From e-commerce and creative firms to library networks and online support agencies, women entrepreneurs are blazing new trails in India. Entrepreneur and writer Prachi Garg offers her collection of 20 such stories in her new book, Superwomen: Inspiring Stories of 20 Women Entrepreneurs (see also my review of the book Follow Every Rainbow: Inspiring Stories of 25 Women Entrepreneurs by Rashmi Bansal).
Prachi Garg is an entrepreneur and writer, and founder of GhoomoPhiro.com (for corporate tours) and Anmol Uphar (gifts based on currency notes). She graduated from Miranda House and Great Lakes Institute of Management, with a background in computer science.
The 197-page book is packed with stories of 20 startups founded by women. Here are some brief vignettes from the book; the author is working on another startup sequel as well. (See also the Changemaker Storytelling Canvas as a visualisation tool for entrepreneurs and founders.)
Madhavi Gandhi founded Happy Hands to preserve and revive traditional handicrafts and art, and empower rural artisans. She was active as an art enthusiast from the age of 22, and was inspired by thought leaders like Kamla Devi Chattopadhyay. She received strong support from family and well-wishers, and spends extensive periods of time helping artists with capacity-building workshops. Her vision is to ensure that children of artisans do not feel embarrassed about their parents’ work, and find pride and livelihood in Indian culture.
Ria Sharma founded the NGO Make Love Not Scars to help acid attack survivors. Though she studied fashion in the UK, she felt a stronger attachment to social justice, and become devoted to the cause of acid attack victims after completing a project on the issue. Her NGO has supported hundreds of victims with social, financial, legal and medical aid. “I thought I was going to save them. But I eventually realised they were the ones saving me,” she says, describing the emotional upliftment she herself has received.
Richa Singh founded Your Dost to provide online counseling to those in depression or seeking emotional support for well-being. She graduated from IIT Guwahati, but was deeply affected when a friend committed suicide after a bout of depression. She also noticed that there were deep taboos in India about seeking psychological help, and decided to launch an online site with peer support, help lines, and inspirational stories. Though her family was not excited about this track, they later supported her when they saw her determination. The site has raised funds from Milaap, and has received enthusiastic endorsements from online users.
Masoom Minawala founded StyleFiesta as an online destination for fashion jewellery and accessories. Though she was regarded as a tomboy in childhood, she gravitated later to fashion when she realised how popular one of her fashion blogs became. She studied fashion in London and launched her startup in 2012, riding the e-commerce wave – particularly in smaller cities of India. Women are blessed “with an undeniable charm” and it would be “foolish not make use of it,” she jokes, describing the blend of creativity and commerce in her work.
Richa Kar founded Zivame as an online lingerie retailer to improve the experience of lingerie shopping for Indian women. She combined experience, opportunity and insight to launch her venture, which claims to sell a bra every minute. Her background in engineering and business, along with work as a consultant to global retailers, led her to e-commerce as a way to overcome the misinformation, misconceptions and taboos about the lingerie industry in India. Educational content, discreet packaging and a fitting lounge in Bengaluru are some of Zivame’s innovations in this space. But the journey was not easy, with lots of challenges in setting up her venture – and her mother was also initially shocked with the idea of the venture, Richa recalls.
Sneha Raisoni started Tappu ki Dukaan in the Fort area of Mumbai to sell quirky and unique Indian objects. Though she began in investment banking, she decided to pursue her own passion “instead of someone else’s dreams.” She sources products which have “utility with a twist” from Happily Unmarried, Mixed Juice, Pop Goes the Art, and other creative firms. She sees copycats and competition merely as drivers to further evolution.
Sunita Jaju and Swati Maheshwari co-founded Rustic Art as a portal selling eco-friendly products for body care. Growing up in Nainital and Mysore, respectively, the duo blended their environmentalist passions with entrepreneurial drive. Without passion it would have been impossible to sustain the venture, the co-founders recall, as they continue to expand to new areas like pet care.
