Meena Sankaran: Endeavouring the Ripples of Change in the Water Industry 

KETOS | Meena Sankaran: Endeavouring the Ripples of Change in the Water Industry  | CIO Women Magazine

In the environmental start-up field, where glass ceilings are shattered, a new era of women leadership is conquering mountains of corporate success. These female leaders are ready to give new perspectives to sustainable development by solving the problems regarding climate change. They are contributing to making this world a better place for current and upcoming generations and paving the way for countless others to follow suit.

Meena Sankaran (CEO and founder of KETOS) is one such leader in creating new methodologies where businesses and people transform the way they think about water through smart water management for distribution, safety, and conservation on a global scale.

Creating Safer, Smarter, and Sustainable Communities

Established in 2015, KETOS has worked tirelessly to transform the water industry to make water safer and sustainable for future generations. The organization has automated mission-critical testing and monitoring processes that were traditionally manual, slow, and expensive. Its vision is to prevent a potential disease outbreak and save lives by leveraging the power of technology and data-driven insights. The mission is to create safer, smarter, and sustainable communities around the world where the availability of clean water is no longer a privilege for only a few across the globe. 

Pioneer in AI-enabled Water Intelligence

KETOS is the pioneer in AI-enabled water intelligence for industry providing visibility for data-driven decision making at the fingertips. Its real-time diagnostics and predictive intelligence with over 282M data insights generated so far, enables operators to: 

  • Save 12-15% on chemical treatment (weekly)
  • Conserve over 13M gallons per customer site(depending on size/capacity) of water through 90-100% water reuse
  • Enable predictive maintenance on large expensive operational equipment while saving energy and increasing efficiency metrics for the plant.
  • Manage nutrients with 3X the efficiency and reduction of fertilizer consumption.
  • Meet compliance requirements proactively for effluent discharge monitoring, all this while being affordable as a Zero CapEx offering for easier adoption. 

KETOS SHIELD is the flagship solution for water quality. At the same time, KETOS WAVE and KETOS ICEBERG are other systems focused on water efficiency, leak detection and comprehensively looking at the overall water footprint. KETOS Smart Fabric is a software platform that provides AI insights, early warnings, alerts, predictions, and more for customers as they think of addressing their sustainability needs in the next decade with water data that otherwise didn’t exist with the frequency and accessibility that was a MUST for decision making 

The flexibility of the offering as a menu and the incorporation of the complete tech stack allows the organization to remain nimble. The business model where KETOS doesn’t sell the hardware but allows the solution to be offered as a “Data as a Service” was planned to prepare for the next decade as companies are trying to change course or adapt to how it has built something organically by design from the very beginning.

Meena has decided to take her organization one step ahead by working towards the introduction of the next SaaS-only solution that allows for water, climate and health risk modeling. Moreover, experts are finally taking a deeper look at their water insights while thinking of ESG reporting, climate risk modeling, and climate adaptation strategies. 

Providing Clear Goals to the Team 

According to Meena, every leader should possess qualities like Patience, Persistence, and Perseverance (she calls them as 3Ps). In addition to these qualities, leaders should hold on to other qualities like resilience and grit which can help them to execute goals. Being a Servant leader, Meena understands the roles within the organization. She can zoom into the weeds while zooming out for the investors and the board. These are the key aspects of her role in the KETOS. 

Being a chief translator for supporting cross-functional strategy, Meena provides clear goals to the team through transparent actions. This allows everyone to stay aligned on the mission and vision of the company which is a crucial responsibility at the helm. 

The CEO bears the burden of separating the signal from the noise and ensuring the survival of the company or making unpopular decisions that help the company achieve its milestones while always keeping the team at the forefront. The right group of people with the right attitude can achieve anything that they put their minds to, so it’s up to the leader at the helm how he/she guides them to accomplish the vision. 

