Levi’s recent brand campaign, ‘When you take a step, we all move’ –celebrating the spirit of women and their collective journey of inspiring and championing each other — could have been inspired by Indian women entrepreneurs.
Things have never looked better for women entrepreneurs here with an increasing number of women led-businesses contributing to the startup ecosystem in the country. However, while entrepreneurship doesn’t differentiate between men and women, there is no denying the fact that the challenges and disparities faced by women who have embraced entrepreneurship are vast and very different from those experienced by their male counterparts.
This International Women’s Day, we have some successful women startup founders sharing insights and learning from their journeys to inspire all aspiring women out there who wish to fearlessly chase their entrepreneurial dreams.
“As ambitious women, don’t aim to do everything men do, bring your feminine energy and perspective to the table”
Roma Priya, founder of Burgeon Law, a one stop, new age legal firm that supports growth, change and innovation in the country’s evolving startup ecosystem, says the world is not how it used to be, but is still not ideal.
Society, as we know it, is slowly but certainly opening up to the possibility of women in leadership positions, she says. However, this revolution has caveats galore- it teaches women to dream, but not dream too much. To be successful- but not too successful, she adds.
“If my 11-year professional journey has taught me anything, it is that our aim as ambitious women must not be to do everything men do. Our aim must be to bring our feminine energy and perspective to the table because that is what the world is lacking. I am fully aware of my responsibilities as a leader, and my potential to impact the career trajectories of all those working in my team, the majority being women lawyers. Empowered women empower each other. I believe that the feminine perspective that we bring, along with some brilliant and supportive men, has helped several entrepreneurs and businesses survive the economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Priya.
The brains behind the company, Priya, a startup enthusiast, advises and mentors early-stage and high-growth startups, incubators, accelerators, angel investors, family offices, and venture capital/private equity funds.
Launched in 2015, Burgeon Law has been positioned as the leading law firm supporting early-stage investment deals in India by private equity and venture capital data tracker, Venture Intelligence in its recent League Tables report. It supported 62 companies with their investment deals between January and September 2019, including the noteable investment deal between INDwealth.in and Steadview Capital.
“A Bad Decision is better than no decision”
For Pooja Goyal, co-founder and COO of robotics and STEM education startup Avishkaar, Machiavelli’s quote, “All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it’s impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively’ is a benchmark.
As an entrepreneur, your journey will be one of moving from one decision to another, she says. “Do the necessary research, get inputs, get data and make an informed decision while understanding the trade-offs. This ability doesn’t appear magically overnight, it is a muscle you build over a period of time but it is one of the most important skills to develop. A technique that I use before making big decisions is asking myself ‘What is the worst that can happen’. That often puts things in perspective. Of course, there are times when one is faced with two bad alternatives but in 90 percent of cases, the fears are exaggerated in the mind,” she stresses.
Avishkaar is the category leader in robotics and STEM education providing a comprehensive platform to teach and learn 21st-century skills like Coding, Robotics, AI, IoT, 3D printing, and Drones. The company supports more than 1,100 schools and 50,000 children across the globe in their journey to be future-ready. Avishkaar Platform includes award-winning robotics kits like E Series, Tweak and Maker Board for 5 -15-year olds, personalised learning with live online courses led by expert teachers and an international championship for coding and robotics.
“You will never have all the answers, no one does, your instinct is your most powerful guiding tool”
Lakshmi Rebecca, founder and CEO of cloud video production platform Red Bangle, contends that you will never have all the answers, no one does. “We are raised being taught to work with formulas, safe choices, familiar bets: but that’s not going to work when you are an entrepreneur or have an ambitious goal of any sort. You have to listen to your gut and make bold decisions, take bold action. You can always have a plan B, but don’t play safe because you don’t know what tomorrow is going to look like – no one does, do they?”
So, she adds, when it comes to goal-setting and making big decisions: do a lot of research to understand all your options, and then follow your instinct.
“You chose a path, a goal and went towards it. Along the way, when new information comes along: be open to learning, to adapting, and to working with the new information as well as your instinct. With time, you will know what information to ignore and what not to – but you are never going to start out having all the answers. A lot of the times, entrepreneurship is about figuring things out on the go. So, allow yourself to make mistakes, to fail at a few things – you’re only human. Try harder or smarter next time – whatever the situation needs,” she adds.
An award-winning YouTuber <The Lakshmi Rebecca Show> Rebecca is a marketer and host turned filmmaker and entrepreneur.
Founded in 2016, Red Bangle turned profitable a year later and boasts of a clientele ranging from Fortune 500 companies to mature startups. Some of its clients include Indeed, Infosys, Swiggy, Sequoia, SPAR Hypermarket, Vymo, Capillary Technologies, myGate, HealthifyMe, RMZ and Groupon.
Build your tribe
A serial entrepreneur with a successful exit track record, Goyal says it is very important for an entrepreneur to build her tribe as she navigates her professional and personal journey. It is one of the most important pillars of career development and happiness and one of the wisest investments one can make. “These are people who want you to succeed. There are two parts to it, one is a support network that is a group of trusted friends you call on when you want to vent, you want to brainstorm, you want to share and need support. The other is the challenge network, a term that Adam Grant uses to describe people who are ready to give you tough feedback that you need to hear,” she adds.
“You cannot build an empire alone. Find people with the right heart and skills, and take them along on the journey of building your empire. Outside the business, surround yourself with wisdom and support. There are times when all I need is a little encouragement and a little insight from someone more experienced. Ambition comes with a lot of anxiety, so it’s important to have wise and nurturing people to talk to when you are feeling down or unsure,” adds Rebecca of Red Bangle.