Scholar Spotlight - Richita Kudlamath

Richita Kudlamath, a Laidlaw Scholar at the University of Hong Kong, on her research into the transformation of businesses through technological innovation, and using business as the primary driver of growth and change in society.

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Richita Kudlamath, a Laidlaw Scholar at the University of Hong Kong, on her research into the transformation of businesses through technological innovation, and using business as the primary driver of growth and change in society.

In recent times, technology has become a fundamental factor in the success of businesses. Not only has technological innovation been the driving factor in improving business models to gain competitive advantage, but technological innovation in itself has served as the basis of constructing disruptive business models and creating new businesses.

In this manner, technology has transformed from being just a supporting factor of business to being one of its most effective means. Recent times have observed rapidly increasing penetration rates of smartphones around the globe and new generation telecommunication networks. This enabled mobile payment companies to create new mobile payment technologies to shift the focus from traditional, cumbersome payment methods to efficient, easily accessible electronic payments via mobile phones.

My research paper aims to study the evolution of mobile payment services to explore the effects of technological innovation on its businesses. Using literature review and different factors influencing adoption, the paper analyses the varying elements of a mobile payment company’s progress. In particular, it focuses on cultural barriers that hinder the growth of this industry. 

This paper will help managers understand the reasons for different adoption rates across the world. It will help them better understand ways in which they can implement similar businesses in the near future while bearing in mind the cultural, economical and social consequences. 

Where did your passion for this research originate?

I grew up in a beautiful city in the southern part of India called Bangalore. In my last few years in the city, I noticed the QR code for a mobile payment app called Paytm in every small shop, in every rickshaw and in places I had never seen technology reach to such a great extent before. The idea that villages that do not even have a permanent supply of electricity were exposed to a mobile payment app really intrigued me. Seeing Paytm manage to reach every nook and corner in a country like India piqued my curiosity to understand how it was made possible. I also looked at it as an opportunity to study how technological businesses could be disruptive in markets that are technologically backward. Later on, when I was in China in 2018, I noticed the prevalence of AliPay. My friends from Europe always spoke to me about Monzo and Revolut. As an aspiring businesswoman, the difference in perception and adoption of mobile payment apps across regions was puzzling. 

I also recognised that the biggest transformations in businesses in the coming decades are going to happen through technology. Understanding the nuances of how technology and businesses have impacted each other in the recent past would be a good way of becoming a more informed businesswoman of the future. Therefore, I decided to merge these topics and study the impacts of technological transformation on mobile payment businesses. 

What is the most memorable moment from your Laidlaw scholarship experience so far?

I was selected by my university to attend the Laidlaw Annual Conference at UCL in October 2019. Meeting Laidlaw Scholars from all over the globe at the conference was so exciting! We went to a nearby pub and discussed our backgrounds. We also went on a really fun night out and explored a part of one of my most favourite cities in the world - London. I was surprised at how intriguing and engaging every presentation was. I also spent a few minutes talking to Susanna, who was so warm and welcoming - she made me feel happy about being present there. All in all, spending those 2-3 days in London helped me understand what being a part of this community truly means and I will always look back on those days with a wide, happy smile on my face. 

At the social event with Laidlaw Scholars from across the globe

What is the biggest challenge you came across in your research and leadership journeys so far, and what did you learn from it?

My six weeks in Leeds where I did the majority of my research were quite rocky. It was my first time doing research and a very brief period of imposter syndrome set in. Since I was in the United Kingdom for the first time, I also did not want to limit my experience to research. Other students were not around because it was summer, and staying by myself without much human interaction was frustrating at times. However, my supervisor supported me in every way he could. He encouraged me to travel around and to continue working on my research at the same time.

Now that I look back at those 6 weeks and my final piece of work, I am grateful for all the challenges that were posed at me. I traveled around the UK and spent time with my thoughts which helped me become a more self-aware leader. My final research paper was highly appreciated by both my supervisors. This experience taught me that the best way to respond to a challenge is by continuing to work at it until you get better because we all start by knowing nothing. Resilience and perseverance should be our best friends in times of crises. 

What does it mean for you to be a Laidlaw Scholar?

