“It’s Never Too Late to Follow Your Dreams”

Ketaki Banga, the CEO and Co-Founder of Webidoo MEA says, she has always been a geek girl at heart, focused on AI, innovation and managing transformations

Can you share a little bit about what it is that you do and what a typical day for you is like?
I am the CEO and Co-Founder of Webidoo MEA, an award-winning AI company developing innovative marketing solutions for multinational brands and SMEs. We are in the process of establishing our MEA headquarters at the DIFC Innovation Hub.

A typical day for me is buzz without coffee. When you’re following your passion, caffeine is no longer a necessity. At Webidoo we believe that AI is a catalyst for unprecedented economic growth and job creation. It has the power to redefine existing industries and create entirely new business models – much like the internet did decades ago – but we recognize the hesitancy and uncertainty that comes with all this rapid evolution, especially in marketing. So our mission is to help brands navigate this change with confidence, utilizing our deep-rooted knowledge in marketing and innovation to do so.

My typical day involves engaging with the thriving innovation ecosystem in the region, helping multinational brands with their AI transformation journeys, and preparing for the regional launch of our patented AI marketing tools for SMEs that will equalize opportunities and help them compete on a level playing field with larger companies.

Later in the day, I am often in calls with our R&D team which is anchored in Boston and works out of MIT, and our product and creative team leaders in Italy.

Did you always know that working in the industry you represent was what you wanted to do? How did you decide on it?
I’ve been a marketer for over 15 years and the last few years have brought on rapid change, not just in marketing, but across industries. I’ve always been a geek girl at heart, focused on AI, innovation and managing transformations. In 2021, when our industry was still reeling from the impact of the pandemic, I decided to go back to school for an Executive MBA from London Business School, where I received the Vodafone Group Foundation’s merit-based scholarship for digital innovation.

This was not a mid-life crisis (as I joke with my children); it was a desire to be actively involved in shaping business priorities and driving organizational transformation. I was excited about the opportunity to focus on innovation strategy and new business models. While there is a lot of talk about AI now – back when I started pushing the envelope, it was not such a priority. This was before ChatGPT made AI such a hot topic. My focus areas over the last few years include strategic agility, innovation, business transformation, and AI and data readiness for marketing.

What first got you interested in the industry you work in?
I’m a science fiction fan and grew up on Star Wars and Star Trek. R2D2 and C-3PO were the original inspirations and sparked my imagination about the possibilities of artificial intelligence. If I hadn’t pivoted to AI, I would be eyeing space as the next frontier because AI and space exploration are going to profoundly impact us. As a leader in AI marketing, I am keenly aware that we are laying the foundation for how these technologies will shape our future. Our role isn’t just to drive innovation but to ensure it serves as a force for good, by building AI-driven solutions that are crafted with a profound appreciation for the human aspect they’re designed to enhance.

What obstacles did you have to overcome?
I dropped out of university to start working due to personal circumstances, and then life happened, and I never found the right time to go back to school – until I hit my forties. Now I’m lifelong learning with a vengeance and enjoying every opportunity to expand my horizons. I feel just as excited today, as I did at 18, about what I want to “grow up to be”.

During my Executive MBA, which was a program designed for working professionals, it was not easy to go through 2 years without any holidays. I saved up all my annual leave at work to be able to attend classes, and was very grateful for the additional 10 days of study leave that is provided by the UAE government.

What advice would you give to a woman considering a career in the industry you represent? What do you wish you had known?
The pandemic showed me the kind of leader I want to be. My advice would be to find your passion and sense of purpose. We put ourselves in our comfort zones because, understandably, change is scary – as we are seeing with the polarized views around AI.

Being true to yourself also means being more comfortable to speak your truth. If a lot of change seems scary, then just take one step. And then take another, and another. It’s never too late to follow your dreams, and there is more than one way to get to where you need to be.

And lean on the sisterhood. Build your tribe of women colleagues and friends – they will understand you and be there for you in ways you can’t possibly imagine.

What do you do to unwind after work?
Spend time with my family and try to get them to watch Star Wars and Star Trek for the millionth time.

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