This International Women's Day women talk about what matters the most to them.
So many voices, each with a story to tell. In this multiplicity of voices, there are some significant messages to be found — empowerment, growth, progress, courage, and self-belief.
This International Women's Day, HerStory spoke to some entrepreneurs, technologists, mothers, doctors, leaders, and dancers about their learnings, born as they were out of hard work and experience, failure and challenges, to find out what matters to them.
Karyna Bajaj, Executive Director at KA Hospitality, believes that one of the basic challenges women in India face is the lack of education. "Education grooms us to become confident and definitely improves our interpersonal skills. Globally, education is given great importance. It will be great to see more entrepreneurial training for women, encouraging them not to be skeptical about their success," she says. Karyna believes hard work and perseverance always pay off.
Pritika Chatterjee, CEO and Founder, TidyHomz, echoes Karyna's thoughts. According to her, "Education is everything and we need to have the right kind of infrastructure to encourage women’s education in the country. Schools don’t have basic toilets in the rural areas because of which women drop out of school once they start their menstrual cycles. Such basic things need to change for women to grow and develop and get the education they deserve. I come from a very highly educated family where my grandmother, her sisters, my mother, everyone has achieved tremendous things because they are so well educated. So I know what wonders education can do and that’s a basic thing we need in this country."
Vandana Luthra, Founder, VLCC, started her entrepreneurial journey at a time when entrepreneurship was not a word many people were familiar with. She recalls, "The biggest challenge for me was to convince my near and dear ones regarding my entrepreneurial plunge. I overcame the challenge by taking my family along by building consensus rather than creating internal dissonance."
Vandana lives by Margaret Thatcher's quote, “Any woman who understands the problems of running a home will be nearer to understanding the problems of running a country.”
Maya Angelou's dictum "If you can change something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude" is what Patricia Cuero, Senior Director, Projects, New Business Planning, and Chief of Staff at Lowe's, lives by. In a world driven by technology and social media she keeps her life and work relevant by taking time out to do the things she likes. "I have a group of friends who are my support system. I travel with my family, spend time with my daughter, and stay connected with the happenings in the world. I stay real, and find my motivation in the things I do! Social media has not influenced me heavily — I feel human interaction has more value than relationships in the virtual world," she says.
The Managing Director and CEO of Metropolis Healthcare, Ameera Shah emphasises that failure is an indication that you’re willing to try, no matter the risk, and at the end of the day, that drive to try just one more time is what makes anybody successful. One of the biggest challenges in her own entrepreneurial journey was establishing herself as a serious entrepreneur.
"The pathology industry in India used to be highly unorganised, under capitalised, and functioned with little or no regulation. When we started working on expanding the business from a single lab, one of the major setbacks was my lack of medical expertise, only after my gender and young age. In a male-dominated space, where there was a serious dearth of talent and a good business model, it took a while to make people realise that I can bring incomparable value to the table. The only way to overcome this hurdle was to never give up and stay focused. Once people started realising I was serious about our vision, things became easier," she says.
Impossible means nothing and Kanika Tekriwal, CEO and Co-founder of JetSetGo, has truly shown that by overcoming every challenge that has come her way.
This woman in tech believes that women need to be the change they want to see and Sonia Sharma, Co-founder and Managing Director, GoodWorkLabs, definitely leads by example.
In fast-paced and quickly changing times, Geetha Kannan, Managing Director, Anita Borg Institute, says to keep relevant one needs to constantly update their skills and knowledge.
CashKaro Co-founder, Swati Bhargava says, "This Women’s Day I encourage all women to be bold. To know that you have the right to make a choice. Most importantly, don’t feel scared or guilty for the choices you make — whether it is about what course you study, what job or business you run, who you marry, or how you strike your work-life balance."
Despite the changes the digital boom has ushered, Vidushi Daga, Founder, Clone Futura, feels that there are still many women who are not aware of digital technology. She says, "The government should take more initiatives in creating awareness not only in Tier 1 cities but also Tier 2 and 3 cities. The little financial boost that is developing for women-led startups should be taken to a better level."
'Boss's daughter' is how fresher Aakanksha Bhargava was seen when she joined the family business in 2007. "Initially, getting work done by male subordinates was very difficult. The majority of people, be it my partners, clients, or customers, were apprehensive and hence they didn’t take me seriously. I had to really work hard to change their perception. Through a high level of commitment, patience, and conviction I was able to guide the company to success," she says.
Self-belief is the key to women empowerment and Dr. Sabitha Ramammurthy, Founder, CMR Jnanadhara Trust, echoes that thought.
Anisha Singh, Founder and CEO, Mydala, brings up a very important point. She says, "To all the women — we need you here! Let me explain what I mean by this. About five years ago I was invited to speak at an event that had India’s most successful women leaders being awarded. The one thing that newbie me at the event kept hearing in the audience was that it was the same set of women (mostly) that won every year. Weren’t there any more women leaders in India? This really got me wondering. First, I didn’t want to have just the same set of older women to look up to and also, were we not adding more women leaders to the mix? Luckily this hasn’t happened to the entrepreneurial space so far but let’s makes sure that it doesn’t happen in any field. There is no better time to take the leap you want to — DO IT NOW. My hope that is that the next time I get invited to one of these events I would be cheering for a whole new generation of entrepreneurs/leaders…that I’m cheering for you."
