They are everywhere. You see them daily. Some live in your house, some are your neighbours, some may be your idols, some love you, and there are some who might be competing against you to get to the top spot . Today’s women are not just the typical 80’s mothers and sisters, they don’t cry anymore, they don’t depend on anyone’s money or favours, rather they work hard, they think different, and they head out to be the best in their field.
In our society, the women who break down barriers are those who ignore limits. – Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The women we introduce to you today are the ones who went against all odds to achieve what they wanted to. Did what they loved to. And, today are amongst the best in the world, giving their male counterparts a run for their money.
We spoke to some of the leading women entrepreneurs on this Women’s Day. Sharing their experience, their ideas and their experiments, they told us some candid points to think upon.
About Women entrepreneurs we spoke to
Rashi Sanon Narang is the founder of Heads Up For Tails a pet boutique for luxury pet accessories.
Radhika Aggarwal is the CMO & Co-Founder of online marketplace, Shopclues.com.
Ankita Gaba is the Co-Founder of Social Samosa.
Prukalpa Sankar is the cofounder of Social Cops.
As a women entrepreneur do you face any challenges?
Kriti Vichare: Luckily not too many challenges, however some surprises that come to mind:
1. I look very young because I’m a petite woman so I have to work doubly hard to convince people. I have nearly 15 years of work experience.
2. I had a vendor in the Philippines who I never spoke to on the phone, only through email. He insisted on calling me “Sir” even though I corrected him. It was almost as if he was trained to work with men.
3. Many auntie’s have asked when I would “settle down” instead of living this nomadic lifestyle!
Rashi Narang: I felt that as a very young entrepreneur, when I started out – people don’t take you seriously enough. Of course that’s changed now that I have been in this line of work for the last six years. I have also grown myself and have learnt so much along the way!
Radhika Aggarwal: Running a successful business is not a gender-play at all – it’s just about seizing the right opportunities. The fact is that more and more women are rising to the challenge of managing large businesses in the IT space and elsewhere, and that is a heartening trend.
Ankita: As a women Entrepreneur, I feel empowered and respected towards my business. Since the digital industry is evolved, I do not face any problems that become an obstacle in my growth. On the contrary, I feel that men are open to listening more to a woman.
Prukalpa: Sometimes, it takes double the amount of work to be taken seriously from some men. Sometimes, I have “clients” sending me uncomfortable whatsapp messages after a meeting. Instinctively, its a little hard to respond to. As a woman, you are also somehow programmed slightly differently than men – which Sheryl Sandberg gets completely right in Lean In (http://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2013/03/04/10-things-sheryl-sandberg-gets-exactly-right-in-lean-in/). The hardest thing for me since I moved to India is that it is incredibly lonely to be a “woman” entrepreneur. There aren’t many girls around and sometimes, there’s no one to have as a sounding board.
Do you feel that being a woman has a biased effect on your business, positive or negative?
Kriti Vichare: Positive bias as women have a 6th sense!
Rashi Narang: Not really 🙂
Radhika Aggarwal: I believe when women turn to entrepreneurship, they bring is some exceptional skills like creative thinking and people management skills, and are good at multi-tasking. Therefore, having a strong woman workforce is beneficial for any organization.
Ankita: Like I mentioned, the digital industry is an evolved one and hence I do not face any negative bias towards my business. However, I find that there could be a positive bias since I get more respect while on meetings or building my network in this space.
Prukalpa: Overall, I’d say its positive!
As a women founder/CEO do you find it difficult to handle the male team members?
Kriti Vichare: I have some male contractors, but it hasn’t been an issue.
Rashi Narang: So far, so good! I have a good team.
Radhika Aggarwal: Not at all. We’re a team of professionals and I share a warm relationship with my male co-workers, built on trust and mutual respect.
Ankita: No, I find my team members cooperating very well with me. Infact, my male co-founder pushes my name towards media interactions more than himself. We are in perfect work balance with each other and so is the entire team.
Prukalpa: Not particularly. Hire Well!
What’s the biggest challenge for women starting a new business in India? How do you think state of Women entrepreneurship will grow and how can it be promoted in India?
Kriti Vichare: I’m sure, as I mentioned above, the stigma of “when will you get settled down” is looming over many women in India. (I’m not based in India, so I have probably only experienced a fraction of it). Education about entrepreneurship should happen for school girls and their parents, so the mental shift will start at a young age.
Rashi Narang: According to me, the biggest challenge is to balance work and family life. If you work from home, it is tough to focus with so many distractions and commitments to the family. If you are in a full time committed position, it’s hard to be able to spend time with young children and family, and I feel that spoken or unspoken- families in India do not appreciate a women to be so focused on work.
Radhika Aggarwal: Probably the only challenge is maintaining that fine balance between your home and work commitments, since any new venture requires a lot of time and toil. The women empowerment cell is a major part of the national plan and sincere efforts are being made to empower women through entrepreneurship development initiatives.
Ankita: Women might face competitive issues in other industry which is male dominant and thus hampers her growth. The state of women entrepreneurship will grow owing to the various government schemes in favour of women including assistance in loans, subsidies and protective laws.
