the culture at SAP and Ariba; and how, and why, Lalitha built her own personal ‘board of directors.’

“Silent mouths don’t get fed!”

[22.03] Why Lalitha chose to co-found her own company after a lengthy corporate career, and her experience of making the leap.

“I love procurement as a problem to solve – there are so many dimensions to it, so many opportunities.”

[24.08] An overview of ORO – who they are, what they do, and how they help their customers.

“There are a lot of procurement tools that are purpose-built for a specific tactical purpose, like contracts or invoice automation. But the end-to-end process, the start to finish experience for the business user – that’s where things fall through the cracks.”

[26.22] Lalitha’s self-confessed ‘procurement geek’ status, and what she loves so much about the industry.

“It can take up to six months to onboard a supplier… all this due diligence is an inordinate burden… the intention to engage is there, but the fulfilment takes so long to connect.”

[29.34] Why Lalitha is so passionate about diversity and equality, and what the industry can do to keep making progress.

“Diversity aids innovation… and you almost have to be pushy about it, otherwise it just doesn’t happen.”

[32.20] Lalitha’s advice for women and other underrepresented voices that are looking to get into the industry, or take the next step.

“Hustling is a skill – learn it!”

[36.27] The future for Lalitha, for ORO, and for the industry.

“There’s a lot of inequity in opportunity. If the technology we’re building can enable small suppliers to work more friction-free, at a lower cost and higher level of engagement with large companies, that connects me to what’s important – and that’s equity and opportunity in the world.”

RESOURCES AND LINKS MENTIONED:

 

You can connect with Lalitha over on LinkedIn.

If you enjoyed this episode and want to hear from more female founders, check out 364: Women In Supply Chain™, Lisa Morales-Hellebo, 331: Women In Supply Chain™, Sylena Urbanoski or 275: Women In Supply Chain™, Amani Radman.

Check out our other podcasts HERE.

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