Marque360 Managing Partner Deepika Gandhi is working to close the tech industry’s gender gap through her own enterprises
By Elizabeth Poindexter | Photo by John Michael Simpson
When Deepika Gandhi and her husband, Nik Gandhi, decided to move to Chapel Hill from the Northeast in 2013, she asked him to take a photo of the downtown skyline while he was scouting it out. She wanted a sense of the area before relocating. A single photo lit up the phone screen in the palm of her hand.
“I asked him, where’s the second photo?”
Deepika was used to the big-city life. Her parents encouraged her to seek her master’s degree in the United States because of limited options in India. She arrived here as a first-generation immigrant more than 20 years ago to attend Temple University with two pieces of luggage and knew no one except for a distant relative.
“We kind of laugh about the American dream, but it really is true,” Deepika says. “You spend your formative years in a country, and then you move thousands of miles away. A few months later, you realize that you belong.”
After receiving her degree in management information systems from Temple, where she met her husband, she worked in the corporate world before landing at Microsoft. Following the birth of her two children, Krish and Ayesha, now 15 and 12, Deepika took some time away from the workforce but always felt like something was missing. Her husband found a new job, which precipitated their family’s move to North Carolina.
“Diversity was very important to me. And so we did our research,” Deepika says. “We picked Chapel Hill.”
At the time, Deepika says she needed a project. That project ended up being Vibrant Fusion, a product and services company that sits on the Microsoft platform. The company, which she co-founded in 2013, was based in Southern Village and grew to nearly 30 employees.
“The one thing that helped us with the Southern Village location – and being in Chapel Hill – was the talent pool,” Deepika says. “We were able to tap into the local university.”
Since selling her company in 2016, she has mentored students in the MBA program at the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School who are part of entrepreneurship coursework. “I tell them to celebrate your small successes because that’s going to motivate you to keep going. It can get pretty lonely in the beginning,” she says.
Deepika’s sense of entrepreneurship caught the attention of Christine Cotton, a co-founder of PORCH Chapel Hill-Carrboro and also her Lake Hogan Farms neighbor. As a fellow volunteer in the local school system, Christine approached Deepika with an idea to connect high school students to up-to-date volunteer activities. A series of conversations led to the online platform LetServe. More than 2,000 local nonprofits have signed up on the LetServe platform with a recent expansion to Louisiana. Through LetServe, students from around the Triangle have logged more than 400,000 volunteer hours.
“My definition of success has evolved,” Deepika says. “Now, it’s ‘How do I have an impact on my customers, employees and my community?’”
One way she’s making her mark is through her volunteer work on the board of Women in Tech’s Raleigh chapter, a nonprofit which combats bias and supports female entrepreneurs. “You can be put in a box, but how big or small the box is is up to you,” she says. “I learned this for myself by working at larger companies and by having amazing mentors. I had two great female mentors at Microsoft who would tell me, ‘You have more to offer’ … “And so, I see that now, being on the other side of things.”
Her latest venture is Marque360, which she and a business partner co-founded in 2017. Marque360 provides business solutions to Microsoft enterprise customers. Nearly 90% of her employees at the Chapel Hill- and New Jersey-based company are women.
“Women oftentimes have a lot more to offer than they think they do,” she says. “I’m so glad I made the decision to come to Chapel Hill.”