It is Sunday. You wake up in the morning, as usual and grab the newspaper to go through the headlines and you are pleasingly surprised to know that SBI is willing to step up and invest in the already troubled Yes Bank. Well, this may sound like any other acquisition news but there's something different. What is it? Well, it is the leadership - the statement that SBI is putting at a time when the banking sector is going through one of its worst phases. Well, from being an old traditional bank which believes in playing it safe to becoming the new risktaker of the banking era - SBI has come a long way. But who shall be credited with the transition? Well, the answer is Arundhati Bhattacharya - the now retired banker who was the chairman of SBI for 4 years before retiring in 2017. What was so special about her role? The answer lies in the smooth transition that SBI underwent which was evident in the way fearlessness and risk taking ability was planted in the banking sector's DNA over the period. This is not just about Arundhati. It is about many other women out there who have time and again, put weightage on the quote that 'Every great accomplishment in the universe started off with a woman.' The importance of a woman in this ecosystem and in our lives is a no-brainer. Everyone knows and acknowledges it. However, the true achievement lies in how we've managed to witness the social growth of women from donning several roles - a wife, a mother, a daughter, an employee, an employer and an entrepreneur as well. This has been a remarkable journey - a story that needs to be told to the universe and we thought what can be better than this day, to speak about everything that we have seen over the years, and all the roles they've played in our lives either directly or indirectly. We do not intend to glorify what they've already accomplished because what they have done for this start-up ecosystem and the change in aroma that we can feel among the business fraternity - deserves a raw and royal tribute, the most original version of themselves. So today - on International Women's Day - here is a small glimpse of what the women in the business fraternity have to say about their journey in this ecosystem. Let's hear from them:
Mrs. Sunila Bahl, Master Chef and Co-Founder of Koolchas
In this society of preconceived notions about women entrepreneurs, at the age of 68, I believe that age and gender have no barrier especially when you have the required skills and passion to present your talent to the world and all you need is a chance to portray the same. I believe in turning dreams into reality and working hard towards achieving goals that lead to the start of Koolchas. I want to inspire every woman regardless of age to believe in themselves and take a step forward towards achieving their dreams. I always wanted to start something on my own in the food segment and let the world taste my recipes.
Mrs. Bahl is the mastermind behind the 2 outlets of Koolchas and is personally involved in preparing all the masalas and pickles while supervising the outlets to maintain the highest levels of hygiene standards at the restaurants.
Sadiya Khan, Founder at Akund Communications
I have always desired to do something on my own, without the boundaries of a 9-5 routine. This meant that I was looking for something that was long-term (professionally), where I could work on my convenience and be my own boss.
This naturally led me towards entrepreneurship and a startup. As an entrepreneur, you maintain a sense of responsibility and accountability towards your work. My background in communications naturally made me leverage my strengths in publicity.
If not an entrepreneur, well… I don’t think I would have ever thought of life any other way! Entrepreneurship is as focussed as raising a baby, but the best part of it is that I work on my own terms - interact with clients directly, implement new ideas and take my venture to the next level.
Divanshi Gupta, Director at The Marcom Avenue
The world is a dynamic place and people are finding solutions to new problems every day, and I am someone who loves to solve problems. If we look at any enterprise, we’d see that it is fulfilling one or the other need of the client, and I have been motivated through-out my life till today to help the people involved get what they want.
If I see it today, I never wanted to have any other option than being an entrepreneur. Even while I was pursuing my graduation, I researched about the issues in the dance industry and tried to come up with a solution, hence, DanceHelpline was born.
Another reason why I chose to be an entrepreneur every single day is that it enables me to do something for society, it allows me to create job opportunities for many people, especially women.
Shristi Banka, Co-founder and CEo at Banka CFO
I have always wanted to create an establishment by putting my skills, knowledge, and experience into building something that can have a considerable impact on society. Being an entrepreneur allows you to do just that. Once I had obtained requisite educational qualifications and gained sufficient work experience, I decided I should venture out on my own and pursue my dreams.
If not entrepreneurship, I would’ve pursued literature and been a full-time writer. Right now, I am able to write only in my spare time and my first poetry book, “Summer Solstice and other poems” has been published and released by Locksley Hall Publishing LLP on Valentine’s Day this year.
Harshita Gupta, Founder at Hail Women
It was always more than a dream for me to start something of my own, to use my creative ideas and put them to good use, everything or everywhere I worked with the mindset of learning from it so that i can use all those experience for myself. if not entrepreneurship then i have no idea , then i believe i still be looking for opportunity to start it and still be learning from my job experiences.
