[Women's Day Special] Walking with Prerna Mukharya, a Young Woman on Field


Prerna Mukharya is not what you’d expect a 20-something girl in Delhi to be. An MA in economics from Boston University, Prerna has had stints as a research assistant at MIT and Harvard post which she took up a job at the Center for Policy Research. Prerna now runs a startup called Outline India which helps companies get authentic primary data (complete story here). Although a very young startup, Prerna many a times is on the road herself and deals with people of all kinds from varied geographies. The kind of challenges that one comes across running an offline business in India is not everyone's cup of tea. Surely a woman of mettle, we spoke to Prerna about Outline India and her experiences as a women entrepreneur. Excerpts:YS: Have there been instances when people don't take you seriously because you are a woman?

Prerna Mukharya: I don't think it’s a gender issue. Although, we do have a problem of 'ageism' . For example, my dealings are usually with senior level people, higher government officials. While the corporates do appreciate young and energetic people, I have a had a few instances where the government folk tend to be a bit dismissive of relatively young people, but not so much because I’m a woman.

YS: Has it ever played in the back of your mind?

PM: Personally, the gender thing never really played a role in terms of being an entrepreneur. In fact, since there are relatively fewer female entrepreneurs I have had people being extremely supportive of what I’m doing and the social-developmental goal of my startup Outline India. The one issue that is always on my mind is my personal safety. I know that every time I’m in the field doing survey work or step out into unknown territory, I know I'm risking my safety and I am undeniably aware of that fact. But that’s not so much a startup issue. That’s an issue which every girl, every woman is constantly aware of. And I can't stress enough how thankful I am to my male colleagues for their support.

YS: You’ve stayed in other countries, did you have such fears anywhere else?

PM: First thought, top of my head, I never had to think so much before stepping out in the evening. I could drive alone at night, walk back home alone at night, dress the way I wanted. Ofcourse, the back alleys of New York and Rome alike must be avoided at all times. But in India and Delhi particularly, you have got to be vigilant. Your safety is in your hands at all times during the day.

YS: Do you think there is a need to celebrate a day as women's day?

PM: I think women deserve an equal amount of respect in the workspace as their male counterparts. And if we need a day to remind ourselves of that, then why not! We have a day to celebrate the country's independence, one for celebrating love; in the same spirit of things to highlight the challenges facing women and to celebrate their achievement, we could use one day every year to say “Hey, we respect you as a person and we appreciate your contribution to the economy and the society as a whole.”

YourStory wishes its readers, Happy Women's Day!