Innovators of Barclays: Sonal Lakhani
Sonal Lakhani is Global Head of Programmes and Strategic Initiatives at Barclays Innovation Office, helping to put new schemes in place to support tech founders. She shares her thoughts on the innovations that have changed the world – and why pasta is the last word in innovation.
What is your favourite innovation?
It has to be travel. The fact that air travel became available to the masses has been such an incredible experience for people, the world over. We've seen a reduction in the number of borders, we can experience each other's cultures and immerse ourselves in different perspectives – but at exactly the same time, we've seen the negative effect of mass tourism, environmentally and socially. I think that's a great example of why we need to think about the new innovations we're putting into the world. We should embed within them, at their core, the idea that we need to be doing the best we can by society and the environment.
What innovation would make the biggest difference right now?
Of course, the thing I would change in the world right now would be finding a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus. There has to be a way that we can come together and use multiple disciplines like technology and medicine to find a solution.
The global pandemic has hit pause on everything as we know it. The way people are doing things – from how we're speaking to each other and how we're working, to how we're paying for products and how we're consuming those products – has entirely changed.
At Barclays we’re focusing on what those new consumer trends mean and how we can improve our banking and financial products to meet our consumers’ needs in this new world. It's not a case of ‘if’ we are going to be innovating, it's ‘how’ and ‘when’.
At Barclays we’re focusing on how we can improve our banking and financial products to suit the new world. It's not a case of ‘if’ we are going to be innovating, it's ‘how’ and ‘when’
Global Head of Programmes and Strategic Initiatives at Barclays Innovation Office
What’s your focus at the moment in your day job in terms of innovation?
Our big focus for 2020 and 2021 is supporting female tech founders. It's been widely identified that there are three barriers for growth for women-led tech businesses. One is investment, the second is peer-to-peer networking and the third is business development. We're about to launch a Female Founder First programme by Barclays and Techstars, which is focused on scaling female tech founders around the world.
How does prioritising diversity and inclusion fit with innovation?
Being innovative means having a natural curiosity to improve the way we do things. And there is no innovation without diversity of thought. We all recognise the importance of diversity. There needs to be a bigger focus though on what the key barriers are and how we can take them down.
What we need to do to speed up that process is to see private capital and government regulation come together to remove some of these barriers, all the way from education at a young age, to investment into diverse founders and the companies that are producing products for a wider range of the population. I think it’s coming, but we'd like to see more of it – and we'd like to see it faster.
Which one innovation has changed your life for the better?
That’s got to be the one that's helped me sleep! It's a little teddy called Mia by myHummy that's operated by Bluetooth and recognises that what helps a baby to sleep is white noise.
If my baby wakes up, I can use an app on my phone to choose the type of sound that helps her to sleep. You can choose the type of white noise – wave sounds or a heartbeat, whatever helps her sleep best.
And finally… what do you think is the best invention ever?
Hmm, I think the most amazing invention ever was pasta. I mean, who came up with how to take wheat, make it into pasta sheets, boil it, put sauce on it – and create an incredible bowl of pasta? It’s amazing.