From bootstrapped to funded- Naiyya Saggi's journey with BabyChakra
While at McKinsey Naiyya Saggi developed a passion for healthcare and education, as well as working with young women and children. Her early background in law is also what helped her to create a child nutrition strategy for India as part of the Gates foundation. It was in HBS (Harvard Business school) in 2010 that she carried out a project on scaling healthcare interventions. She worked for a year with the Bridgespan group on developmental consulting in Boston, before moving to India to start BabyChakra.
According to Naiyya, parenting can be a tough, as we always want what’s best for our child – to be able to cater to their needs, and provide them with a healthy living environment.
Each child is unique in his or her own way. What works best for the individual? How does one ensure the right choice? A year ago Naiyya Saggi joined hands with a family friend to start BabyChakra, an online platform that connects parents to services and products that make the parenting process not only easier, but more enjoyable.
Explaining the thought behind the name—BabyChakra she says,
Chakra represents a circle, and as you think about a life cycle, or a circle of care we wanted a name that shows the circle of services that surrounds families.
HerStory spoke with Naiyya to know more about her journey, the recent funding Baby Chakra raised and what she plans to do with it. Here are some excerpts:
HS: Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur? Or did you make this decision during your business school days?
N: In Business School I was toying with multiple ideas. While I was at McKinsey I was working on a concept called Legal Frat, which was to connect potential clients with a community of lawyers. For instance if you’re looking for a family lawyer or a lawyer to help you with bills or getting a landlord. However this idea didn’t go very far.
My second Idea was with a bunch of HBS batch mate’s called College Jao. It was again around solving for information asymmetry around college choices for young students in India and internationally.
BabyChakra was the third idea I was thinking of.
If you look at these ideas an underlying theme that runs through all is information asymmetry. I would say that this is the idea that brought across my passion for healthcare. This is an idea that has been really close to my heart and an idea that is taking off as well.
HS: What ideology do you live by?
N: We personify BabyChakra as being non- judgmental and credible. What that means is we want parents to make their own decisions, based on whatever information we can share with them. We want parents to choose what works best for them.
HS: When starting BabyChakra you spoke to 600 mothers in India. What was this experience like for you, and how did you carry about your research.
N: It’s been amazing. We are so privileged to be a part of so many family stories.
We have also had mothers reach out to us saying that they have felt inadequate, that they were not able to breast feed their children. Then they reached out to us, accessed our site, learnt about lactation consultants, and read articles about Breast feeding and FAQ’s and realized they weren’t alone. That there was professional help that they could seek. We have also had mothers who didn’t know that natural birthing options could be an option.
Mothers are not only looking for healthcare and educational options, but are also looking for fun ways to engage their children and celebrating the process of being a family.
We have got a lot of feedback from young mothers who actually write into us and help other mothers. They help us to build out our product better, which is amazing.
HS: Do you plan to expand internationally?
N: We initially wanted to launch in 8 major metropolitan cities, but we had mothers write into us from places like Agra, Bhubaneswar, Jodhpur, and smaller cities.
In the next three years we do plan to look at the international cities we need to be in.
HS: BabyChakra wouldn’t function efficiently without its panel of experts. How did you go about finding the members of your panel?
N: Something that we are very proud of, is that none of our panel of experts are paid to be there. The cool
thing is that Nitesh and I actually personally went to each of the members of the panel and asked them to be apart of it. We were basically selling a dream. We were selling ourselves. They were amazing. They completely supported us.HS: Tell us about the challenges you faced while starting up, and the struggles you needed to overcome to make BabyChakra get to where it is today.
N: Getting the right talent on board was the first challenge we faced.
Initially when I was reaching out and doing the fundraising some of the investors would ask me “when do you plan to start a family.” Because they wanted to know whether I wanted to take time off. I would usually walk out of these meetings. My co-founder and I knew that when we have committed to something we would definitely stand by it and watch it grow.
HS: You raised funding recently, how was this beneficial for BabyChakra?
N: It was beneficial for 2 reasons:
-We’ve been bootstrapped so far and now know what works and what doesn’t in our product and our users. The funding will help us push the ‘what works’ further and galvanize our growth.
-Being bootstrapped we’ve been able to build out a strong core team. As we scale though, we needed funding to build out a team who would develop the product to keep pace with our growth. Funding will help us make some key strategic hires to grow our product faster
HS: What was this Experience like for you.
N: It was a very steep learning curve. This was my first experience of fundraising. My learning’s:
— Don’t fundraise because it’s the ‘cool’ thing to do. It is just a building block to your business: not a goal. Bootstrap as much as possible and learn to be lean. Once you fundraise, you are accountable to not just yourself, your consumers and your team but an additional set of partners: your investors.
— Treat your investors as partners in your venture. Do spend time interacting with your investors before deciding to raise funds from them. See if they are vision and mission aligned.
–Be very clear and specific in what you plan to fundraise for. Have your major use of funds and objectives from the fundraising clearly defined in your head.
— Get your head around basic legal terms and clauses. Have a lawyer work with you on the term sheet/ shareholders agreement. You will need legal help as you navigate the process of fundraising.
–Talk to other entrepreneurs who have fundraised. Learn from their experiences.
HS: What do you plan to do with the funding?
N: We plan to use the funding to build out our team, product and start spending strategically on user outreach.