“Before I became a father of two daughters, my investment strategy was not as women-centric as it could have been. But now, I empathise more with women entrepreneurs and have become more sensitive to their issues. This helps when it comes to investing in their companies.” Kae Capital’s Sasha Mirchandani made this candid admission at Angel Summit in Mumbai last week.
He revealed that the company receives 3,000-4,000 proposals per year, now. And that the first fund invested in only two companies run by women. “One of which is Hello English, which holds market share in the offline English learning space in Tier II and below regions.” Sasha then talked about the increasing need of positive role models for women to look up to, to escalate their entrepreneurial progress.
He also elaborated on diversity inclusion. More than 30% of the Kae Capital workforce are now women, including the core investment team. And this has prompted a redefining of how women are viewed in their organisation.
Revathi Roy, (founder of women-centric logistics startup HeyDeeDee) discussed her journey of being out of work in the corporate space. This was when she decided to leverage her driving skills into a career. “Driving is not my core skill,” she said. “But it helped earn my self-respect and independence. It was the springboard for HeyDeeDee which is all making women two-wheeler and last-mile delivery proficient.”
As she put it, “for women to become two-wheeler, last-mile delivery proficient.” She also broke the news that the company had partnered up with Amazon. Amazon would be absorbing 100,000 of these lady delivery professionals into its logistical workforce.
Mirchandani and Roy were panellists at the Angel Summit, an event focused on bringing women entrepreneurs. The core focus of the event was to ‘Bridge the Gap’ between entrepreneurs and investors. And to have important conversations in taking the cause of women entrepreneurship to the next level.
A male-female panel discussion titled ‘Leaders Without Borders’ centred on the gender role of starting a business. It also explored the different nuances of how women entrepreneurs are treated. The discussion was moderated by TV anchor and producer Shruti Mishra. The panel consisted of Sasha Mirchandani, Revathi Roy, Ambi Parameswaran (founder of BrandBuilding), and Indu Shahani, Dean of HR College and a former Sheriff of Mumbai.
Gender Bender: How Society Has Evolved To Accept Different Roles
Ambi Parameswaran talked about diversity inclusion and the evolution of the role of women in the traditional advertising and media space. He was vociferous in maintaining that advertising was mainly about reinforcing gender stereotypes. He stated, “The most threatened species today are men. As women become more educated, aggressive, independent, and take on leadership roles and have a better understanding of who they are, it is men who need to understand and change their attitudes.”
He did say that there is a marked change in the way advertising and media regard traditional stereotypes. He mentioned campaigns such as #SharetheLoad as well as the Titan series. These campaigns backed his claim that advertising is pushing the envelope with regard to archetypes. But ultimately his argument was, “Advertising does not look to change society, but merely reflect it.”
Indu Shahani advocated for opening a dialogue about entrepreneurship at a very young age through education. She talked about the level of responsibility and execution between the two genders. Where she opined that she preferred girls for when tasks needed to be executed with efficiency. Ambi added that there were certain professions which required soft skills. He mentioned teaching, advertising and PR as spaces where women gravitated to, naturally.
Revathi Roy remarked here that women are traditionally considered to be bad drivers. But she had received nothing but support from investors and other stakeholders when she first started up.
Work-Life Balance: A Thorny Issue For Women Entrepreneurs
Moderator Shruti Mishra mentioned that according to the International Labor Organisation, the workforce of women in India has dropped from 35% to 25% between 2004 and 2011. In the modern-day workplace which has no punching out times and looming deadlines, the concept of a work-life balance is constantly being challenged too. The panel was almost unanimous on one thing, flexi-timings. They maintained that flexi-timings were one way of ensuring that productive working women did not lose out due to increasing workloads.
But, Revathi was of the opinion that flexi-timings would not work in her particular business model because deliveries couldn’t wait. “As most of the delivery girls come from below the poverty line, they have extremely sad stories. Mentoring and providing a strong support system is the best way to integrate them.”
Indu Shahani reiterated mentoring as the second pillar required for entrepreneurship to turn women into entrepreneurs. She talked about the need for creating programmes where women could take on leadership roles. She also spoke about other role-reversals so they could become more attuned and comfortable with becoming a leader.
Sasha spoke about some of the challenges women in the corporate workforce today. “The biggest challenge is rejoining the workforce after a break, be it marriage or motherhood. The issue of integration is a global one. But flexi-timings and focussing on efficiency and productivity makes a vast difference.”
Ambi Parameswaran pointed out the need for sensitivity in something as basic as language and communication in conclusion. He stated the need to create a better understanding of gender roles.
The Angel Summit was previously held at Delhi and Hyderabad. 400 stakeholders of the Mumbai startup ecosystem participated in this edition. Speakers included a diverse clutch such as women entrepreneurs Malini Agarwal, the founder of Bollywood entertainment platform MissMalini. Celebrity Tara Sharma, Ameera Shah, MD and promoter of Metropolis Healthcare also participated.
Sita Pallacholla organiser of the Angel Summit mentioned the primary reason for launching the conference. It was to start a conversation around gender equality. In this conversation, men are considered as allies and not obstacles to women entrepreneurship. Pallocholla said, “Equal opportunity only begins with equal dialogue,” while describing the larger purpose of The Angel Hub.