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Women in Blockchain: Harshna Paroha From Koinex Shares her Story

Growth hacker, strategist, business development, these are some of the roles taken up by Harshna Paroha at Koinex. “It’s a startup, we pick up almost any role that we can contribute to”, Paroha recollects as we sat down for the final session of the interview. 

A chemical engineer, IITian hailing from Jabalpur who has worked at various companies now oversees marketing and business development at one of India’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges. Koinex seems to be venturing into blockchain development as well. With a development centre coming up in Bengaluru, meet-ups oriented towards blockchain and hiring of blockchain developers indicate something is cooking within the organisation. 

But, this article is not about Koinex. It is about Harshna Paroha, who is responsible for “Growth” at Koinex, as her LinkedIn bio says. The interview of yet another Indian woman in Blockchain. 

Harshna Paroha, growth and business strategist at Koinex
Harshna Paroha

Brush with Blockchain and Cryptocurrency

Paroha’s brush with blockchain, or rather the brush with the word blockchain came while she was studying Chemical Engineering at IIT Kharagpur. But she didn’t pay much attention then. 

“[I] stumbled upon blogs and articles about Bitcoin and blockchain technology but didn’t really care too much, as I was more into business operations and startups in general, when the popular tech domain used to be consumer facing internet businesses, hyperlocal, AI and ML, data analytics, etc.”

After interning at core companies like ONGC and Reliance industries, Paroha went on to work at MNCs like Vodafone to consumer facing internet startups like Little App (now a Paytm Company) and Mumbai based startup Toppr (learning app for K12 education) before switching to business development functions. “This is where I can build the most value.”, she writes in her email response to coin crunch. 

Paroha joined Koinex and overall got into blockchain and cryptocurrency full time in February this year. Does she regret missing the Bull run? Not really. 

“It doesn’t really matter, because all the clutter is already out and the world is slowly grasping the revolutionary potential of the blockchain technology, beyond the hype of ICOs and speculative money.”

Speaking about her belief in cryptocurrencies, she says

“Cryptocurrencies are a mind blowing concept. To be in full control of one’s money; to be able to transact freely across the globe is simply amazing. Blockchain is the internet of value and will go far and wide in rewriting the entire global economic setup.”

CCI: What kind of trend do you see around cryptocurrency in India, especially in Women?

Paroha: “Technology is generally highly underrepresented when it comes to women. Larger companies have been able to work around the diversity problem but it still continues to be one of the biggest challenges that the tech domain is struggling with.

Since cryptocurrency is fairly new as a concept in India, we hardly see women talking about it or trading in particular. It is heartening to see when a woman talks about emerging technologies like Blockchain.

If a country has to go a long way in adoption of transformation technologies like blockchain & crypto, women need to be equally aware, educated and participative. This is because this tech impacts everyone equally. Women interact with money just the same way as men, and that should be a focus of all companies and technologists now to push for better inclusion and education.”

CCI: How active are you in interacting with the community, on twitter or telegram or any other social media? Why?

Paroha: “I’d like to say that I’m fairly active on social media and interact regularly with community. However, my personal benchmarks are actually way higher and I’m working on getting there, a bit every day.

At Koinex, I oversee Growth, a crucial part of Business & Strategy team. So I get to work with content developers, social media strategists and I personally lead the entire social media initiative at Koinex. That way, my interaction and consumption of popular opinions is pretty optimal.”

CCI: We don’t see a lot of women in the space interacting freely, do you think women intentionally stay hidden, to avoid unsolicited approaches from other guys? What do you think can be done?

Paroha: “That’s a common issue, completely agnostic of what women do in their lives in general. Whether a woman is a developer, business analyst, human resource professional or an entertainer, unsolicited approaches are a common problem, especially if she is active on social media.That is one of the main reasons why women can’t express stuff as freely as you’d expect them to.

However, with recent advocacies around free speech, equal rights, equal representation in industries, this is quickly changing. I do have a personal motive to contribute to this cause in whatever capacity I can. For example, talking to young girls and instilling them with confidence to dream big and drive to be financially independent, no matter what, that they can choose to live their lives the way they want to and be as expressive as they would want to be!”

Harshna Paroha at Koinex Meetup interacting with the attendies
Paroha at Koinex Meetup

CCI: What are the books that you like and would recommend people to read?

  • For blockchain – “Blockchain Revolution” by Don & Alex Tapscott
  • Others – Kafka on the Shore (Haruki Murakami), Sapiens (Yuval Noah Harari), A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Hosseini), Zero to One (Peter Thiel), Hard Things About Hard Things (Ben Horowitz)

CCI: Your role models, Inspirations?

Paroha: “Ohh, there are many! Will just name a few – Indira Nooyi, Michelle Obama, Ellen DeGeneres, Jack Ma, Ratan Tata, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos”

Working with the Koinex Founders

Paroha has known Rahul Raj, the CEO of Koinex for six years. They met at the Entrepreneurship Cell in IIT Kharagpur while pursuing engineering. She reports to Aditya Naik, the CBO directly. 

“All the three founders are very passionate about the blockchain technology and are perhaps the best trio that a startup needs.”

Here’s what Harshna had to say about all the co-founders.

Aditya Naik

“While [Aditya] is obsessed about getting things done right and on time, he is also pretty understanding and reasonable. He has amazing sense of humour and makes all our meetings really interesting, which the entire team looks forward to.”

Rakesh Yadav

“Rakesh is the brains as he is the CTO and as important a pillar for the business as there can be. He is almost always working, sitting with developers very late nights and seeing to completion of product development end-to-end. He is also a very chilled out person, and doesn’t waste any time where he is not required or adding any value – perfect time management is something I aspire to learn from him.”

Rahul Raj

“As CEO, Rahul is perhaps the most passionate person I’ve seen in that position. Super approachable, and probably friends with everyone in the office. There is something to learn in every meeting with him, because he always brings a vision to the discussion – no matter the objective is small or huge… He binds the entire team together and one particular thing that I really like about him is that he refers to every person at Koinex as a team member and not an employee.”

Clockwise: Aditya Naik, Rahul Raj, Ravi Teja, Rakesh Yadav, Harsha Paroha(r) and Maithili Joshi(c)

Advice for cryptocurrency enthusiast and newbies

Paroha: “It’s still not late for people to jump in. This is perhaps the best time to educate oneself and update with the latest developments. Blockchain is here to stay and things will drastically be different in future, as Web 3.0 gets mainstream and decentralised frameworks become commonplace. My advice to all newbies and enthusiasts would be to see beyond all the hype and clutter and realise the true potential of the technology itself.

Cryptocurrency trading is a really exciting domain, there is a steep learning curve, but it’s definitely not as hard as people think. Anyone can trade – in a nutshell, it’s an activity that can generate money if you are well informed yourself, and I think everyone loves money. So if you love money, how hard can it be to learn how to make some?”

And with that an interview that took several email correspondence and one face-to-face meeting was over. We observed that only four out of almost a 100 people who attended the recent Koinex meet-up were women. While Harshna was ecstatic to see them, I wondered if her interview can inspire more women to join the blockchain ecosystem. 

But honestly, it depends on who is reading this article and who is sharing  Harshna’s story and numerous other stories about women in the industry at the grass root levels, at the beginning of their careers choosing to be part of the newest tech kid in the block. So, please share these stories as many times as you can. Opportunities are waiting, just grab ’em. 

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