Just like I did, I wondered one day, how many other women also did make a choice to switch from their secured careers and lives to an uncertain but adventurous one. Obviously, I Googled!
Turned out that a lot of our women did it, I wasn’t alone. That gave me a sense of security in uncertainty. As famously heard, “If they can do it, why can’t I?” That’s something that has always driven me for doing anything I’ve done since I walked out of my school as a lady.
I realized after getting to know these women that how good it feels to know and be in the company of people like yourself. There’s a connection sparking in between you and them.
Something similar did I feel with these women. It was a sense of understanding and love that I felt. Now, curious by nature, I thought of confronting them with the same question that brought me to them. To my surprise, some of the compassionate ones replied to my email and poured their hearts out.
I take this opportunity to really thank them for all their time and effort to answer the odd question of mine. All my gratitude. Now, I’m listing out all of them, in no sequence of priority, their names, their business and their replies.
This will surely help motivate and encourage more girls and women to enter into the world of startups and entrepreneurship.
Aditi Gupta, Menstrupedia
“So here’s the answer to your question! When I started my business, it was not like I wanted to become an entrepreneur or a woman entrepreneur. I just wanted to solve a problem and make it sustainable. If you know the whole story behind Menstrupedia, I and Tuhin have embarked on this journey together and none of us could have done it separately. It has to do a lot with the relationship that Tuhin and I share from our college days, then we got married, we quit our jobs and started Menstrupedia. So, it was a collective decision.
When we started up, we were both around 27 years old. We did not start with the aspiration of being a social entrepreneur or something like this, we just wanted to solve this problem. We saw a gap, the lack of menstrual education to girls, a gap that people feel shameful to talk about. And, because of the education we have, we strongly felt about starting up Menstrupedia.
Of course, being termed as a social entrepreneur or a woman entrepreneur has always worked in my favor because whenever a list of such successful people is created, they add me to the list too. Recently, somebody was doing a research on entrepreneurship and that made me realized how amazing entrepreneurship has been for me. When I started Menstrupedia, I was 27, and now I am 32. Tuhin and I are in that phase where we want to raise our family. I see entrepreneurship as such an empowering thing because this place is my office and I do not fear losing out on my career or have the fear of my workplace judging my skills based on the fact that I was away raising a child or Tuhin was away raising a child. I can create the space where I can bring my child along and work.
What I really like about entrepreneurship, for both men and women, is that you get to set your own rules. You can design your own workspace, you get to choose the people to work with which, of course, you don’t get otherwise. When you’re in a job and the salaries are high, you tend to lose out on so many things which you would like to choose from but can’t. So I think entrepreneurship is definitely a lifestyle choice also and not just a career choice. These criterions make entrepreneurship unique.
If you are a woman, you should always aim to become an entrepreneur because only then the game is yours. It isn’t ruled by anybody else and you set your own rules. A very famous quote says that “a huge part of what kind of work you do has a lot to do with the kind of partner you choose to share your life with.” So with entrepreneurship, your goals are clear in terms of the lifestyle you want, the kind of preferences you have over something, the ideas you want to work on, the skill set you possess and based on that skill set you can take risks towards career growth. Believe me, when a woman becomes strong and determined, absolutely NOTHING can stop her. In fact, everybody becomes an enabler. Everybody reflects her power.
Being a woman entrepreneur has always worked in my favor and I would never say that my gender has ever been a shortcoming, instead, it has always added to the beauty of whatever I do. I wouldn’t want to change anything about the way we’ve set up Menstrupedia or how I am seen as the entrepreneur behind Menstrupedia.”
Priya Maheshwari, Properji
“I started Properji mid of 30’s. Properji for me was to step out of my comfort zone of the corporate world. I think to start a startup in real estate sector which is a male dominated field, I faced numerous challenges. Initial days had been tough from working with builders to working with government agencies to get data and establish my credibility in this industry. But I think starting Properji to solve real pain point of customers and learnings from running a startup end to end were tremendous on business, sales, marketing, product, and investment areas.
Entrepreneurship is a challenging and lonely journey at times but truly rewarding in terms of learning you get.”
Radhika Aggarwal, ShopClues
“I think as an entrepreneur before you even start an enterprise, you need to be prepared for a life filled with uncertainty. The aspect of being your own boss is as much crippling, as it is empowering. There will be disagreements, breakdowns and an umpteen number of hurdles along the way. But perseverance is its own reward and if you’re lucky enough to love what you do, you will seek out every opportunity to do more and be more.
And it is as hard for a woman as it would be for a man. There are times when you feel that you’re at a disadvantage owing to your gender, but you just have to keep working and doing your best to overcome it all.
I knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur when I started my first enterprise, before ShopClues. And although the time came to move on from that, I never turned my back on what it taught me and what it has taken me to get where I am today. There are two ways to go about it: Go through your life feeling like the odds of success are stacked against you. Or, look at it from the flipside and realize that you only have to be right once. So get up, dress up and show up every day.”
Swati Bhargava, CashKaro
“I was comfortably working at Goldman Sachs in the UK as an Investment Banker and it was in my late 20s when I decided to quit my cushioned job and take the entrepreneurial plunge with my husband, Rohan. To make this switch was both frightening and exhilarating. It meant leaving behind an industry that provided a decent salary and a great sense of career security. However, I realized that I’d only be continuing to work on same algorithms out of the comfort of doing something I’m good at, rather than breaking my own boundaries and going for something completely new.
I would say, it’s not more challenging for women than it is for men, but yes maybe it’s just a little harder! Part of it is dealing with stereotypes – some people assume women may not know much about tech or finance. However, at the end of the day, your hard work should speak for itself and at that point, it shouldn’t matter whether you are a man or a woman. So, if you are prepared to put the effort into building something real, just have right the motivation to build your own business and make it your ultimate focus.”
Richa Singh, YourDOST
“I founded YourDOST because I wanted to solve the problem of stigma about approaching psychologists and counselors when needed. It was a problem I felt very strongly about – the suicide rate in the country was rising and people still hesitated to talk to professionals even when they needed it. I strongly believed that there was immense work to be done in this field and it would need my complete time. Hence, I quit my corporate job and started up to give it my 100%.
As a woman founder, I faced 2 major challenges – the first is heavy societal pressure. Most founders in India begin their ventures when they are in age group of 26-35. Unfortunately, this age is also considered the peak of a woman’s personal life when she is expected to marry, have children and take care of the family. The pressure from parents, relatives, and friends to get married and settle down is quite heavy and it is a challenge to manage these expectations along with starting out. I was 27 when I started up but making the right life decisions like marrying a person who understands and supports your vision is a crucial step to handle these challenges.
The second challenge that I faced is related to the sector that I started up in. In India, the subject of mental health is a taboo in general and considered NGO and not-for-profit work, especially when undertaken by women. It was a challenge for me to convince people that I am building a business with a viable monetary model in the sector of mental health.
Many women shy from dreaming big. There are many women handling small and medium-scale business but very few wanting to take the risk of setting up a big business. Also, networking and referrals which are extremely important in business circles do not come naturally to most women. We have to make conscious efforts towards the same.
Unfortunately, many talented women hold themselves back because they are seeking approval and permission from their partners, family members or the society. This trait is not very conducive to business success and is hardly found in men.
Women’s primary doubts are – “Am I good enough? Am I the right person to do it? Can I really do it?” I have noticed very few men express such doubts about their abilities.
I strongly feel that we women need to trust our abilities much more than we do, stop asking for permissions for everything we want to do and take on new opportunities. We women should take conscious efforts to notice our negative thoughts and overcome them.
Women need to build more self-confidence and be more assertive about their talent, time and energy. Also, women should not do anything just “because you are a girl/woman”. The reason to do something should only be “because you think it is the right thing to do.” We need to tell our women that personal dreams are crucial and should not be given up. The happy news is that big visions, hopes and aspirations are infectious. When we believe in them and start working towards them, we get ample support from all corners. So, women should not hold back from expanding their business and reaching big heights.”
Ashwini Asokan, MadStreetDen
“Going from a stable, cushioned corporate job to entrepreneurship can be an overwhelmingly scary or exciting and challenging experience. For me, it was certainly the latter. It entirely depends on how much you prepare, not just financially or from a business perspective, but from a state of being mentally prepared for the crazy ride.
I throw a lot of parenting metaphors at running a business, honestly. While preparing for a new child can be super helpful, there’s no preparing you for the role you play as a parent. Running a business is a lot like that. Prepare, plan, read up, be strategic long before you need some of those strategies in action and put yourself out there in the community. But know that things will be crazy, you’ll need to be light on the feet, solving problems 24/7. Surround yourself with people who ground you and know that perseverance is key.”
Some Last Words. . .
Thank you so much ladies for participating in my short roundup and helping women and girls how exactly it feels to be brave enough to make a career switch. You’re an inspiration and role models, you’re that extra push that these women are seeking out to take up the challenge and make their own lives around a business of their choice.
Thanks again from all of us! 🙂
Now, if you’re reading this and are also a lady entrepreneur, you can also share your part of the story in the comments. It’s always good to interact and share with the like-minded ones!