Personally, being a Laidlaw Scholar means getting opportunities that I would not have gotten otherwise - like the opportunity to meet really interesting people from different continents, different academic backgrounds and becoming a part of this supportive, stimulating community; getting to live in a different country for 2 months, developing an understanding of different cultures and appreciating it; having the resources to explore topics that I am passionate about while working on my leadership capabilities; and, most importantly, getting acquainted with my own potential and the idea that we are all perfectly capable of becoming leaders who can change the world for the better if given the opportunity.

Being a Laidlaw Scholar makes me trust others' belief in me and my capabilities, so it is my responsibility to use that to become the best individual I can be while doing my bit to contribute back to the world around me. 

Which particular leaders inspire you the most and why?

As cliché as it may seem, my mother is among the people who inspire me the most. She spent the first few years of her life in a small village in South India and then went on to build several ventures for herself. In fact, she is working on starting a new venture right now! I draw inspiration from her undying entrepreneurial spirit and her ability to work as hard as it takes. 

Watching women lead from positions of power genuinely makes me happy and it makes me want to strive to unleash my potential. One of the business leaders I follow religiously is Indra Nooyi, the former CEO of PepsiCo. I absolutely admire her unabashed belief in her own competence and go-getter attitude while staying grounded to the realities of life. 

I also enjoy listening to Sudha Murthy (author and chairperson of Infosys Foundation) speak. Her humility and ability to stay true to her roots despite being from one of the richest families in India is refreshing.

However, I believe that the most realistic and best kind of inspiration is drawn from small acts of leadership that happen around us in our everyday lives. 

Describe a scene from the future you are striving to create:

I am an idealist. I wish to live in a world where we have stopped fighting amongst ourselves and are collectively fighting issues like poverty, unemployment and illiteracy. 

Hence, if I were to describe a scene I am striving to create from the future, it would be one where the world believes in a woman’s choice to pursue her dreams, a world where a young girl does not feel restricted by shackles created by society and one where there are no unrealistic expectations pinned on an individual which are solely based on their gender. I am striving to create a future where business can be used not just to maximise shareholder value but to act as the primary driver of growth and change in society. And finally, I am striving to create a future where we are kinder to each other and more accepting of one another. 

Quick-fire Questions

📺 Currently binging: The Queen’s Gambit

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🎵 My quarantine anthem: A Million Dreams from The Greatest Showman 

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📚 My top book recommendation: Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight

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🎧 Podcast obsession: Simple Ken

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🌈 Something that made me feel joy recently: Biden winning the US Presidential Elections and the White House getting its first woman in office!

2020 has been a strange year for all of us. The topic I have been mostly talking and thinking about is mental health. While so many people I have spoken to have expressed how anxious this year has made them feel - due to the lack of human contact, lack of excitement, lack of jobs and other opportunities and, due to the pressure of dealing with unprecedented, uncertain times - some have appreciated the time they got to spend with their families and by themselves. I think now is exactly when we all ought to be kinder to each other, be a little more understanding than we usually would have been and foster the spirit of humankind! If you are ever looking for a conversation, please feel free to reach out to me.

A friend of mine started a platform called Quote Unquote to facilitate healthy discussions among like-minded individuals on pressing societal issues. It is a great platform because it aids in channelling all the built up frustration in a healthy manner and also in creating more awareness. So if anybody is passionate about societal issues and is looking for people to discuss them with, I would definitely suggest Quote Unquote sessions! 

Connect with Richita on LinkedIn and Instagram

Richita is a Laidlaw Undergraduate Research and Leadership Scholar at the University of Hong Kong. The programme uniquely funds both undergraduate research and leadership development, and aims to develop a new generation of leaders who are skilled researchers, embrace data-based decision making, and believe it is a moral imperative to lead with integrity. 

Find out more about the Laidlaw Undergraduate Research and Leadership Scholarship.

Nikol Chen (she/her)

Digital Content Manager, Laidlaw Foundation

Hello! My name is Nikol and I look after the Laidlaw Scholars Network.

I am originally from Kazakhstan and I studied Human Sciences at UCL. My final research explored the potential effects of design on patient wellbeing in hospitals, and I also took modules such as Ethnographic Documentary Filmmaking, Anthropology of the Built Environment, Art in the Public Sphere, and other less interesting-sounding things :)

Drop me a line if you have any questions about the site, or if you'd just like to chat! I am always down to meet interesting people, so let's get [virtual] coffee ☕️