Kriti Jindal, Owner and Designer at Kari by Kriti
I have always loved working with textiles and luckily for me that I was able to pursue my interest in textiles through a formal education in textile and apparel management. In 2012, while nursing a broken ankle, I started my blog, Handmade Talks. I shared stories about my love for textiles and interviewed passionate, creative entrepreneurs. Inspired by these stories of men and women turning their passion into a creative outlet, I created my blueprint for Kari by Kriti. In 2014, I was finally able to build this business from scratch with an online store on Etsy. Etsy gave me a global platform and the wings that I needed to take off!
If it wasn’t for Kari by Kriti, I would have still been working with textiles, probably as a home textiles merchandiser/buyer for an overseas home decor brand.
Harjinder Kaur Talwar, National President at FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO) and CEO at Comvision India Pvt Ltd
When I was a child, my dad always felt that I have all the raw materials for being a business woman and a successful one. Probably that was set deep in my mind and I always dreamt of becoming one. As I grew up I decided at the age of 23, that I need to do business. Even though my dad was very established in his business and he offered me the money to start my business. However, I refused because I wanted to do everything on my own. Dad agreed to my request and I applied for a bank loan. Being a woman entrepreneur, my first challenge was I never got a bank loan on my name, so I had to make my Dad partner in my company to be able to receive the loan. A meagre 3 lakh rupee loan it was.
I have always believed that economic empowerment of a woman is a true empowerment and that can lead to empowering many other aspects she is looking at. Again this is deep set in my mind so much so that I never had to spread my hands for taking anything rather one should be a giver then only you will be empowered and people will listen to you. So I got into business and as you know business is slow process, it’s not a miracle that things will start happening from day one and you will soon be a successful business woman. You have your failures, your successes as well. Each failure teaches you something , each failure makes you stronger and this is what has made me the only woman in India who is offering intelligent traffic and transport solutions to Government of India and I also became the first woman in India who gave multiple citizen services of government under one umbrella first time in India in Hyderabad in the year 2000 and this project was seen by none other than former US President Bill Clinton.
It is no way that I would not have been an entrepreneur. As told earlier, my father who was a successful businessman, always told me that I have all the ingredients of becoming a successful entrepreneur. I had to be an entrepreneur, there was no second option I kept in my mind.
Himani Khanna, Co-Founder & Director at Continua Kids
It was a very conscious decision and proud to be calling myself as docpreneur as the stage had arrived where I was feeling that plateau has been achieved in terms of providing care to the society. One becomes a doctor because of the nobility associated with the profession but personally speaking, I have started feeling an entrepreneur can do much more if one is willing in terms of providing help to the society. I shall give you an example. When I was a doctor I was trying to help patients who are entering my chamber but as a docpreneuer I am being able to help not only the patients who are coming to me but we are running an institution where we are trying to fulfill aspirations of so many people in the society which not only includes therapists, front office people, housekeeping staff or security for that matter. My philosophy is If you want to help other people, be a manager. If done well management is among the noble of professions. You are in a position where you have 8-10 hours every day from every person who works for you. You have the opportunity to frame each person’s work so that your employees go home feeling good.
If not entrepreneurship, I would have continued to serve the society as any other doctor to handful of patients who are coming to me. A most fulfilling part of my job currently is that I am in a position where I can serve the weaker sections of the society who simply cannot afford to pay by generating funds through CSR activity.
Ms. Avni Kaul, Nutritionist, Wellness Coach & Certified Diabetes Educator, Founder at NutriActivania
I would say if as a woman you have a dream and a vision to fulfill them then there is no reason why something should stop you. One needs to understand that every good thing in life has to face stiff resistance first. It is this phase that actually decides how long one can go. If you are strong and determined enough nothing will bother you and your concentrated effort to establish yourself will win eventually. Life is full of ups and downs so it is important not to get distracted by it. If you aim to get something just go for it come what may. A woman should not forget that she herself has a lot of potentials and is not someone who needs to be dependent on anyone. One must not forget we live in a country where a woman once became the Prime Minister so nothing can be a greater example than this. Women must trust their own abilities rather than focus on what others are saying or doing. As a woman, you should know you are not weak and can achieve anything on her own these are the qualities that one needs to succeed.
Ms. Moqierish Tak, Co-Founder, India Assist Insights
I am one of those 1% that didn’t choose entrepreneurship, but entrepreneurship chose me. I was bestowed with an idea and a journey that gave me the opportunity to impact people’s lives. India Assist is a product that has the potential to make a huge impact, this alone was reason enough for me to leave my previous career and embark on the journey of entrepreneurship.
Now that I have begun this journey, I do not see myself being anything else but an entrepreneur. Regardless of how difficult the journey is, I would choose entrepreneurship over a corporate career every time.