Alicia Souza is an independent illustrator and communications designer, with clients such as Google, Yahoo, Penguin, Cadbury and AOL. She spent many of her growing years in the Middle East, and branched off into independent design. She recalls that she would give herself pep talks in her early years, and draws inspiration from everything around her. She overcame the early skepticism from her parents via a ‘show and tell’ attitude to prove she was on the right track. “Real learning comes with experience out in the real world,” Alicia says.
Anisha Singh founded Mydala.com as an online discount site, after her earlier e-learning venture, Kinis Solutions. She grew up in a joint family in Delhi and worked on women entrepreneurship during her US stint. Inspired by the collective business model in Chinese e-commerce, she started Mydala after her return to India. The early office space was shared with a dentist, and today the company employs over 400 people.
Charnita Arora launched Perfect Life Spot to help with language skills and overall development of young students. It goes beyond rote-based learning to offer mindfulness and emotional intelligence support. The company is now offering skills to corporate audiences as well.
Falak Randerian founded My Little Chatterbox to help children develop healthy reading habits, as well as lending library The Reading Room. She launched the venture at age 30, combing her own passion for books with her affection for children. “I take criticism as a serious source of learning,” she says, recalling her journey into the field of phonics.
Pankhuri Shrivastava founded Grabhouse as an online platform for landlords and tenants. The basic listing is free, but other options are charged for, such as moving services. She graduated with a BE in computer science from Bhopal, and founded her venture at the age of 23. “Basic things like outsourcing to a third party can make you lose control of things,” she says, as words of advice. Each new user or funding milestone is regarded as a reason to excel even more.
Saumya Vardhan launched ShubhPuja as an online portal to offer religious and astrological consultancy services. She worked for KPMG and EY, but was deeply affected by the death of a close friend and the struggle the family went through during the rituals. She spotted an opportunity in making the fulfilment of these rituals more convenient as well as more transparent to remove misinformation and malpractices. She took a course in Vedic astrology, and brought on board a team of pundits as experts for online consultation. TV channel partnerships have helped extend their reach and brand.
Dr Surbhi Mahajan founded Dermatocare to offer online consultation on skin care and cosmetic products. She began with a blog, whose popularity led to forming a full-fledged venture in 2012. She sees her work as going beyond short-term solutions for glamour.
Tina Garg founded creative communications agency Pink Lemonde. Her degree was in computer science, but she also had a flair for writing, communication and design. “Every day in the creative field is like delivering a baby,” she jokes. She had to work extra hard to establish her space as a woman in a male-dominated field. Her firm sustains a creative and cool culture via initiatives like Fun Fridays and Pink Holiday monthly draws for a free holiday for an employee.
Vidula Kantikar Kothare founded ThinkCreative Ad Solutions as an end-to-end provider of marketing, advertising, branding and event management. She grabs every opportunity to learn, and regards every single milestone as significant; she also celebrates the power of women as “multi-tasking geniuses.”
Other entrepreneurs profiled in the book are Rachana Nagranee (founder of Pitaara, for handcrafted bags and accessories), Geetika Chadha (founder of image consultancy Imagenie), Rashi Narang (founder of pets merchandise store Heads up for Tails) and Sneh Sharma (founder of the only-girls digital media agency Ittisa). It would have been great if the book also offered tips and advice in a concluding chapter, which would have been useful for other aspiring entrepreneurs.
The author’s next book is going to be about husband-wife co-founders of startups such as GreenNGood, ArtZolo and Boring Brands. We look forward to another collection of informative and inspiring stories already!
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- Pankhuri Shrivastava
- Tina Garg
- Alicia Souza
- Richa Kar
- Anisha Singh
- Richa Singh
- Saumya Vardhan
- Boring Brands
- Charnita Arora
- Devi Chattopadhyay
- Falak Randerian
- Madhavi Gandhi
- masoom minawala
- Rachana Nagranee
- Rashmi Bansal
- Ria Sharma
- Sneha Raisoni
- Sunita Jaju
- Surbhi Mahajan
- Swati Maheshwari
- Vidula Kantikar Kothare