The history of International Women's Day dates back to 1908, when some 15,000 women marched on New York City in the name of better working hours, fairer pay, and the right to vote. Three years later in 1911, the first official IWD was celebrated throughout Europe as more than a million women walked challenging stereotypes for their right and equality.
Women in India have not only stepped into the corporate world but have also begun to make a mark in entrepreneurship. Fast forward even 2020, Women Entrepreneurs comprise 11% of all entrepreneurs in India, which means there are only about 550 women-led companies out of more than 5,000 startups (NASSCOM reports). The number is small and growing slowly, the with all the policy and most importantly mindset change coming up, we will soon see a rise in the same.
March 8 marks International Women’s Day 2020, and we at StartupTalky, also wanted to celebrate the spirit of womanhood with the entrepreneurs who have come out breaking all the barriers to and lead and change the world for the good! let's learn how these women are changing the entrepreneurial landscape and how!
Here is our small interview with Chinu Kala, Founder at Rubans Accessories.
ST - Why did you choose to be an entrepreneur? If not entrepreneurship, then what?
Chinu Kala - With Rs. 300 in my pocket, I left my home when I was 15 years old. I had to pretty much fend for myself and grew up learning things the hard way.I am not sure if I even knew the spelling of Entrepreneurship at the time when I left my home, but I always wanted to be successful. The definition of success though, changed with time.
During my initial days, success for me was getting food all 3 times of the day. Inside me I wanted to be the best in whatever I do, be it being a door to door salesgirl selling knife and coaster sets or being a floor manager for an apparel store or being a part time waitress. I used to give my 100% in every odd job that came my way. Like every career person - I did go thru my share of hardships and today that experience is my biggest asset. As any first-generation entrepreneur - I learnt the lessons of management while doing the all kind of jobs and this is what has helped me scale my business to this level today. While I was working as a salesperson in the apparel store, I had developed a keen sense of consumer understanding - such that depending on the way a customer was dressed I understood what they were looking for. I suggested options based on their fashion sensibility and then gave them their own space to discuss and decide what to buy. I later realized that this consumer understanding was a subject in the MBA curriculum, known as Consumer Behavior.
At one point, I decided the time was right to venture into entrepreneurship. I began my entrepreneurial journey with Fonte Corporate Solutions – a company that specialized in corporate merchandising. Within 5 years of operations, Fonte Corporate Solutions soon became the gifting partner of choice for UB, Sab Miller, ITC, Set Max, ESPN etc. But my interest was always in the fashion. I had done some modelling assignments and this interest became stronger. Finally, in 2016 I started Fonte Fashions India Pvt Ltd in 2016, the parent company of Rubans Accessories.
ST - What Challenge did you face as a woman entrepreneur and How did you solve it?
Chinu Kala - Today, I don’t feel that there is any discrimination between the gender genders of an entrepreneur. In order to encourage women entrepreneurs I feel that the Govt. should come out with more schemes and most important that the information of these should be widely available for women to make use of it. But once in the race both Men and women everyone will have to must go thru their own share of struggles. In order to succeed you need to have a vision and the right strategy to achieve the goal.
ST - What policies your company has adopted to support women at your workplace?
Chinu Kala - Women constitute 65% of my staff; they are hardworking and shuffle between responsibilities. As an organization I have given the flexibility of work timing to my women staff so that they can simultaneously take care of their homes too.
ST - How can working women manage both, home and work?
Chinu Kala - Women are great at multitasking. However, for a woman to succeed at work and prioritize her career over everything else she needs a solid support system back at home. She should be able to fully focus on the tasks at work without having to worry about chores at home.
For me I am blessed to have my mom at home. My husband has supported me throughout my professional career. And in the office, I have a fabulous team whom I can rely upon to take care of the daily activities.
ST - Do you think there must be at least one female co-founder, why?
Chinu Kala - Ultimately it all boils down to the vision. An entrepreneur is one who has the vision to take the organization to the next level. So, anyone who can grow the business today, and keep an eye on business goal is the best fit for any organization. If that person is a woman, it gives an added advantage as the organization gets to have a female perspective.
Today, 50% of the consumers of any business are females.So, it’s a good idea to have both perspectives in any decision-making process.
ST - Why do you think still women’s contribution is too less in the Indian startup Community?
Chinu Kala - I strongly feel that times are changing ….and changing fast.
It has taken many years for women to start thinking of doing something for themselves and the society. Imagine a time when all women start working - the Indian workforce will just double up. This is one of the key reasons that other countries have been able to grow rapidly. But as I said earlier - times are changing - and we are already seeing a shift in the next generation. With more women pursuing careers, India’s growth will be compounded in the next decade as we will have more participation from women in the country’s growth story.
ST - If someone is stopping women to become an entrepreneur what advice do you have for her?
Chinu Kala - Being an entrepreneur means that you are determined, courageous and ready to face risks and challenges. The road to entrepreneurship for all first-generation businessmen or women is tough. So,if you face any obstacles, take that as the first challenge to your journey to glory. If you are strong and have made up your mind to achieve something, nothing can stop you from becoming successful in your career – entrepreneur or corporate professional. Just stay focused on your end goal – then anything in the way is a small hurdle to overcome.
I have seen a lot of people entering business but keeping a Fall Back Plan in place. I say that when you start your entrepreneurial journey doesn’t keep options open.…. If you fall do not fall back…. Fall forward so that you can see where you are falling.