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At Shakti, women achievers share how they tide over highs and lows in their entrepreneurship journey

Sindhu MV
15th Mar 2016
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“Everyone in this audience is Shakti. And, today, we are going to celebrate that Shakti.” That’s how Shradha Sharma, CEO and Founder, YourStory, welcomed the gathering at Shakti – an event hosted by YourStory in collaboration with the National Commission for Women (NCW).

The day-long event organised on the occasion of Women’s Day aimed to discuss and deliberate upon the challenges faced by women entrepreneurs across sectors, and how to tackle them. Lalitha Kumaramangalam, Chairperson, NCW, peppered her keynote address with anecdotes to highlight why self-belief plays an important role for women, and why it is necessary for women to voice their opinions loud and clear. She also encouraged women entrepreneurs to connect with NCW and share what challenges they had faced and the gaps in the present policy to make the environment more conducive for business, especially for women. This was followed by speeches from two other government representatives – Alok Rawat, Former Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, the first male member of NCW, and Ravinder, Director, Department of Industry Policy and Promotion.

Sharing his observations about the startup scene in India and its impact, Ravinder, said, “We are seeing people from Tier II and Tier III cites, who are registering to be part of the incubators. There’s so much excitement in the startup scene today. This is a good development because it will be these startups – the job creators – who will take the country forward.” Highlighting the role of women in today’s business environment, he said, “Today, if you look at most leading banks, they are headed by women. This is just one of the many examples that showcase how women are playing a pivotal role in today’s work economy.”

Thinking like a business leader

This session was followed by an engaging talk by Mohini Binepal, Head- Retail, RUOSH. When she introduced herself as part of the all-women team that conceptualised and launched RUOSH – a premium men's footwear brand in India, the audience erupted in thunderous applause. (Imagine this – It’s the women who know how to sell men’s footwear.) She then engaged the audience in a discussion on thinking like a business leader. She also shared guidelines to help entrepreneurs increase their probability of success. She encouraged entrepreneurs to find a problem and solve it systematically because that’s the real business opportunity. Mohini also highlighted the importance of identifying the right consumer; solving their problems efficiently; making a business plan; conserving resources; selecting the right team (a combination of believers and doers); setting a performance matrix; the importance of speed; the need for a mentor; staying humble; failing fast; and clearly defining the exit parameters.

NCW_story1
Panel on women running business from home and challenges they face

This was followed by an engaging panel discussion on Startup India, Standup India for women entrepreneurs. The panellists included Aditya Shankar, Lead-Partner (India) Dispute Resolution at Kaden Boriss: Legal & Business Strategists, and lawyer at the Supreme Court of India; Annie Philip, Senior Associate, AZB & Partners; Alok Rawat; and Ravinder. Aditya said, “Startups will help to achieve the transformational change that India has been looking forward to. Startups can fill in the gaps that big players have not been able to.” He added, “At the moment, there is a lack of understanding of legal procedures among the startup community. However, it is critical that startups understand what the law or the government policy or initiative is all about. There’s no need to fear the law, as long as we are on the right path.” Aditya also briefed the audience on a number of statutory procedures for startups, credit guarantee schemes, and tax exemptions. All the panelists opined that the startup India initiative has enabled the creation of an encouraging environment.

The next session was led by Rohan Arinaya, a qualified Chartered Accountant and part of Merican Consultants. As someone who has handled and has been a part of startups, Rohan spoke at length about the challenges faced by startups from a financial perspective. He also shared basic tips and guidelines about registering a startup, dealing with dilemmas that plague entrepreneurs during the bootstrapping phase; while raising funding; eligibility criteria for loans and funding; various segments supported by the government; and negotiating with investors.

Woman entrepreneur – A superhero

Shradha Sharma then addressed the audience and shared a first-hand account of what it meant to an entrepreneur, especially a woman entrepreneur. She said, “As an entrepreneur, it is important to understand that we don’t have all the answers. Today, you might not have answers to everything, but you will learn along the way.” She reassured, “It’s perfectly fine to accept that there are areas we don’t know about. And, in those circumstances, we need to consult the experts.”

Concluding the address, she said, “You are the superhero. Just believe in that.”

The next session on – From skill development to starting up – saw Nidhi Maheshwari, Partner, International tax and regulatory, KPMG, giving an overview of things to take into consideration while opting for funding, with an emphasis on the legal and tax components. She also gave an overview of the Startup India initiative and the process for availing tax reforms and incentives. She said, “Compliances sound cumbersome, but it is a necessity.”

The panellists – Sonali Tripathi, Chief Business Officer, Embryoo; Aditi Balbir, Founder and CEO, V Resorts; Sheela Lunkad, Managing Director, Chestnut Heights Resorts Pvt Ltd.; and Meenakshi Gupta, Co-Founder, Goonj shared interesting perspectives on ‘Crossing the threshold in your mind – how to turn an idea into a real business’.

An interesting message that the panel shared was – “Fall in love with a problem and you will find a solution.

Gaurav Aggarwal, Regional Head of Sales, Trade and Foreign Exchange, ICICI Bank, Delhi, NCR, then took the stage and gave an overview of how choosing the right bank will play a catalytic role in the startup journey. He suggested that it was important for a startup to choose a bank that was high on technology and compliance and regulation.

The last panel discussion of the day, titled Business @ home, saw the panellists – Anupama, Managing Director, AnooFlower Jewelry; Sandhya Sakhuja, Partner, Natural Bath; Monica Jasuja, Head of Masterpass and e-commerce, India and South Asia at Mastercard; Sia R Umesh, Founder of Karmashya, and Venu Arora, Executive Director at Ideosync Media Combine.The panellists shared their stories on how they began their entrepreneurial ventures; the challenges they faced; and how they overcame them. They also highlighted how it was important for women to delegate some of the jobs while working from home, and how balancing an aspirational career and family is a real challenge. The panellists opined that it was necessary that we don’t own the guilt-factor while delegating work. They said, “There are many ifs and buts in the entrepreneurial journey. Also, there is no one particular way to solve a challenge. But, what is important is that we don’t give up.”

The event concluded on a happy note. The audience shared how the event reenergised their beliefs. The event also served as a great networking platform for the audience not just with each other but also with the speakers and guests.

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