Women in Tech: Lujaina Kharusi
Tell us everything we need to know about you Lujaina.
I was born in the UK but have lived most of my life in Oman in the Middle East. I am mother of four beautiful kids, and on a mission to build something great with Envago, the new adventure travel app! I am very ambitious and love taking new challenges...I believe everything is possible and the sky really is the limit! My parents raised me with strong values; the importance of hard work, responsibility, and pursuing dreams. My mother was the first female pilot in our country, and having her as a role model gave me the belief that I could do anything I wanted. I knew at a very young age that I wanted to take control of my future and do great things when I grew up!
I love reading, meditating and the outdoors. One of my favourite things to do in Oman is to enjoy the outdoors with my kids, family and friends. The desert is one of my favourite places, it’s wonderful to head out there for a night of camping under the stars!
What were you doing before you decided to create the Envago app?
Well, I started my journey in the work force at the age of 24. I graduated from the University of Brunei in South East Asia and started my career as an economist in 2005. By then I was also a mother of a two year old and was expecting my second child.
Whilst pursuing my career, I always had in mind that I would set up my own business-I just didn’t know what! So when the time came, I opened a small baby boutique. At that time, I was a mother of three kids and saw the gap in the market. Then in 2015 I took the concept to another level and set up an antenatal centre with my sister. Both ventures were designed to tap into market demand with new concepts. But still, I wanted more, I wanted to do something truly innovative, and that’s when Envago came into life.
Getting involved in Tech is still a new thing for women, what was the motivation for you?
Firstly, my complete fascination with how smartphones and data have changed the economy structure of many nations. Look at Airbnb and Uber for example, they are modern organisations that are embracing this now everyday technology with apps that allow people to make better choices. Secondly, I thought why not? Why can’t I, with my love for solving problems and creating new concepts, as well as love for the travel and the outdoors, innovate in the travel market and provide people with better opportunities? This was always my aim with Envago, an app that allows people to use smartphones to create supply and demand opportunities and provide better services for the adventure world.
How have you found your journey so far and what has been your greatest accomplishment?
Exciting, enthralling, and tiring! The biggest accomplishment has actually been that I’ve been able to start an app business without any technical experience in coding or developing. I have learnt so much and I’m still learning more about the tech world. There have also been so many small accomplishments along the way, developing the supply and demand side of the adventure marketplace, talking to many adventure planners, developing relationships with those small voluntary organisations that are working to protect the natural environment and help those in need, seeing Envago available to download on the app store for the first time, working on the new android version…the list is endless! However, I’ve got a feeling that my greatest accomplishment with Envago is yet to come!
What has been the most challenging thing so far?
Probably the scale of Envago. We are targeting adventure planners and adventurers worldwide, that’s a pretty big target audience! I did receive some brilliant advice from Ooshma Garg the founder of Gobble about how to scale the business. She said: “Scrappy is always in style. Focus more on experiments”. Although I have heard this from many founders, it really resonated and I realised I can learn much more and improve better doing it scrappy and not scaling it. My motto now is ‘fail fast and learn faster’.
Do you think more women should get involved in Tech and why?
Women should get into any business they feel they can add value and strive in. Tech just like any other industry is not gender specific, so women shouldn’t be deterred by the notion of whether it is appropriate or not for them to get involved. Women bring their unique way of looking at things and it is not to say it’s better than man, it’s just different. Because we think differently and have different perspective to issues, we can definitely add to the tech world.
What advice would you give to young female entrepreneurs who are stuck on an idea?
I would say two things:
1. An idea will stay just an idea if no action is taken. Assess the risks, take it and go for it!
2. Do not limit yourself by gender, resources, time, people’s notions, etc. I could have easily left Envago as an idea because I knew nothing about building an app. I could have stopped because I live in a country where tech businesses are still not recognised. I could have stopped because there are bigger sharks out there who could easily do it bigger and faster. I just went for it, learning along the way.
What does it mean to be an entrepreneur to you?
Fun, challenge and excitement. Challenging the status quo, looking for new and unique ways to solve problems, being creative and embracing technology.
Overview of how Envago works:
Adventurers can search by category of adventure (Air, Earth, Water, Rock & Ice or Volunteer), listed activties or by map. Adventure Planners can become verified within the app, then create a profile, events and adventures for people to buy. Activities range from thrills like trekking to the ‘lost world’ in Venezuela, adventures like staying in an Aurora dome to see the northern lights to ‘voluntourism’- community based activities like volunteering projects in Nepal.
How to download the app:
Envago is available as a free iphone app to download from the Apple store. The android version will follow shortly.