Neha Bagaria, Founder & CEO at JobsForHer
I took a 3.6-year break in my own career when I had my children. During this personal journey, I became aware of the various difficulties a woman faces in order to re-enter the workforce. This also opened my eyes to the accomplished and qualified women around me who stopped working for personal reasons such as marriage, motherhood or elderly care, and then never returned to the workforce. I started delving into the reasons behind this female brain drain and it became clear that there are many re-entry challenges that need to be addressed in India. These range from requiring flexibility, regaining confidence, retraining, overcoming biases and changing mindsets. It made me determined to enable other women to restart their careers and connect them with whatever they require to do so. And so I founded JobsForHer on International Women's Day, March 2015.
Our Vision is to reverse the female brain drain from within the Indian workforce. We do so by connecting women who want to restart post motherhood/marriage to companies looking for such experienced female talent available at no notice period.
Mrs. Nishtha Gupta, Co-founder at Rein Games
I like building things (big & small), I care a lot about people and I love problem-solving, so being an entrepreneur was my dream. In fact, in my previous companies, I was mostly operating as an intrapreneur. I like taking ownership and fixing things end-to-end, so even when I was not working for my own startup I was operating like one.
I and Vaibhav, both always wanted to build a great product and debated different ideas and it is with gaming we took our first bet. If we wouldn't have taken this bet, I might still be working for a gaming company. There a few gaming companies in India which have a global culture, value employees and have high standards for product & technology quality. I would have looked for such companies.
Neelam Gupta, Founder President & CEO at AROH Foundation
I chose to be an entrepreneur because I wanted to make a difference to other people’s lives. I wanted to change the world! I had a vision of an equal society where all people live in dignity and security and there are equal opportunities for all. As a young girl, had seen people and young children suffering poverty and it was my dream to help them live a better life. There was no other way to fulfill my dream, other than being on my own and being an entrepreneur. There was no other way of finding solutions to the problems such problems which brought poverty and misery to people, but entrepreneurship. Furthermore, I had always felt that a routine nine to five job does not suit my temperament and I always wanted to be my own boss working in my own style. To me entrepreneurship was the only option for me.
I never had a Plan B. It had to be entrepreneurship or nothing. I think I was not made for a job. I had several offers and opportunities to take up decent jobs after finishing my studies. But I declined all and started my journey towards being an entrepreneur and finally ended up in the field, in social sector, which has my heart and soul in it.
Kamakshi Sood, Co-Founder at Petveda
My journey of Entrepreneurship began with Dhruv, when we realized that there is a dire need for some care essentials for the pets. So, I come from a corporate background. Having worked for KLM, as an HR for 4 years & at Mizuho Corporate Bank for 9 years, the thought of Petveda grabbed my attention because of its USP, as organic goodness for pets. I got involved with building the brand and with its positioning, as a part of which I participated in the first Global Pet Expo in Orlando in 2016. Since I was working as well, at the time of Petveda’s conceptualization I had to manage a lot many things. I initially started taking care of Petveda’s social media, which extended to brand promotion and its marketing strategies.
Had I not been on the entrepreneurial journey, I definitely would be working as a banker.
Ruchi Jhawar, Co-Founder at Cogitus and Anju Modi, Co-Founder at Cogitus
We both have been passionate about education and trying out new ways of developing Higher order thinking in kids. As we kept thinking about giving kids in India the gift of thinking in a structured format, we kept evolving and then we joined hands with the world's best! It was not a choice but a natural way for us.
Also being an entrepreneur gelled well with our personal lives and gave us time for our own schedule and families. We saw launching Cogitus as an important Solution to fill in the lacuna in the Indian system of education.
Freny Jariwala, Founder at The Secret Ingredient
Being an entrepreneur has always been in my veins. Before starting my own brand - The Secret Ingredient, I have always been helping my dad in his business. My family always inspired me to be independent and take care of my own expenses and that drove me to put my ideas into action, and a few years on, here I am, Women Entrepreneur.
I learned very early that you have to make your own future. So, even if not entrepreneurship, I would still be thinking about what I can do or how I should find a way to be self-reliant to create and be part of something that is bigger than myself.
Kanika Trekriwal, Founder & CEO at JetSetGo Aviation
When you belong to a typical Marwari family, you know that entrepreneurship is in your blood. I always knew, from a very young age, that I would be running a business of my own at some point in my life. Though my parents were all prepared to pack me off into a ‘nice Marwari family,’ which would have put my chances of doing business near zero, they have been incredibly supportive since JetSetGo was founded. The idea for JetSetGo came up because I sensed a need for an aggregator in the private jet space. I would meet a number of people using private jets who complained that booking one in India was a very shoddy experience and they felt cheated that the entire private jet experience is a far cry from travelling business or first. At the same time, private jet owners were selling planes due to the escalating costs, regular maintenance, and other hindrances as well as not getting the real pleasure of actually owning an aircraft.
