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Unleashing VKICL’s Steel Lady: Kairavi Mehta’s Journey of Triumph Over Gender Bias and Innovation

“Rather than perceiving gender biases and other obstacles as deterrents, I embraced them as opportunities to overcome and surpass. My unwavering determination to challenge societal perceptions became the driving force behind my journey, and I remained resolute in my pursuit of success.”

Kairavi Mehta, in an exclusive interview with Entrepreneurs Today, revealed her remarkable journey of transforming obstacles into stepping stones on the path to personal and professional growth.

Getting to know Kairavi Mehta

Kairavi Mehta, a trailblazer in India’s steel industry, has carved a remarkable path for herself since graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Babson College in 2014. Bucking conventional norms, Kairavi made the bold choice to join her family’s business, V.K. Industrial Corporation Limited (VKICL), a distinguished steel distribution firm.  

As one of the few women leaders in the country’s steel distribution landscape, Kairavi’s rise to prominence is a testament to her unwavering commitment to excellence. Under her stewardship, VKICL has soared to new heights, driven by a potent blend of innovation and unconventional thinking. With her sights set on establishing VKICL as a benchmark in the industry, Kairavi’s ambition knows no bounds.

Kairavi’s calling

Kairavi’s journey in taking over her family business was fueled by a deeply rooted dream that took shape during her formative years. From the tender age of eleven, she witnessed firsthand the societal taunts and limitations imposed on her mother, who faced criticism for being a woman in a business-oriented family. Similarly, her father was discouraged from aiming too high or exerting too much effort, as there was no male heir to succeed him in the business. These experiences left an indelible mark on Kairavi’s spirit, igniting a burning desire to prove wrong those who belittled her parents solely because they had daughters.

Though unaware of the challenges she would encounter in the male-dominated steel industry at such a young age, Kairavi’s focus on learning and unwavering commitment to success remained resolute. She expresses,

“I believe in constantly upgrading my skills and exploring uncharted territories. This mindset enables me to embrace new opportunities and break glass ceilings and gender stereotypes that others may consider impossible.”

What sets VKICL apart?

At VKICL, a relentless pursuit of excellence propels us to stand out and establish ourselves as a benchmark in the competitive steel industry. What truly sets us apart from our competitors is our unwavering dedication to this vision, which permeates every decision and action we take.

Kairavi further reveals, 

“Our work approach is also distinct. We foster a culture that embraces out-of-the-box thinking, allowing us to tackle challenges with innovative solutions. In a traditionally commoditized industry, we strive to break free from the norm by providing customized solutions that meet the unique needs of our customers.”

Moreover, as one of the few women leaders in India’s steel distribution landscape, VKICL fosters an inclusive and gender-neutral workspace, boasting nearly 50% female staff. They firmly believe in unlocking the full potential of every individual, irrespective of gender, contributing to a unique organizational culture that thrives on equal opportunity.

Lastly, by leveraging cutting-edge technologies and digital solutions, they optimize their operations, increase efficiency, and deliver exceptional value to their clients. This forward-thinking approach positions them at the forefront of innovation and ensures that they stay ahead of the competition.

Overcoming challenges

For Kairavi, navigating the complexities of the steel industry has not been without its share of obstacles. Two significant challenges have emerged as key focal points in her journey:

The first challenge involves breaking away from the fiercely competitive market, often referred to as the “red ocean,” and venturing into unexplored territories known as the “blue ocean.” In an industry where product differentiation is limited, Kairavi recognized the need to create a distinct value proposition to ensure long-term sustainability. She revealed,

“To address this challenge, we implemented various strategies. These included developing a customized IMS software, prioritizing exceptional customer service, providing tailored solutions to meet customer needs and issues, establishing ourselves as a comprehensive solution for all steel requirements, and embracing technological advancements.“

The second challenge revolves around addressing the gender imbalance prevalent in the traditionally male-dominated steel sector. Kairavi shared,

“To overcome this challenge, we actively worked towards breaking down gender barriers. To attract more women employees, I knew I needed to be an example that they could follow. Moreover, we focused on fostering an inclusive environment by implementing policies that support women’s needs and provide safety, and emphasized on commitment and consistency in our work.”

