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 Kusum Bhandari, Director at Bhookh Haathi.
ST - Why did you choose to be an entrepreneur? If not entrepreneurship, then what?
Kusum Bhandari - After working for 18 years for others, being an entrepreneur finally gave me the freedom to work on my own terms. Though, it is more challenging than working for others; when you start the journey of your entrepreneurship, you have to manage several tasks and roles at once rather than performing just one assigned task or role. You have to be more hands-on with everything and it makes you learn things that you wouldn’t have learned in any job. The adrenaline rush of being on your own is much greater than any high in the world. It helps you grow as a person and as a professional as you learn to overcome many challenges and hurdles on the way, which is very rewarding.
If not entrepreneur, then I think I would still be a small-time business owner, having a small café or home-stay in the hills of my homeland Uttarakhand while at the same time following my passion for painting and other crafts.
ST - What Challenge did you face as a woman entrepreneur and How did you solve it?
Kusum Bhandari - Fortunately, there were no major hurdles for me as I found full support and encouragement from my family and peers when I decided to be an entrepreneur. I was lucky enough to find the right business partner at the right time in my journey of entrepreneurship.
ST - What policies your company has adopted to support women at your workplace?
Kusum Bhandari - We have adopted all the policies as per government rules and regulations. We have equal pay parity. We also have flexibility in terms of timing and working from home when a woman decides to get back to work after the said maternity period is over so that there isn't any added pressure on her. She can get back to normal working hours slowly over a period of time keeping all her baby’s needs in mind. We have very strict no harassment policies and any type of harassment is not tolerated at all. I am directly approachable in case any of the women have any issues that need to be resolved at any hour of the day.
ST - How can working women manage both, home and work?
Kusum Bhandari - Women have multi-tasking abilities by nature so it comes naturally to them. They are problem-solvers and get things done rather than waiting for things to happen. They give priority to others’ needs first rather than their own. They like to take care of the people around them and are more compassionate towards them. Even when they have domestic help around, they like to give their own touch to things. They hold the entire family together even when faced with adversity. At work, they are more disciplined, well organized and manage tasks and people with ease.
At this day and age where more and more women are joining the corporate workforce, they are still expected to manage both work and home with perfection. Sometimes, one or the other aspect suffers because of given timelines and circumstances. I feel the true balance could only be achieved when their responsibilities are also shared by their partner and the family equally.
ST - Do you think there must be at least one female co-founder, why?
Kusum Bhandari - Having at least one female co-founder not only provides a balanced perspective but also brings gender diversity to any organization. Women are emotionally stronger and more adept at handling tricky situations with calm and ease. A woman’s intuitive abilities are a great compliment to the risk-taking capabilities of their male counterparts. Women are good listeners which combined with their problem-solving skills, can help in resolving day-to-day issues and conflicts arising in the organization. Their soft skills help bring discipline and much cohesive work environment that is required for any organization to succeed. Women create deeper bonds with their peers and the team which is very crucial for smoother operations in any organization.
ST - As a women entrepreneur, What kind of support have you got from the government? What would you like to suggest?
Kusum Bhandari - We are registered under MSME and DIPP. Till now we have not sought any support from the government. Our vision to reduce tobacco consumption in India at least by 50% by 2050 aligns with government’s mission of “Swastha Bharat”, we would like government to provide more encouragement to entrepreneurs who are working towards a larger social cause in form of tax exemptions and other financial schemes so that both entrepreneurs, as well as consumers, can benefit from it. This step will encourage more and more entrepreneurs to come up with more such solutions enabling them to work towards a common mission and target other such widespread vices in the society that affect the health and well-being of people.
ST - Why do you think still women’s contribution is too less in the Indian startup Community?
Kusum Bhandari - For women to choose the path of becoming an entrepreneur takes a lot of courage and deliberation. We step into it thinking of all the personal, financial and familial responsibilities in mind; it is not that men do not think about all these things, but the expectations out of a woman are much greater than that from a man. We as women are expected to perform every role in our life with perfection at work and home. Most often than not, our decision to become an entrepreneur is questioned and criticized. Therefore, more often than not, women chose not to pursue their dream of being an entrepreneur. For more women to choose the journey of entrepreneurship, we need much more support, encouragement and the right advice from people around us.
ST - If someone is stopping women to become an entrepreneur what advice do you have for her?
Kusum Bhandari - My only advice would be not to listen to any voice that is deterring you to go ahead in your path. The only voice you need to listen to is your inner voice, your intuition cos that’s the biggest strength you have that will guide you to the right path and keep at it in your entrepreneurship journey.