Women at the helm

Ahead of Women’s Entrepreneurship Day on November 19, we talk to a few women entrepreneurs from Hyderabad about the challenges they faced and the lessons they learnt on the way
Women at the helm

HYDERABAD: Building a business from scratch can be an arduous journey. Yet, time and again, people who want to change the status quo, or identify the absence of a certain product in the market, have dedicated themselves to sculpt their own enterprises. Ahead of Women’s Entrepreneurship Day on November 19, we listen to a few women entrepreneurs from Hyderabad talk about their startups and the biggest takeaways from their journeys.

Name of venture: 
Mirchi E-Commerce 
Pvt. Ltd.
Description: Online store for sweets and snacks
Founder: Poornima Mital
Year founded: 2017
Challenges & lessons: Logistics is one of the biggest challenges we faced. Delays in pick-up and delivery by courier companies made us automatically monitor statuses and raise alerts for follow-up. Courier companies used laser sorting and charged us for volumetric weight, which was higher than the physical weight of the package. Sellers were used to selling products in 500 gram slabs and were shipping in any packaging they had. We had to innovate and design special packaging that converted the existing seller sweet boxes to hold 400g in a 500g box. We distributed the redesigned outer packaging to all our sellers to ensure that we did not pay for more than what we physically shipped.  The biggest lesson we learnt is that never assume that what we think as right is actually right! But without these lessons, we would not have built a successful company.

Name of venture : 
Description: Firm focussed on destination marketing and branding 
Founder: Vishala Reddy 
Year founded : 2014 
Challenges & lessons: There is a saying that a company gets launched thrice. This applies to almost all startups. It is hard to get clarity in the initial stages, but we can evolve only with time. Many founders lose interest on the way and look for alternative careers. An entrepreneur should have patience and trust in herself. For me, the first three to four years was extremely hard. Every day, I felt like giving up. But I got up and worked on it nonetheless. Your product is nothing but your 
‘clarity’. Since our work is new knowledge and and not many are aware of it, it is even more challenging for me to first explain the trends in place marketing and then approach. I also learnt that timing of entry and constant innovation are paramount. Also, only tech-heavy platforms are receiving funding right now. But I think non- tech companies need to be supported, too. 

Name of venture: 
Online Courses
Description: Platform for creative courses that re-skill Indian women
Founder: Nishtha Yogesh
Year founded: 2018

Challenges & lessons: With over 148 million literate but unemployed women in urban India, Hunar Online Courses was established to provide a convenient learning platform for certified creative courses that re-skill Indian women, thereby enabling them to start their own businesses. The courses include garment making, fashion styling and embroidery among others. 
Being a creative educator for homemakers, our biggest challenge is helping our potential students overcome years of self-doubt and inertia to re-skill. Most of our students are Indian homemakers (with some students and professionals), hailing from tier 2 and tier 3 cities of India. While they have a deep desire to be independent, they are wary of online learning and lack self-belief. As a 26-year-old woman entrepreneur, I had to convince and build belief from every single segment of stakeholders. I had to convince my parents that it’s okay to take this risk, and also persuade my staff that they should trust my abilities though I am younger to most of them. 
I had to convince investors that a young girl with no technology background can build an ed-tech business. In fact, I had to prove to my customers too that a young unmarried tier 1 professional can understand the struggles of a homemaker or student. The biggest lesson I learnt was that believing in yourself and then putting in the work to follow through on your promises can convince  the staunchest of skeptics.

Name of venture: 
Abhihaara Social 
Description: Enterprise committed to sustain livelihoods of those engaged in cotton handloom supply chain and crafts
Founders: Sudha Rani Mullapudi and Sarada Tummala
Year founded: 2015
Challenges & lessons: Fund mobilisation for working capital through a bank loan has been a challenge and it took two years to get the loan sanctioned. As we follow all fair-trade practices and being a conscious organisation, the margins are thin and cash flows are slow. Thus, keeping the production undisturbed becomes challenging quite often. Generation of social value, be it women’s recognition, empowerment or visible leadership among the communities that we work with, is a slow process. One of the biggest lessons we learnt is that any step we take will invite judgement, but it is better to go ahead and follow our heart. We also learnt to wait until the order approval is in writing and not start production. Social entrepreneurial journey requires a traveller-like attitude to plan well, be flexible and focused. Remember to enjoy the journey.

Name of venture: YuGenie
Description: A social network dedicated to social impact
Founder: Aashraya Rau
Year founded: 2019
Challenges & lessons: YuGenie engages millennials and Gen Z to collectively work with social organisations towards social impact. As many have said before, being the founder of a company is like jumping off a cliff and building a plane on the way down! Entrepreneurship is an uncertain path and a path of self-discovery. I have spent almost four years researching the nitty-gritty of the social welfare industry, undertook hundreds of surveys before taking the plunge and solving for the complex issues that persist within social welfare industry. It has been a very challenging undertaking, especially when you are building for an industry that has traditionally been highly-fragmented, disorganised and largely offline. Our generation practices activism on a daily basis, but there is not a single platform that directly connects social organizations and people invested in impact together. YuGenie is the first to leverage the power of networking in the social welfare space. I have learnt so much in the past few months. It has truly been a humbling experience so far.

— Kakoli Mukherjee

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