It can be promoted in India by organizing seminars or workshops for encouraging women to start their own business considering that they are ignorant all the help that government offers them.
Prukalpa: I don’t think there are any additional challenges for a woman vs. a man. I think the ecosystem is incredibly nascent though. As a woman entrepreneur, I honestly don’t have anyone to talk to at all. (Or maybe like one other girl entrepreneur to talk to!). It would be great to see some groups like Athena Network (http://www.theathenanetwork.com.sg/) or Lean In circles crop up to do what Startup Saturdays and Rodinhoods have done for the India Startup Ecosystem.
What measures should be taken to grow the share of women’s in the whole startup ecosystem?
Kriti Vichare: In the US there are incentives for women and minority owned businesses. Something like that would encourage it, but the big thing is the mental shift.
Rashi Narang: I know that there are lots of support groups around, but it’s hard to find them. Also, For women to be able to focus at work, families need to be encouraging and help to manage homes.
Radhika Aggarwal: Women in our country are strong-willed and willing to take risks – they only need to be exposed to the right kind of opportunities. Advocacy and experience-sharing by other women who’ve already proven themselves in the startup ecosystem, will encourage several others to take a road less travelled.
Ankita: At a basic level, families should start encouraging their female members to showcase their talent through a startup and not pressurize them otherwise. At a professional level, awareness camps should be initiated and women should participate to understand facilities that are being provided to them to begin their own venture.
Prukalpa: Definitely need more initiatives like Sheroes (www.sheroes.in). Would love to honestly start a lean-in circle for women entrepreneurs in India! Anyone reading this and interested, reach out to me?
Being a young entrepreneur, how hard was it to convince your loved-ones/family about your inclination towards entrepreneurship and starting your own venture?
Kriti Vichare: It was a little hard because I had to convince my parents that it made sense to leave a “cushy job”. I was insistent though and said “it’s now or never!”.
Rashi Narang: My family has always encouraged me to do something of my own. However, the idea I came up with was so niche, that it required a little bit of convincing especially to those members of the family who didn’t understand my passion.
Radhika Aggarwal: I’m fortunate to have a family and friends who’ve been very supportive of my entrepreneurial inclination. I’m an entrepreneur at heart. In the course of my career I’ve worked with world-class brands like Goldman Sachs, Nordstrom and Lintas. But all along, I enjoyed taking ownership of my work and approached it with an entrepreneurial spirit. So, running my own start-up business was the next logical step.
Ankita: My family was extremely supportive of my entrepreneurial nature so I did not have to convince them at all. I was also lecturing in colleges and had my consultancy clients so I did not face any major issues from my family.
Prukalpa: Pretty simple! Be practical about it. Give yourself a timeline. Prove growth and that this is going somewhere!
How hard it is to balance work life with family life? Does one’s family have a different expectation from the working female member then to male member?
Kriti Vichare: Luckily I work on many entrepreneurial projects with my husband so it is on similar standing.
Rashi Narang: I find it challenging to balance work and family life. A start up requires complete focus, a hundred percent dedication, and long working hours. And a family definitely has different expectations from a working female member. I must add that my family is extremely supportive of my work, but it is hard for family and friends to understand just how much of a time commitment a startup is!
Radhika Aggarwal: No doubt, it’s a challenge. But that’s more so because we women tend to set very high goals for ourselves. If we can prioritize our responsibilities and then move ahead one step at a time, nothing is impossible.
Ankita: Since I live with my parents and am not married, I cannot comment on how it is to balance work life with family life. Since my parents are already supportive, most of my time is spent working. Occasional family time is not difficult to find either. For married women, different expectations might be a case but there is nothing like this within my family at the moment.
Who is your inspirational women entrepreneur? And why?
Kriti Vichare: I love Marie Forleo – her energy, sense of humor, vision. She has reinvented herself numerous times.
Rashi Narang: Oprah Winfrey, because of how inspiring she is, and how much she can change and influence opinions. I want to be able to bring about a complete change in the mindset of our people towards strays, about responsible pet parenting and so much more!
Ankita: Shraddha Sharma, Founder, Yourstory.in would be one inspirational women entrepreneur. She has scaled up the website brilliantly and has been a motivating factor in my life.
Prukalpa: Sheryl Sandberg. (Even though she’s not technically an entrepreneur). I loved Lean In – and I think Sheryl is awesome for being a “feminist” and for her effort in growing the community.
What’s your one piece of advice to all the women entrepreneurs?
Kriti Vichare: If you get the entrepreneurial itch, don’t ignore it! You’ll never know what adventure awaits you.
Rashi Narang: It’s tough, and there are a zillion challenges, but chase that dream! Take one day at a time, and you will be surprised at just how many obstacles you get through.
Radhika Aggarwal: Stay focused and sort out priorities and that’s the solution to everything.
Ankita: Be open to failure, most women suffer from low self-esteem and failures just fuel that. Ability to learn from failures and setbacks and keep on preserving is the key to achieving success in my opinion.
Prukalpa: Pay it back. Try and grow the community and create space for more awesome kickass girl entrepreneurs out there!
We will be fetching more responses during the entire day, so, if you are amongst this young brigade of WomEntrepreneurs, do share your story and stay tuned for more amazing stories.