Jhelum Gosalia, Founder, J's Productions and J's Paradigm, has channelled her energy to pursue her dreams and refused to give up.
Bhavna Toor, Founder, Shenomics, lives by the quote, "You're the hero you've been waiting for." On this International Women's Day she sheds light upon a key aspect that impacts all our lives. She says, "Madeleine Albright had famously said, 'There's a special place in hell for women who don't help other women.' I always like to take the positive flip side of that and say there's a special place in heaven for women who help other women. On this day and the rest of the year, if we can build and tap into a sisterhood that supports, encourages, and even challenges us to be the best that we can be, I do believe we can #beboldforchange."
A budding entrepreneur, Meghna Saraogi, Founder, StyleDotMe, believes that if you start something, go all the way to achieve it or else don’t start.
Meha Bhargava, Founder, Styl. Inc., lives by the saying, "If you stumble, make it part of the dance." That is how she is building her business and tackling the problems that come her way.
Jaipur-based Ruchika Beri took to entrepreneurship last year after realising she had an entrepreneurial mindset. "Although women have come a long way, juggling between running the family and driving business goals is one of the major challenges. In the last couple of years, we have seen the transition in women occupying CXO positions but a mindset shift is yet to be fully seen," she shares.
The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra, and that is what Aneesha Dalal, Senior Dance Instructor, Shiamak Davar International India Pvt. Ltd., lives by.
"Societies, at large, have evolved and women today are making it possible to stand tall and accomplish their chosen purposes. If there was anything I could convey to women out there, it would be to remain focused, acquire all the necessary skills, hone their talents, aspire to excel, and continue to inspire," says Manju Yagnik, VCP, Nahar Group.
Priya Mohan, Co-founder and Executive Director, Vidyartha, feels "The toughest challenge as an entrepreneur has been to strike a balance between market insights and your own beliefs — how much patience is good enough and where you have to pivot and not stick to the original plan is something that certainly cannot be taught but has to be experienced."
There is no substitute for hard work, said Thomas A. Edison, and that is exactly what Dr. Kamini Rao follows in her life. She says, "I belong to a profession where every day is a challenge. But the one challenge that I wake up to every morning is the responsibilities of keeping up hopes. Hundreds of patients meet me with the desire and hope to bring a life into this world. To make sure that I live up to all their dreams and make it a reality is a challenge. The best way to overcome this is by putting my best into taking care of each and every patient and making sure that I leave no stone unturned in giving them the best treatment and support."
Jaya Vaidhyanathan, President, BFSI and Strategic Initiatives, says, "If you don’t innovate or don’t spend time on renovating yourself, you could risk getting replaced by anything, be it a person or challenge. Another challenge I think women face is not networking enough. Women don’t spend enough time networking, as compared with men. This is not a trend observed only in India; I have seen it happen worldwide. In a world where networking is the key to career success, I feel women should spend more time developing this skill."
Many women consider self-development a waste of money or keep it on a low priority and Dr. Shikha Sharma, Founder, Dr. Shikha's Nutrihealth, says women need to stop doing that. "Women are good at setting up complex networks. They are good at relationship building and people management so they should invest and improve these skills further."
Ritu Srivastava, Founder, Obino, says, "There’s a fable about the gazelle and the lion of the great Savannah that teaches us the essence of survival. The gazelle knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. The lion knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. The crux is, it doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle: when the sun comes up, you’d better be running!"
Kritika Parwal, Founder, Tomato & Co, which works on the philosophy of plantable paper, also runs a co-working space in Jaipur and lives by Coco Chanels' philosophy — "Keep your head, heels, and standards high!"
VP Technology and Operation at Rail Yatri, Aparajita Mukhopadhyay reminds us of one thing — being true to oneself. This woman in tech quotes William Shakespeare —“To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night and day...,”
Given her profession as an infertility expert, Dr. Rita Bakshi, Chairman and Founder, International Fertility Centre, says that one of the biggest challenges the industry faces is that of gender equality. "Be it giving birth to a newborn, getting tests done, or fertility issues, women are the ones who face all the challenges and shoulder them."
Co-founder of Wishtry, Yogita Parekh points out that women are filled with immense potential and are more ambitious.
"The biggest demons are inside not outside. The biggest challenge was the acceptance of the idea of becoming a farmer by profession instead of a CA. Look at the world — growing pollution levels, adulteration, plastic, junk: what kind of world are we going to leave for our kids? We all need to put in our small efforts to help restore the green balance. When I go to the fields and meditate under the cool shades of trees I know mother nature is so kind, all other things become secondary." Richa Gadia, runs VGrow, an organic farm. This mother of two started up at 40, for she believes that is the right age to start something you could not do earlier.
Swati Biswas, CFO, Landmark Leisure wants women to embrace their most important skill, the skill to multitask. She encourages women to dream and dream big this International Women's Day.
And here's an important message from Gauri and Radhika Tandon, Co-founders of Isharya.
So the promise that we need to make today and for eternity is to believe in ourselves and our potential to overcome any challenge, to scale any mountain, and to stand up for not just ourselves but for other women too.
May our tribe increase!