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Women Entrepreneurs

Women entrepreneurs whose stories inspired us in 2016

Tanvi Dubey
3rd Dec 2016
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How far will you go in chasing your dreams? What are you willing to give? What challenges are you ready to take on?

These women distributed pamphlets, pawned their jewellery, threw a Rs 50 lakh career out the window, and put all their money into a concept no one had heard of.

Yet others who did not start from scratch and had to build on an existing business found it even more difficult to make their mark and chalk out their own identity. A few had to deal with sexism and an industry that was not welcoming.

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The challenges may have been different, but none of these 17 women stopped or backed down. They took these challenges head on, and showed the world that they were unstoppable. If they could do it, so can you.

Getting started

“When I started, there were hardly any women entrepreneurs. It was a male-dominated environment. I had to face a lot of criticism, and a lot of people tried to ensure that I did not succeed and grow. The only thing I believed in was that my concept was unique and unusual, and that it was being introduced in India for the first time.” – Vandana Luthra, VLCC

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“Since, at that time, we didn’t have social media, I used to make sales calls and go door to door, selling. It was an amazing experience. Then, I ventured into making tie and dye T-shirts, which I sold door to door all over our neighbourhood in Vile Parle East. Eventually, I found my place – at Parle Agro.” – Nadia Chauhan, Parle Agro

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“It was like starting the second innings of my life; I had nothing. We started by distributing pamphlets, sticking posters, and meeting as many people as possible.” – Neetu Singh, Total Yoga

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Being an entrepreneur

“It is not about wanting to be an entrepreneur so much as it is about executing the idea you strongly believe in.” – Garima Tripathi, Care24

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“Luckily, the day I decided to change my field and officially throw a potential Rs 50 lakh career out of the window, my parents said that they believed I would still go far and that they wanted to see me happy, even if it meant changing my career. Even though they clarified that they may not have the funds to invest in my business, their approval would suffice for now, I thought. So, I started my business with the simple goal of being able to pay bills and rotate the money.” – Saumya Gupta, Ten on Ten

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Capital inflow

“A growing business can have an unexpected fund requirement at any stage, and I had not planned for the same. While banks ask for collateral for any kind of loan, most investors want to invest in e-commerce, and I had a purely brick and mortar business model. I had to take out a loan on my jewellery at one point to fund the business.” – Manisha Ahlawat, Vivafit

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“We put money into the company and, at one point in time, we had to pawn my mangalsutra too. The founders were putting all the money into the company (Infosys) and drawing minimal salaries. There was initially a financial crunch, but all the suffering and hard work paid off.” – Kumari Shibulal, S.D. Foundation

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“Till today, we are privately owned and internally run and funded; we get offers from external investors frequently seeking a stake, but we refrain from it. We like our status as internally funded and debt-free, which is a big achievement for an Indian player.” – Vinita Jain, Biotique

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Learning

“I took away a book of learnings that, in the first place, gave me the guts to start my own venture, and I am thankful for the opportunity. In comparison, my venture is tiny, but it is mine and I am responsible for each and every aspect of it. That sense of creation and ownership is what drives me.” – Nishita Biyani, Wafflist

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“I want to share something that I learnt through my own experiences. Ego is a big issue today - put that aside and work. Be humble!” – Archana Ganapathy Poonacha, Pinkapple Studios

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“Work hard and remember - respect comes out of knowledge. As an entrepreneur, make informed decisions and stand by them, no matter what the consequences are.” – Pooja Prabhakar, BCP Associates

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Challenges

“It was really outside my home that I encountered the barriers, if I can call them that – undertones that told me subtly that it isn’t easy for a woman to start up a business of her own and well-meaning advice that I’d thrown away the good opportunity of living abroad.” - Anoushka Adya, Lajja Diaries

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“We empower employees to make decisions and try. You don’t get punished for failure, but for not trying.” – Radhika Aggarwal, ShopClues

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“Women entrepreneurs, be prepared to push yourself to the core. The journey is tough, but it is also fun. You can learn and grow as a person as your brand grows. Having a strong support system will be helpful.” – Shruthi Shibulala, The Tamara Group

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There’s only one way to do it - like a girl

“Initially, when I was responsible for managing finances at MobiKwik, often, auditors or investors and bankers would be surprised and ask to deal with someone male. This was shocking to me, given that banking is an industry where female leaders are not uncommon.” – Upasana Taku, MobiKwik

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“In India, it is a tradition that a son takes over the father’s business after he retires, but women are becoming more and more qualified and independent with the changing times. I was raised to be ambitious too. So here I am!” - Anusha Jain, Bonjour

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“I knew that entering into the family business would not be easy, being a girl. But my business needed modernisation, and I was willing to do what it takes.” – Aanchal Makhija, Pehnava

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“When I joined the company, my key challenge was to not only retain the brand image we had built as an innovator, but to also capitalise on it and grow. And keeping our employees happy was at the heart of this. My personal challenge was in how I should be accepted in my own right, rather than as an Aga, who owns the foundation.” Anu Aga, Thermax

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Were you told that you could not run a startup because you were a woman? Tell us your story. Tell us what made you start up and what challenges you faced in your journey.

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