How lack of engaging, women-centric content saw a mom-on-a-career-break launch Siya WomanSindhu MV
It is for small snippets and short stories like the one you see above, the ones that bring out the lighter side of a woman’s world that has seen Siya Woman win many hearts since it launched in December 2015.
Siya Woman is a content portal for what it calls the ‘discerning women’. Lakshmi Ananthamurthy, Founder and CEO of Siya Woman, says, “The portal caters to the interests of women in the age group of 25–50+ years who are well-travelled, educated, decision makers in their households, have an opinion, and generally enjoy a good level of awareness of what’s happening around the world.”
Lakshmi’s focus is clear and simple. She says that they are not a male-bashing site, nor do they focus on extremely serious issues. In her words, “It’s a platform that offers women positive, humorous, and constructive content. It’s all about sharing everyday experiences and learning something from it.”
She adds, “Today all of us go through a lot of stress, but sometimes a little bit of humour can relieve a lot of stress and that’s what the platforms aims for.”
On the website, Lakshmi’s description reads: “Committed to not taking myself too seriously.” Ask her why, and she tells you that it has a lot to do with her career and life.
A civil engineer by education, Lakshmi has worked in extremely serious roles in various fields – from IT to supply chain optimisation in refineries to forensics in supply chain – for multinational companies in India and abroad.
Becoming a mother of two young children, she found it challenging to strike a balance between home and work, as it involved long hours and a lot of travel. Lakshmi adds, “So I decided to take a break. That’s when I realised that there wasn’t a single platform, which offered a combination of humour, light read, informative, yet engaging content, for a discerning woman like me. Either there were sites focussed on Bollywood and fashion, or on serious issues such as parenting, women empowerment, etc.”
And that’s how the idea of Siya Woman took root.
Designing Siya Woman for the atypical women
“The biggest challenge for me was to get someone to design a platform with a great user experience and design.” Lakshmi admits, “We are not still 100 per cent there. But since, we have already invested a lot of money, we decided to go live with whatever best we could. We do plan to enhance it in the future.”
An interesting offering of Siya Woman is not just the curated and interesting content, but also quirky yet usable products that women would love. But the platform doesn’t resort to bombarding the site with advertisements that destroys a reader’s experience. Lakshmi says, “A mention is made in between the articles and if users want to explore, they can click on the hyperlink to the relevant e-commerce site.” Products advertised range from cardboard boxes that transform a smartphone into a projector to musical wine glasses.
When you browse through the site, there’s one thing that catches your attention – custom illustrations for each story. “We want Siya Woman to be associated to a lovable mascot, just like the Amul girl we all adore,” says Lakshmi.
And, if you are wondering, what’s the story behind the name Siya Woman, Lakshmi explains, “Sita is also known as Siya across the country. Just like her, the women of today are grounded, strong, positive, and independent.”
Keeping the Siya Woman engine running
The range of content on Siya Woman ranges from humorous everyday life experiences to something as serious as how a mother dealt with the situation when she came to know her daughter had anorexia. The platform invites people to read and also share their experiences. The high standard of content and presentation has been made possible by the Editor-in-Chief, Ushasi Sen Basu. A literature major, writer and creative person herself, Ushasi also shoulders the responsibility of ensuring that every bit of the content that goes online brings value to Siya Woman’s readers. And, the interesting custom illustrations are the product of a talented young designer – Rashmi Prabhu.
Lakshmi says that the platform is also an opportunity for women who love writing, but haven’t found the space. In fact, when she first started, Lakshmi and Ushasi first reached out to friends and family in their network. Soon enough, the contributions and readership began to rise, but what gave Siya Woman the push it needed was a short story writing contest titled #AtypicalWomenWrites, which received more than 600 entries in just one month.
Lakshmi is also looking at experimenting with content on Siya Woman to take it beyond text and illustrations. They are currently converting their stories into podcasts. Also in the pipeline is an experimental idea of taking Siya Woman to an offline space with the Siya Woman Cafés – a place that’s filled with warmth, where women can enjoy a good conversation, pick up a book, and generally have a good time.
Spelling out its growth and future prospects
Since its launch, Siya Woman has garnered over 72,000 page views from over 22,000 users in just five months. “What I am really thrilled about is the fact that we have visitors from 1,172 cities from 90 countries around the world. In India, we have people from 171 cities visiting us,” she shares enthusiastically.
Talking about what has been the biggest win as the Founder of Siya Woman, she says, “It’s a happy feeling when women appreciate Siya Woman; what’s even happier is that we have men sending us appreciation mails.”
Despite the niche Siya Woman seeks to establish for itself, it faces some tough competition out there. “We see any website that’s targeting the discerning women as our competitor. Having said that, it is not a challenge because readers tend to read across different platforms. It is not necessary that if I read one newspaper, I won’t read another! And there aren’t many players who offer the kind of content we do.”
Siya Woman is currently bootstrapped and are looking to raise funding soon. Scaling is a top priority for Siya Woman this financial year. “I have a few ideas in mind and depending on what works best, we should have a sound plan by next March on how to achieve scale,” she adds.
“The current focus is getting Siya Woman to build a loyal user base, scale and generate value, while becoming a favoured platform for atypical women,” she explains.
Entrepreneurship is addictive
For Lakshmi, becoming an entrepreneur was a natural progression. She says, “I borrowed inspiration from my father, who handles engineering contracts for the Indian Railways, and my husband, Kiran Kumar Konduru, who is a serial entrepreneur.” And, at the moment, she says it’s an exciting space to be in and the journey as an entrepreneur is “addictive”