Don’t call her ‘mumpreneur’. Former M&S manager and mother ventures in chic organic products for kidsFrancesca Ferrario
Start ups are often pieces of the founders’ past and present life which assemble together to create something unique. Roopali Srivastava, a NIFT graduate from Delhi with a career in fashion and lifestyle retail, has clearly exemplified the concept since she started the e-commerce platform for kids, Greenkins. Gender, although being an obvious part of her venture, has not been a big obstacle. It is just a bit annoying when she is referred to as ‘mumpreneur’.
To understand her story better, Roopali has shared some of the pieces of the past and present which led her to start her venture.
The first stop in the time machine is her childhood in Delhi.When Roopali was growing up, her mum started a school for mentally challenged kids. The commitment, the energy, and the love she was putting in the centre had an important impact on Roopali. “She was a great inspiration for me,” she says proudly, and explains that the most inspirational element about the school was that it had a very positive impact not only on its student, but also on everybody around them.
Second stop: her career at Mark and Spencer. She was with the company, first as General Manager of their franchise business in India, then spearheading the design and development of M&S’ first sustainable stores outside the UK (which were awarded LEED Platinum and Gold certifications). This gave her great exposure to the importance that the production of fabrics, and more in general materials, have on those who make them and those who use them. For example, fair trade organic textiles are environmentally friendly, benefit the manufacturers, and are safe for those who wear them. The same cannot be said for synthetic clothes.
Third stop: a little, big love. Few years ago, Roopali became the mother of a girl and was soon fully immersed into an ocean of baby clothes, toys, and accessories. In her research, she came across natural, products such as organic cotton, natural non toxic coloring material, wooden toys, and water based paints, etc. “I think that when you become a parent, you become more conscious about the need to do your bit in improving the world that our children will inhabit. Greenkins is a small step towards doing that little bit to make a difference.”
“Healthy, environmentally sustainable, and modernly designed products are usually available in niche stores or on a few online stores abroad. The few available in India are usually un-aesthetic and unappealing from a child’s perspective. Greenkins was born out of the desire to bridge this gap and make such products accessible to parents in this country” explains Roopali.
The idea is for Greenkins to be a one-stop resource for parents looking for safe, stylish and sustainable lifestyle for children. They had initially started out as being a purely online player but are now actively looking at combining offline initiatives to build the brand and increase the touch points with their customers.
Greenkins aggregates brands which are at least one of these: fairtrade and ethically produced, organic, natural, sustainably made, biodegradable, non-toxic or recycled.
The company wants to expand its social and environmental impact through the ‘making a difference’ initiative, started in partnership with Mumbai based CSR advisory, Samhita Social Ventures. They selected NGOs that deal with education of underprivileged children, safety of the girl child, and planting trees and allow customers to support any of these causes. “They can buy a special range of products, proceeds of which will be donated; or make a voluntary donation to a cause of their choice, or do both” explains Roopali.
Being a mum has been a fundamental part of Roopali’s venture. Her daughter is a precious “consultant”. With a mother so involved in quality products for kids, her daughter often enjoys the opportunity to try different organic toys and her feedback contributes to improving the quality of what Greenkins offers. For example, she complained about the lack of colors in table wears and her mum’s team is working on improving this after observing that colorful products are actually more appealing to kids.Being a woman has not been an obstacle for Roopali. Her family is very supportive and help her with her daughter when she is too busy with her eclectic entrepreneurial life. However, it seems that VCs tend to be less keen to fund women entrepreneurs who could ‘get pregnant’ any time. Still, Roopali believes that this is in great part due to a wrong terminology: “why call women entrepreneurs ‘mumpreneurs’ and not call men ‘dadpreneurs’? It implies that mothers become entrepreneurs as a hobby; whereas the majority of them do it as a job!”
Having children is not the obstacle; it becomes an obstacle when people think it is. Many in India do so, but it is not a sufficient reason to give up. Roopali quotes Mahatma Gandhi when she says, “Every worthwhile accomplishment, big or little, has its stages of drudgery and triumph: a beginning, a struggle and a victory.”
Roopali is a part of the SHEROES Community.