Kavea R Chavali, Anchor & Co founder at KALANECA- House of Handloom
The single most empowering thing one can do for yourself is to create that change for others. It would have always been entrepreneurship because I have been working independently already as an Anchor for the last 9 years so it was easy to adapt to all the roles of understanding management and most importantly connecting with people. It would have always been entrepreneurship because I love to create- be it new designs for our weaves, new opportunities for our weavers or new ideas for the team.
Malika Sadani, Founder & CEO at The Moms Co
Before becoming an entrepreneur, I was a banker with degrees in engineering and management. However, when my daughter had her first skin reaction, I realised it was so hard to find great quality natural products that were safe and effective. I would often ask friends and family members to bring natural products when they were coming to India from abroad. After speaking with over 200 moms, I realised that we were facing the same struggle of finding safe, natural and effective products for our babies. That was when the idea to create a brand that can truly be a partner to moms’ journey into motherhood came alive in the form of The Moms Co., with a mission to help moms make natural, safe & effective solutions for themselves and their families.
Regila Marinus, Cofounder at Vidhya Vidhai Foundation
Being part of the Social Entrepreneurship Cell in Azim Premji University set the start to my entrepreneurship journey. I was inspired by many organizations and its intend to bring change in their own way. Opportunities to lead change from my school days gave me a strong urge to be part of change in the society. Entrepreneurship cell gave me a platform to develop my skills and knowledge on entrepreneurship.
If not entrepreneurship I would have been part of initiatives in educational organizations.
Nupur Khandelwal, Co-founder at Navia Life Care
Having spent close to 4 years in the corporate world, I was never quite content with the limited stretch of possibilities an employment has to offer. I felt like a total misfit as I was bound to operate within a small range of issues that were far away from substantive real world problems.
This deep sense of disconnect made me quit what I was doing, determined to be ‘directly' involved in something I was truly passionate about.
So when Kunal, my co-founder pitched the problem Navia is trying to solve and his idea to bridge real information gap between doctors and patients, I knew I felt strongly for it. With govt healthcare spending as low as 1% of GDP, poor doctor to patient ratio and lack of proper infrastructure, India’s healthcare sector requires significant structural and technological changes to be able to meet the needs of growing population. We at Navia are committed to bring about these changes with our digital tools, assisting doctors in recording EMR and eventually building predictive analytic tools around it to streamline healthcare ecosystem.
Given my inclination towards companies that are solving real world problems, if I was unable to fulfil my dream of being an entrepreneur, I would probably hope to be on the VC/PE side, helping manage investments in purpose driven start-ups.
Mansi Gupta, Founder Tjori
The passion for the authentic Indian arts and crafts has motivated me to pursue this dream with great persistence, which was further supported by the demands in the global market for exclusive and authentic Indian handicrafts. The idea of being an entrepreneur gives me the confidence to take care of my life on my own terms and give equal time to my venture and my 7-month child. This life of an entrepreneur gives me a sense of purpose which helps me live my life in content.
Kavya Dommeti, CEO, iB Hubs
I’ve always been keen on optimising and solving things. I feel Entrepreneurship is all about that. More than a choice, I’d like to think of it as a mindset. I found my passion early on and soon, I found a bunch of other passionate people like me at iB Hubs.
Our founding team has a pack of entrepreneurs passionate about making India a global leader in 4.0 technologies and transforming the country into an innovation powerhouse.
For this vision to become a reality, becoming an entrepreneur was a natural choice.
Kusum Bhandari, Director at Bhookh Haathi
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.
Himani Ahuja, Communications Director & Founder at One Digital
The world around us is experiencing an advanced wave of new technologies in every bat of the eyelid. Choosing entrepreneurship does not come easy and it’s ultimately one of the biggest challenges you can work upon in your lifetime. The panoramic field of architecture has numerous divergent maneuvers beyond designing liveable spaces and the implementation of structures.Hence, it becomes an imperative step to establish ‘architectural communications and journalism’ as a mainstream option for architecture students of design. When you can amalgamate both Architecture & Journalism, then why not? It’s about getting the best of both worlds! Entrepreneurship comes with its own pros and cons, and my journey with One Digital has been driven on passion and conviction to succeed against all odds. I am exactly where I want to be and stand devoted to my ambitions.
