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Rise of Women Entrepreneurs Gone are the days when women would restrict their activities to kitchen and other household work

By Aditya Rangroo

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In today's India, we can take a pride in saying that women have an important role to play in the nation building exercise. Gone are the days when women would restrict their activities to kitchen and other household work. With the time and change in social mindset, powerful women such as Kiran Mazumdar Shaw and Indra Nooyi have paved the way for other women to take up leadership roles in corporate boardroom and many are following their footsteps in order to lead the business at large scale.

Below are some women entrepreneurs who have not only proved their metal in leading from the front but also inspired many women across globe to tread the path and emerge as dynamic women entrepreneur.

Aashka Goradia Goble, co-founder at RENEE Cosmetics

Speaking about her startup RENEE, Aashka said the idea was to create a brand that's not about selling products, but a belief. I wanted to provide Indian women with a brand that celebrates their free spirit and beauty with products that offer colours, class and quality unparalleled. There was a dream that was brewing since very long that finally took flight.

She said agility is something that sets her apart from her competitors and knowing her revenue model. She said, "I think we are faster than most in the business when it comes to understanding beauty trends and creating products that are relatable and beneficial to them. We are constantly on our feet when it comes to trying new technologies and innovations, and are not afraid to take calculated risks."

She also shared her startups journey in terms of revenue, traction and growth from the date of her firm's inception. She said people have showered so much love and we are so thankful for it all. We have a community of 100K+ on RENEE, we have partnered with over 200 celebrity faces, and brought some of the most innovative products in the market. The greatest success continues to be the number of people who have resonated with the brand's ideology, which is all about celebrating modern women and their free spirit. We are now sitting in the face of a 100 crore target for RENEE in the coming year.

Shauravi Malik and Meghana Narayan, co-founders at Slurrp Farm

Speaking about the idea behind the startup, Shauravi said Meghana and I met when we were working in the corporate sector. We were keen to start something together, but the idea only came to us later. As a mother, she saw a huge gap in healthy packaged food in India. Meanwhile, I, living in London, was constantly asked by friends in India to bring back healthy baby food for their children when I visited. It struck us both as really strange that despite India's huge food diversity, it was so hard to find healthy ready-to-cook food for kids in our markets. We launched Slurrp Farm in October 2016, and now, our products are available at more than 600 stores across India, as well as online on our own website, Amazon, Big Basket, and FirstCry. Slurrp Farm also sells in Singapore and the UAE.

Shauravi described journey of a startup very interesting. She said, "It's been exhilarating! We don't come from traditional business families, and we have learnt a lot on the go."

More than our combined education at Delhi University, Oxford, Cambridge, and Harvard, what has really shot us up the learning curve is travelling across India and meeting people. Be it farmers who grow organic produce, companies that sell it, co-operatives and vendors who make other raw material needed to sell these products, food technologists, scientists, machinery and equipment manufacturers, nutritionists, not to mention families, new parents, and little children - the list is endless. And this journey that criss-crossed so many parts of India - villages, towns and big cities - have been what has truly shaped our vision for Slurrp Farm.

The founders said the biggest challenge as women entrepreneur was and continues to be the changing the mindset that healthy and tasty are mutually exclusive. Our goal is to change the way children eat, and that can only happen when parents are convinced that what they are giving their kids is the best in terms of taste and nutritional value.

As for startup landscape in India, they said it's really exciting to be a startup in the country right now, especially in the D2C world, because all of the infrastructure to support a vibrant, sustainable digital economy have come together in the last four or five years, from payment systems, delivery logistics, and warehousing to consumers themselves making the shift to buying online during Covid.

Bhavna Juneja, co-founder at MPowered

India is an extremely high-action space right now and I was really excited to introduce a fresh concept like MPowered to the Indian market, along with my co-founder Sudeep Singh. MPowered's expertise lies in the fact that it helps property owners and landlords convert their B and C-grade properties into A-grade income-generating assets, resulting in the highest possible ROI for them.

The journey so far at MPowered has been exceptionally rewarding and we have already launched some breakthrough concepts that are turning things around for the better in Indian real estate. Our course of action for 2021 and the immediate years to follow would be to continue expanding our service portfolio and helping more individuals and businesses make the most of their real estate assets/investments.