Celebrating feats

As per Kairavi’s yardstick for success, it means more than receiving recognition or achievements. She says,

“True satisfaction for me comes from the positive impact I have on changing societal views and inspiring individuals. Seeing the lives of aspiring female entrepreneurs impacted and witnessing the daily positive influence I have on those around me brings a sense of fulfillment and success. For me, leaving a lasting legacy means making a difference in someone else’s life, ensuring they remember the impact I had on them. It is this ability to inspire, empower, and challenge societal norms that truly defines success for me.”

Upon saying that, her journey in the male-dominated steel industry is marked by a series of remarkable achievements that have redefined norms and inspired countless individuals. Some of her major accomplishments include:

  • Paving the way for women in the steel sector: Kairavi’s unwavering determination has shattered stereotypes, carving a niche for herself and creating opportunities for other women to thrive in the traditionally male-dominated industry. 
  • A voice on the global stage: At just 21, Kairavi fearlessly represented the interests of “Importers & Stockists” during a public hearing organized by the DGFT on safeguard duties. Her pitch and courage garnered praise from industry leaders, showcasing her ability to contribute meaningfully to industry discussions.
  • Legal victory: At the age of 23, Kairavi fought a groundbreaking legal battle against Chennai Customs concerning safeguard duties on steel imports. After a 1.5-year-long struggle, she emerged victorious, solidifying her reputation as a force to be reckoned with.
  • Technological revolution: By developing user-friendly in-house IMS software tailored for distribution companies, Kairavi not only revolutionized the steel buying experience but also empowered unskilled workers to embrace technological advancements.
  • Customer-centric transformation: Under her leadership, VKICL shifted from a traditional wholesaler to a customer-centric approach, resulting in a threefold increase in revenue and a twofold rise in net profits. Over 3500 customers across India and overseas now benefit from VKICL’s tailored solutions.
  • Empowering fellow entrepreneurs: Kairavi’s insights and experiences earned her an invitation to the esteemed Campden Family Connect panel, where she shared her NextGen expertise, particularly focusing on challenges faced as a female in the industry.
  • Driving gender equality: Through her efforts, Kairavi established a gender-neutral workspace at VKICL, with 45% of the workforce comprising women, 50% of whom hold senior-level positions.
  • Inspiring the next generation: Kairavi’s impact extends to aspiring female entrepreneurs, whom she motivates and empowers through speaking engagements at renowned universities.

Plans moving forward

Kairavi Mehta’s future plans revolve around propelling VKICL towards new heights of success. With the aim of achieving a turnover of Rs. 8000 crore and positioning VKICL as a benchmark in the steel industry, her strategy includes expanding into new markets, transforming VKICL into a comprehensive one-stop shop for steel solutions across India. Additionally, Kairavi envisions extending their services to customers overseas. To accomplish these goals, she has devised a multifaceted approach that combines technological advancements, strategic partnerships, and sustainable growth, ensuring VKICL remains at the forefront of the industry.

Words of wisdom

Kairavi Mehta’s entrepreneurial journey has taught her invaluable lessons. Firstly, she emphasizes the importance of following one’s passion and finding fulfillment in the journey itself. She also highlights the significance of embracing failures as opportunities for growth and learning. Additionally, Kairavi encourages entrepreneurs to embrace their uniqueness and leverage it as a competitive advantage in the market. She advises against chasing overnight success and glamor. She says, instead of chasing instant gratification and short-lived success, focus on building something meaningful and sustainable. Create value in people’s lives, and success and satisfaction will follow as a natural consequence of your dedication and hard work. Finally, she adds,

“Don’t compare yourself to others. Every entrepreneur’s journey is unique, and comparing yourself to others can be discouraging and counterproductive. Stay focused on your own goals and progress, and celebrate your individual achievements.”


Snigdha Basu
Snigdha Basu
A multifaceted writer, Snigdha Basu is a freelancer and a columnist at Entrepreneurs Today. She also spearheads Chic Life Edition - her own Digital Magazine with sustainable fashion, beauty, and culture at its core. Reach out to Snigdha at [email protected] for inquiries.
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