Divya Gupta, Founder - Dialogue Room
I realised there is a very strong glass ceiling in the legal industry in India. Women are not treated at par with men. They are not paid as much, not respected as much and are not taken seriously. I wanted to change this. Rather than changing it from the inside, which might not have been possible as a junior, I want to do so from the outside. Therefore, my platform 'Dialogue Room' really focuses on women in business.
If not entrepreneurship, then definitely a writer. I have traveled a lot, changed multiple schools and have met a lot of people. All of this accounts for great stories that I'd like to share them with the world.
Aarti Gill, Co-founder - OZiva
The seed thought behind being an entrepreneur was sown during the IIT days. My mother is a healthcare professional. While growing up, I saw a lot of problems faced by people could have been easily avoided, only if they just had a better lifestyle. This was the seed thought behind starting OZiva, ‘making living healthy convenient.’ We started with the goal of enabling 100 million+ people to a better and healthier life.
Ayushi Gudwani, Founder - Fabletreet
During my stint at McKinsey & Co. as a Senior Engagement Manager, I consulted and worked with numerous companies. It was a very exciting journey and eventually got me thinking about setting up something of my own. Having an MBA also opened up horizons across categories and industries - I was very keen to experience and learn about business-building and multiple industries, and did not want to restrict myself to just the technical area. So, running my own company seemed like a natural progression.
I always sought continuous learning and growth in my career, corporate or otherwise. So, had I not been an entrepreneur, I would definitely be doing something else that involved these factors.
Swati Chugh, Director at 7th Heaven
Entrepreneurship lets you be creative, your own boss, earn as much as you want to, motivates you to work tirelessly and helps you grow internally as a person. Entrepreneurship gives you the freedom to be creative & artistic; contrary to the popular opinion that business means boring and dry work.I call it an artistic process because it brings out your individuality as your personal planning, decisions, strategies, creativity and philosophies will lead to the final outcome (your company) which is like an artwork which finally reveals itself after the artist finishes her processes. It has been 5 years since I became an entrepreneur and there is no looking back, from one store of 7th Heaven we have expanded to 150+ outlets becoming the largest bakery chain in India in terms of number of cities and states covered and I honestly do not see myself doing anything else. In fact, this month I am launching our second brand – Miraflor which is a gifting and home décor brand. However, apart from entrepreneurship I have deep interest in psychology; I used to be a professor of psychology and this something I would still love to do at the side though I apply my psychology and philosophies in my personal and professional life deeply.
Swapnil Mahajan, Founder of MyStarHub
The most fascinating thing about being an entrepreneur for me is to bring ideas to life. I have had an extensive run with the corporates – Managing people to looking after regional sales, P&L evaluations and taking up marketing and finance challenges within or outside of my jobs to comprehend how a business operates so this has really been instrumental in driving me to passionately pursue Entrepreneurship.
The Plan B is to make sure Plan A works so nothing but an entrepreneur.
Diksha Chhabra, founder - Diksha Chhabra FItness Counsultations
The decision to become an entrepreneur was not something planned. My transformation from overweight and unfit mother to a Fitness Model and influencer made me realize that the right information and treatment is needed to be spread amongst the masses. People struggle for years to get back in shape which is doable and achievable if done in the right manner in short span of time. I have worked in corporate sectors before my startup in the HR and Admin sector but when I founded my company I was a stay at home Mom.
Poonam Prahlad - Founder & CEO at CafePopShop
Entrepreneurs are never appeased with the knowledge they have and are always on the lookout for more. Entrepreneurs are optimistic in true sense as they seek opportunities even in a place where others might find problems. For me this is the best part of entrepreneurship. I chose to be an entrepreneur because of my love for undertaking challenges, pushing boundaries beyond imagination and exploring things on my own terms. As an entrepreneur, I am responsible for the decisions I take, good or bad and this gives me immense satisfaction. If not an entrepreneur, I would probably be trying my hands in the fashion space as a designer with a renowned brand.
Vani Kabir - Writer | Brand Strategist | Divorce Monk
I was always an entrepreneur but my divorce forced me to shut my companies and return to consulting. But now after consulting for 4 years, I am rekindling that desire through Vani Kabir Worldwide Pvt Ltd, which actively works to help people battling their marriage or seeking a divorce or wish to rebuild from there. I was married at 19 and divorced at 28, with a 5 year-old son Kabir. I have come a long way from my divorce and I seek to chaperone people who are going through a bad phase of either taking a divorce or have already taken it. Having helped thousands of people in the last few years, I decided to take it upon me to create programs where people can find healing and growth and find their own tribe too. A community that respects the fact that an individual doesn’t need to be tagged to be respected. I create firebirds out of the battered ones!