With an eye to bringing quality parenting solutions to an industry largely lacking in transparency, these two successful women professionals look to aid young mothers in achieving the ever-evasive work-life balance.
Ex-colleagues Ketika Kapoor and Divya Mehta, both 35, were managing different verticals at Aon Hewitt when their common aspiration of becoming great mothers while at the same time being successful working professionals brought them together to form ProEves, a pro-woman initiative that provides end-to-end childcare and parental support.
Through a network of over 500 credible, verified, and flexible daycare service providers, ProEves caters to Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida, Mumbai, Thane, and Navi Mumbai.
Ketika, a BIT graduate in Information Technology from Delhi University and an MBA from MDI Gurgaon, was keen to return to work after her three-month maternity leave but was unsure of the quality and trustworthiness of a good childcare service for her daughter. She says,
"In my search for a daycare for my child, I realised that daycares in India have no legal requirements and licenses; the industry is not transparent and not even structured to be parent-friendly. This gave rise to the idea of creating ProEves for other young mothers like us."
Adding on to what Ketika says, Divya, a graduate in Economics from St. Xavier's College, Mumbai, and an MBA in HR from XLRI, Jamshedpur, says, "I was juggling my role as a mother of two young kids and leading the diversity portfolio of one of India's largest consumer goods companies and realised how vacant the childcare space truly is. Most times, we are dependent on our extended family or we look for recommendations within our network, but then there's no true solution provider."
Speaking about the startup they’ve founded, Ketika adds, "For the parents, the service is aimed at helping them discover a range of childcare centres that suit their requirements. Our seven-member team bring with them the functional expertise and counsel the unsure parents on deciding the best centre and even help them book the service. From our own experience and by speaking with several mothers like us, we realised that parents look for different services from a daycare like hourly drop-in and emergency monthly/day-based support. For this, we even provide a flexible daycare booking service, ranging from a few hours to a few days in case of an emergency, meetings, maids on leave, and so on."
"In addition to working towards making the industry transparent and parent-friendly, we are working towards promoting and up-skilling the daycare centres as well through various interventions like organising teacher/attendant training and handling marketing events," she adds.
On the other side of the business, ProEves partners with corporate clients to help them improve gender representation in their workforce by providing daycare, maternity, and parental support solutions to their employees. In fact, they launched a gender diversity study in the country and have been working with leading companies on designing and delivering daycare setup and parenting/maternity support workshops.
After the Lok Sabha passed the amended Maternity Bill on March 9th, the startup launched a reach out campaign to make every company, big or small, aware of the amendments, support in policy draft, help set up a cost optimal and limited liability daycare, and most of all sensitise the line manager.
While working on the gender diversity study across India, both Ketika and Divya found that while companies were picking up diversity agendas and initiatives, it resulted in little impact at ground level. With a significant increase in corporate commitment, both partners became increasingly aware that the missing link was the real solutions to address working parents/mothers’ needs.
Speaking about an independent survey conducted by ProEves, Ketika says, "The study revealed that overall woman participation in India Inc. is around 20 percent. To understand the reasons behind this number, we reached out to a community of 4,000 Indian mothers to understand the factors causing stress at work and the leaking women pipeline." She add,
"Most women mentioned workload, work-life balance, lack of managerial or organisation support, and unreliable childcare arrangements as the top reasons for stress."
To address this, ProEves has created three unique market research properties/publications aimed at helping companies define and benchmark diversity and inclusion practices which are available for download/sale.
"In the past three months, ProEves has successfully conducted sessions for new parents on fitness and guidance on infant food, sleep, safety, and tantrum management with experts from the field like pediatricians, nutritionists, and fitness and childcare experts under the brand name New Parents Cafe. The subscription to the services offered by ProEves ranges from Rs 50 to Rs 1,500 per service," says Ketika.
For corporates, they have structured and researched solutions in the daycare space, maternity (pre and post) coaching, maternity/childcare technology, and parental workshops, and the ticket size ranges from Rs 10,000 to Rs 20 lakh, depending on the product and consulting service selected.
"In the first year of our launch, we have already started working with three corporates in the FMCG and pharma sectors, with more than 20 active discussions in the pipeline," adds Divya. Speaking about the challenges faced by their startup, Ketika says, "Research by CRISIL estimates that the pre-school market will grow at a CAGR of 20 percent to reach Rs 16,500 crore in 2017-18, up from Rs 8,000 crore in 2013-14. The challenge for us was making inroads into the fragmented, closed, and unregulated pre-school/daycare industry by partnering with them."
They see competition from discovery platforms and mom communities like mycity4kids, BabyChakra and on the corporate side from a few multi-city large daycare players like Mother’s Pride and Nest Preschool.
Sharing about their tie-ups, Divya says, "We are working with industry bodies like Nasscom and Catalyst to support companies to implement quality daycare tie-ups as the amended Maternity Bill requires companies to have a daycare tie-ups for all offices with more than 50 employees. For promoting and upskilling the service providers, we are working closely with large chains like Maple Bear Canadian Preschool, Klay, Kangaroo Kids and IPSAA amongst others."
Currently bootstrapped, ProEves is a definite step towards woman empowerment, positive changes in childcare in their crucial formative years (up to the age of eight), and introducing professionalism into childcare management services available in the country.