EmpowerHER 2024: An Interview with BoomGrow Co-founder, Dr Jay Desan

13 March 2024

Aligning with the “Inspiring Inclusion” theme for International Women’s Day 2024, Gobi Partners (Gobi) is hosting a month-long celebration for women entrepreneurs and leaders alike. The initiative kicked off with our EmpowerHER event on 1 March 2024, and is dedicated to recognising, honouring, and empowering women entrepreneurs throughout March. The celebration features two additional women empowerment events and content spotlighting selected women founders.

This movement marks a crucial step towards levelling the playing field and highlighting the challenges in identifying suitable business opportunities or connections. In an industry predominantly dominated by men, such as AgriTech, excelling can be particularly challenging, especially when only 1% of local venture capitalist funding goes to female entrepreneurs.

However, for BoomGrow Co-founder, Dr Jay Desan, what drives her forward is simple: her firm and unwavering belief in easier access to good, healthy, and sustainable produce.

BoomGrow, a precision farming company, operates at the convergence of sustainability and technology to elevate the cycle of farming and food production. This is accomplished through an efficient and versatile farming system, dubbed ‘Machine Farms’ – comprising modular, stackable repurposed shipping containers – to grow a diverse ecosystem of greens.

“What we’re doing is repurposing cities, bringing food closer to people and consumers, and ensuring that there is a happier, healthier food production to make a better world to contribute to the health of the community,” she states, during a panel entitled Navigating Success in the Entrepreneurial Landscape, hosted during Gobi’s EmpowerHER event.

Leading the charge in reimagining a world with better opportunities, Jay also applies this principle when promoting gender diversity and inclusiveness in the workspace, considering gender equality a crucial element of an organisation’s founding goals. In addition to heading a gender-diverse team of leaders, she applies this principle within her company’s operations, prioritising skill sets based on the mission and vision of the company.

“Because we are building a playbook that doesn’t exist anywhere, we need people to open the barriers – and for that diversity of skills, we need to reimagine a world where skills are not gender-based,” she remarks.

In contrast to her predominantly male competitors, Jay considers gender diversity an empowering step that helped her business understand their audiences on a deeper level. Citing BoomGrow’s pivot during the height of the pandemic from a primarily B2B firm to its agile adoption of a B2C stance, wherein its customers then mainly consisted of women, this helped the company understand its target audience’s demands better, assisting with sales and delivering results during an otherwise challenging time.

Nevertheless, Jay’s commitment to ensuring the success of her company’s mission is the true north star that steers her journey through leadership, entrepreneurship, and life. Careful to stress that building BoomGrow has been a marathon rather than a sprint, Jay reinforces the necessity for commitment and discipline, equipping oneself with relevant skills, data, and connections to find the right investors who believe in the same cause.

“If you’re clear about your why, and why you do the business you do, and why the solutions you have are fundamental, you can find investors who are aligned with your mission.”

Finally, when it comes to advice for aspiring women entrepreneurs, Jay delves back into the heart of her business – her steadfast belief in what she’s doing and why she’s doing it: “Entrepreneurship needs to be about what’s your objective. So be very clear about your why, and once you understand it, go for it. It will steer you clear from shiny distractions.”

BoomGrow is a Gobi portfolio company through its Khazanah Nasional Berhad-backed Gobi Dana Impak Ventures (GDIV) fund.