As a woman entrepreneur, no journey in the corporate world is easy. I have always worked with strong ethics and led by example which sometimes is not well adjusted to, especially in male-dominated set-ups/industries.

Ankita Sheth, co-founder at Vista Rooms

Being an avid traveler, I faced challenges in terms of staying in hotels, where the quality facilities had been compromised largely. After compromising with such a substandard staying option, I along with Amit Damani and Pranav Maheswari decided to launch their brand Vista Rooms. The focus was to offer quality staying options for travelers who look forward to taking back the fulfilling rich experience.

Any entrepreneurial journey is filled with thrills, excitement, challenges, we have also faced numerous hitches and glitches, but since we were determined to make it big, and have some prior experience, we emphasized building proper strategies and backed by solid execution models from the very beginning. This ultimately led to forming a successful business in the last 5 years.

The challenges were to make people understand the seriousness of a woman entrepreneur is about her venture. Many people still feel that woman entrepreneurship is nothing but a glorified position wherein the men in the system run the show. I was advised by many not to be in the forefront.

Indian startups have received a tremendous amount of supports from policymakers' regulators and governing bodies. Even common people have laid their trust in startups. In the last 5 years, there was overwhelming economic growth courtesy through startup ecosystems. Be it our grocery deliveries, education, travel & tour, transaction, real estate, agriculture every segment of startups has impacted us significantly.

In 2020, though many startups have suspended their operations, there was a record number of startup formations taken place. As per the report, August 2020 witnessed the highest number of startup registration.

Ayesha Chenoy, co-founder at RepIndia

The idea of launching RepIndia came when I founded a wine investment fund and a dating website where only women could send friend requests back in the day - I realised there was a huge dearth of truly digital advertising agencies.

The journey has been a roller coaster ride. My future plans are for RepIndia to take over the world, and for me to continue to work hard at Rep and other businesses, and write another book.

As an entrepreneur - every day is a challenge. And as a woman entrepreneur you take those challenges and multiply them a few times. There is sexism - it is rampant, I have had to do a PHD in dealing with the male ego, and frankly we are in an industry that is still very male dominated. Then there is the delicate balance between your personal and professional life, managing online school, managing to take a small amount of time for oneself. But then women have so much strength and are multi taskers, so frankly we take all this in our stride and for me- every day is women's day.

2020 was a tough year for many clients especially for brands who had delayed digital on-boarding in their organisation. Digital to its advantage has been a platform which has delivered better ROI for brands and with everyone shut inside their homes it gave an even better return. We managed some great campaigns for our clients on platforms they had not considered before including Canon, Suzuki and Beardo. While other agencies we competed with often created massive stellar campaigns, we have been the ones also focussed on the everyday content that serves as the building blocks of one's communication. A classic example is Sephora who has been with us for more than 6 years now.

Aarti Gill, co-founder at OZiva

Speaking about her journey as an entrepreneur, Aarti said it has been great but we still have a long way to go. 2021 is an exciting year for us. We are now officially the first nutrition brand in India to be "certified clean'. We received the Purity Award and Pesticide Free certification from US based CLP after being tested for 300+ contaminants. We will continue to focus on raising the benchmark for clean nutrition in India.

Talking about challenges she faced as a woman entrepreneur, Aarti said, "In our initial days, the biggest challenge was finding a scalable business model. The second one was building a team that is as much invested in the idea as you are."

In terms of impact on business due to pandemic, she said the firm witnessed some hindrances in supply chain and manufacturing due to the lockdown, post that it has surpassed the pre-COVID numbers. In fact, the firm saw a 40% increase in demand related to plant-based supplements, giving a significant push to business during this period. "We have developed new products during the pandemic as well. Some of our recent launches like Plant-based Omega Multi and HerBones, have been receiving great reviews from customers," she added.