Customer Satisfaction through Value Generation

Water challenges have been known for decades and many have tried to solve them. Water quality intelligence, in particular, has been a concern that many have tried to address but no results were generated. So the price for credibility was a steep uphill which KETOS had to cope with and showcase through milestones and consistent execution. Also, water issues traditionally have been addressed by a vast number of non-profits so approaching the VC/Financial community with a water tech start-up was met with a lot of resistance since people have different risk profiles and tolerances. 

Technological innovation and the impact of the IP created customer satisfaction through the unique value generation and the unconditional perseverance of the team driven to pursue this vision. The culture of the organization driven by the ethics around employee empowerment, customer success, and excellence in execution kept the focus on the goals ahead through all the challenges that hit the organization. It is one of the main reasons behind the long-standing success of the company. 

Gratitude, Respect, Trust, and Humility

Being the CEO of KETOS, Meena looks after her employees by celebrating the small wins, every win, and every milestone. She acknowledges people’s work and appreciates them for their sacrifices. Acclaiming the good work of employees continues to their families who support them during the journey and let them be present and contribute to the success of the KETOS. Gratitude is the most crucial aspect of taking care of all employees.

Gratitude, respect, trust, and humility—are some of the key values of KETOS’ team since it is focused on how each person in the team can inspire and motivate others as a close-knit group. Diversity in backgrounds, education, ethnicity, experience, etc. encompasses the team which is in the DNA of every employee, and the ethos of its culture makes the organization unique. 

Meena advises aspiring women entrepreneurs to reject NO as an answer. She elaborates, “If you believe in what you do, then don’t give up. Success isn’t an outcome so don’t have fear of outcomes, embrace the journey to your best ability as that in itself is success if your intent, passion, and commitment are unconditional. Don’t get caught up in others’ perception of success.” 

Overcoming Barriers to Dictate the Path

Being a woman leader, Meena has encountered multiple challenges in her career and gender-related barriers are part of the gig. After becoming an engineer, 25 years ago, she signed up for it. In each technical role she has undertaken, there have consistently been barriers to navigate, varying in intensity. The KETOS spectrum has been fundraising or even pursuing customers in a legacy male-dominated sector like water. She adapted and learned to navigate without letting those barriers define her success. She didn’t let societal pressures hold her back. 

Focusing on people’s attitudes and the right mindset for a role is more important in recruiting than the badge of honor they hold from an Ivy League or their aptitude. KETOS is intentional about the pool of candidates it interviews, which allows more women to participate in the funnel. Their performance and sense of self later get them the gig, however, the key is getting more women to participate, which is something the organization is conscious of. Until Series B, KETOS had an all-women Board of Directors, which was very rare for a deep-tech climate/robotics start-up. 

Speaking about feminism, Meena does not want to define someone as a ‘Woman Entrepreneur, Woman Engineer, Minority Woman Leader of Colour,’ etc. According to her, such definitions themselves discriminate and put labels. She prefers to focus on strong entrepreneurs, creative engineers, and brilliant leaders, and letting that be a man or woman would be the ideal place of equality and merit-driven performance without bias.

Spirituality through Meditation

Meena derives inspiration from someone almost every day in all walks of life. She adds, “As the universe has showered everyone with gifts that we can see only, if we take a moment actually to be present and pay attention to.” There have been numerous brilliant women change-makers to count in the history of mankind.

Among them, Meena mentions ‘Ayyalasomayajula Lalitha’. She was India’s 1st female engineer and that too in pre-independence days under British Rule. Lalitha was an architect of female representation in the engineering field whose determination took her to pave the way for the millions of next-generation female engineers of India. 

Being a successful leader in her field, Meena does not believe in the work-life balance term. 

She explains, “I see that working on your passion is something you do, and ensuring you adapt enough time in a day to prioritize all aspects of your life is constantly evolving and a conscious choice, which I’m working to be better at.” She practices spirituality and meditation which allow her to hold the balance in a day to help during the decision-making process. Meena is also a mother of a toddler and has been successfully managing both her personal and professional lives. 



Related Posts