The Crusader Be.artsy covered 12,000 young women between August 2020 and January 2021 under the Be Your Own Lakshmi banner, in 45 educational institutions and 220 sessions open to individuals

By Punita Sabharwal

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Shikha Mittal, Founder, Be.artsy & Be Your Own Shakti

Shikha comes from a "typical' middle-class family in Delhi. She started working during school vacations as a paid volunteer at age 16, to earn money for her college education and personal expenses. After graduation and a Mass Communication course at Bhartiya Vidya Bhawan, she joined B2B sales. Her first break was a sales job at Red Bull, where she led a team of 18 young women, and set up the Gurugram branch. For the next seven years, she had a fast rise in the business development function. However, she faced sexual harassment at eight organisations. Without any recourse or redressal, her only option was to quit and move on.

This experience led her to finally quit corporate work and start Be.artsy, a social enterprise dedicated to raising awareness and upskilling young people to know their rights to personal safety and financial security. So far, Be.artsy has conducted customised programs for 265 large organisations including MNCs, educational institutions, Defence Forces and Police. Be.arsty has covered over 4,00,000 people in 62 cities and nine languages.

Thinking big, she first got support from United Nations departments like UNV and UNIC, and the Delhi Government. Her first big breakthrough was PepsiCo India in 2012. She designed and executed "Mind Bugs', an awareness program on preventing sexual harassment. It reached 9,000 employees and won PepsiCo's coveted Harvey C Russell Award. Corporates were used to NGO-style bare minimum costs. Shikha had to resist being typecast as an NGO, and had to be seen as a business partner. Her disruptive move to charge for the business value delivered resulted in turnover doubling every year for five consecutive years.

By 2020, Be.artsy had established a good reputation as an awareness partner in the corporate space. It has been NSE's leading education partner for finlit since 2016. 15 large corporates have used Be.artsy's proprietary 'IT'S NOT OK' program for mandatory prevention of sexual harassment awareness training for blue collar and office staff.

The pandemic also forced Be.artsy to relook at its business model, which had been focussed on corporates to maintain a strong bottom-line. The lockdowns made individuals pause and look at their life skills. Be.artsy found a way to reach out to these individuals as well. The hiatus in corporate programs freed Be.artsy's resources to test the D2C space, starting with Be Your Own Lakshmi, the finlit course for women. To the mutual delight of participants and the awareness experts, the program proved it could provide real value that people were willing to pay for.

With NSE support, Be.artsy covered 12,000 young women between August 2020 and January 2021 under the Be Your Own Lakshmi banner, in 45 educational institutions and 220 sessions open to individuals. The program was an unqualified hit, and SEBI showcased it as India's top finlit success to the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) during World Investor Week in November 2020.

Punita Sabharwal

Entrepreneur Staff

Deputy Editor, Entrepreneur India Magazine

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