Tanuja Gomes, co-founder at Furtados School of Music

I spent over a decade in the financial industry before starting the Furtados School of Music (FSM). I took piano lessons and the learning experience triggered the initial idea as learning instruments with kids was a fun and enthusiastic. Furtados, our family company, is an iconic brand for musical instrument retailers. It was important for us to develop a platform for people who would like to learn music and establish a career with it. With the vision and family's support to make music education as accessible and joyful as I experienced, I co-founded Furtados School of Music in 2011 with a close friend, now a Business Partner Ms. Dharini Upadhyaya.

FSM has come a long way and the journey we have made together holds significant value in my life. I am very passionate about technology, and while we have grown our music education business to more than 75,000 students in 150 colleges, I can share with confidence that we have created an outstanding customer experience, content that helps us accomplish and maintain the same optimally across all touch points.

Women are often underestimated with their ambitions to drive business growth and one of the biggest challenges we have faced during the initial days was the lack of acceptance towards women entrepreneur's ambitions to scale their business. Today, we are consciously rebranding ourselves as an active ed-tech player who believes in offering aspiring musicians the best music learning experience. We have grown digitally, keeping in mind the pandemic, and have effectively managed to sustain the same momentum of teaching music as it was before COVID.

Sundari Rangarajan, co-founder at Colive

The journey in Colive has been a learning experience considering that I have a bit conservative approach. The combination both Suresh Rangarajan and I bring to the table has enabled me to live this role. I aspire to become a social entrepreneur more than a business entrepreneur. I want to impart education among young girls and boys to be bold while facing a competitive world. I want to mentor them and help them be self-sufficient, outspoken. It is about time we support our younger generation to learn how to equip themselves in the real world.

Work-life balance, at times, poses a challenge. As a mother of two young teenagers, I always want to be present to ensure their needs are met and help them in their personal emotional growth. At the same time, I do not want to miss out to contribute quality time to the business.

The mindset people have about female leadership, especially amongst the blue-collared workforce, brought many challenges my way. The kind of awareness and discourse we are building to give due respect to such leadership is now getting a steady change. The day is not far when we will celebrate female leadership across all functions and roles.

Startups should understand that there is a need for strong business models. Currently, we see many aping western business model hence losing their relevancy in the Indian market soon. Coliving is a sustainable business model because it is relevant, and so is the telemedicine industry.

Richa Singh, co-founder at YourDOST

My journey has been incredibly fulfilling. Since YourDOST's inception almost 6 years ago, we have supported over 20 lakh lives in their most difficult time through effective counselling support. This includes community members of 200+ educational institutions, corporate organisations, and government departments. Currently, YourDOST conducts 600+ one on one counselling sessions on a daily basis.

In terms of challenges, there's age-factor which comes with a heavy societal pressure. Most founders in India begin their ventures when they are in the age group of 26-35. Unfortunately, this age is also considered the peak of a woman's personal life when she is expected to marry, have children and take care of family. The fact is that women are really are better leaders. It's demonstrated in the successes we achieve every day and even proved by research. As per an annual 2019 study published in the Harvard Business Review, women actually outscore men in most leadership skills.

The start-up ecosystem has been largely supportive for me – I have got great mentorship and substantial support due to our investors and mentors. This has resulted in high learning and personal growth for me. Networking with them has also helped in being a part of several important conferences, meet-ups and events which are necessary for the growth of any start-up.

Sonal Singh, co-founder at Fittr

My journey as a first-generation entrepreneur has been great, with its challenges and learning. As a leader, it has been my constant endeavour to create a strong company that will reflect our legacy. Our vision is to make 50 million people fit and to create 100,000 meaningful career opportunities in the fitness industry.

The initial challenge was to make people understand our business model as well as showcase the potential of the fitness and health market in India. On several occasions, we were advised to launch or endorse complementary products, or even use advertisements to monetize our community. However, it goes against our fundamental philosophy of democratising fitness and making it accessible for everyone.

In FY21, we clocked a growth of >15% month-on-month, with 0 CAC, and a healthy profit margin of +10%,an 80% cumulative revenue retention rate over a 24-month period and crossed USD 10 million in annualised booking run-rate.

Entrepreneurship is a tough, isolated, and risky journey. It is even more pronounced for women entrepreneurs who are significantly underrepresented in venture capital firms as well as start-ups.

Aditya Rangroo

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