YourStory is the outreach partner for SheLeadsTech from Facebook
Women entrepreneurs, not just in India but the world over, remain an exception and not the rule. Especially women entrepreneurs in tech – much like women themselves in tech – are even more of a rare commodity. While they comprise less than 10 percent of the startup community, a Facebook study revealed that four out of five women in India wanted to start their own business. And the beauty and wellness industry is one where they are making an increasing impact, and not necessarily through cosmetics and products they are stereotypically associated with. It’s a sector that’s exploding like never before.
A report by KPMG revealed that the industry in India is looking at a market value of over Rs 80,000 crore by the end of FY 2018. What’s more, it’s growing at 15-20 percent a year, and that’s faster than anywhere in the developed world.
On Facebook’s SheLeadsTech (SLT) programme, there are many women entrepreneurs who are making waves in the beauty and wellness space. We take a look at seven of these tenacious women:
An ex-advertising professional and brand strategist, in 2016, Nancy started This For That, a mobile-only community for women in the Delhi-NCR region to swap clothes, after finding inspiration in a TEDTalk by Rachel Botsman on collaborative consumption. Her co-founder, Sandeep Bedi, is a serial entrepreneur and has previously run successful businesses in the real estate and energy sectors.
This For That is a boon for women to look like a million bucks without spending big bucks. Through this app, they can upload unused or barely used clothes, shoes, bags, accessories and cosmetics and send a swap request. In turn, they can choose items they want from a curated collection of other users’ closets. In-app messaging allows them to negotiate, and once a request is accepted, both users pay a convenience charge (for pickup, drop-off and on-spot hygiene and condition check). They items they have chosen are delivered at their doorstep.
Nancy joined Facebook’s SheLeadsTech programme in March 2017. She says, “I believe the SLT network can be a great growth enabler. Access to relevant mentors and the opportunity to meet fellow entrepreneurs is something that will eventually lead to meaningful collaborations.” This year, This for That is looking at expanding to Mumbai and Bengaluru. “And of course, pan-India growth is on the cards,” she adds.
Thanks to This for That, that old line, “I don’t have a thing to wear for the party tonight,” is, well, old hat.
Style continues to make a statement with former graphic designer Meghna Saraogi, the founder of StyleDotMe. The app, which promises to revolutionise the way people shop, lets people virtually try on things via augmented reality (AR) and get instant fashion advice from experts around the world. The app allows the user to instantly poll friends and followers and get them to help her choose an outfit or look, by voting on the options. In short, if you’re having an SOS moment while shopping, this is your go-to app.
“The growing fashion industry and fashion-conscious people encouraged us to build the platform. StyleDotMe has got huge traction and that gives us a social validation and makes us want to work harder,” says Meghna.
Meghna, who has been a part of Facebook’s SheLeadsTech programme since May 2017, says, “It helps me build my network and keeps me connected to some of the top women entrepreneurs (and others) in tech. The platform also enables me to keep asking my doubts without fear of being judged.”
Juggling roles and harnessing untapped opportunities is Meghna’s specialty. Knowing the power of social media, her app allows users to import their posts from Instagram with a single tap. Their posts on StyleDotMe can also be automatically shared with your followers on Instagram.
A former IT professional, Parinitha quit her job to start Spalontime in September 2015, which she describes as the Zomato for salons and beauty players. It is a platform where people can search for and rate salons and spas, and write reviews, and so on.
The idea came to her when she realised that in the 15 years of moving cities while she worked in the corporate world, there was one service she and her friends had difficulty finding — a good salon. "The hardest thing was finding an inexpensive salon. There are so many to choose from but good service was not guaranteed," she says.
Spalontime is a Bengaluru-based online aggregator that helps users search for spas, salons and ayurvedic centres by location, service and products used.
Parinitha says, “When I started out, getting the right hires and understanding the requirements of the customer was a huge challenge. With SheLeadsTech, things are becoming simpler. We have mentors who tell us about the mistakes that every founder needs to be wary of. Facebook also helps us understand the technology better and how we can advertise our products on it.”
Thasneem believes fashion can be ethical. Which is why, with over eight years’ experience in the fashion industry, she joined hands with Adveta Dwivedi, to launch the label, Rossbelle, where fashion and sustainability coexist. Says Thasneem, “We put sustainability at the core of everything that we do, with the goal that we affect our environment as less as possible. We source sustainable and vintage fabrics, while creating a base for skilled sustainable rural employment and preserving India’s handicrafts. All this while fusing better practices all through our supply chains to make excellent styles.”
Based in Chennai, Rossbelle garments are made from fabrics that are ethically produced by following environment-friendly practices. These are mostly handwoven and natural-dyed organic cotton and linen. They also purchase old, remaining, and over-requested fabrics from various fabric distribution centres.
Thasneem has this to say about SLT, “The technical support and mentorship, free credits to tools, training on Facebook developer tools, and services from dozens of partners including MailChimp, App Annie, and AWS are of so much help.”
Vandana grew up observing her mother Dr. Monica Mohindra’s success in effectively treating skin problems with her own formulations. As a successful dermatologist with over four decades’ practice that spanned India, the UK and Sri Lanka, her mother had developed and perfected her own range of non-steroidal, safe and simple therapies.
In 2016, Vandana decided that it was imperative to make these therapies widely available, as her mother would never be able to personally reach everyone in need. Thus was born the idea of Dr. Monica MD, with the vision of promoting non-steroidal applications in the treatment of simple skin diseases. “We are challenging current dermatology practices where steroids and tests are the norm for treating everyday skin problems,” is how she puts it.
Available through their website and ecommerce sites, the products are specially made for sensitive, troubled or unhappy skins, as they do not contain many of the irritants (perfumes, dyes or parabens) widely used in commercial brands. As no two skins are alike, she works out new formulae that specifically address the needs of the individual’s skin.
The therapies are now easily available all across India. It is a very simple system: select your skin issue, order the products and have them delivered to your door.
Prior to founding Dr. Monica MD, Vandana has worn several hats careerwise: wildlife conservationist, travel writer, travel book editor and television journalist. She is fascinated how technology facilitates outreach to the unserved millions and also gives entrepreneurs like her a leg-up. She has been a part of the SheLeadsTech programme since November 2017.
Whoever said beauty is skin deep?
Giving company to This For That is Aanchal Saini’s Rent It Bae, launched in August 2016. Aanchal was all too aware of the ‘nothing to wear, and not enough space for all clothes’ problem. Along with Jaspreet Singh Gujral, Karandeep Singh Gujral and Amit Sharma, she founded the premium tech-enabled clothes rental service, with the firm belief that women have the right to look good at all times.
“The [fashion] industry is constantly evolving at a very high speed. And for women, it is important to keep pace. And here is where we [at Rent It Bae] fit the best,” she says with pride.
The Delhi-based fashion rental portal has expanded its services to 11 more cities, including Bengaluru. Users can rent brands and designer labels for four days or more at 10 percent to 15 percent of the retail price. A win-win situation for everyone.
Aanchal has been a part of the SheLeadsTech programme since September 2017. She believes that the initiative helps her connect with other founders and investors. “I think the platform is great to build connections and create more awareness about your startup’s existence,” she says.
Ritu Kumar, Tarun Tahiliani et al, here we come!
Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, Shabia worked in television for 24 years. She founded Wild Earth, a natural beauty product range, in August 2016, along with her husband, Ravi Walia, an accomplished cinematographer. It all began when Shabia ran out of a body scrub she was using. “Ravi had bought it for me from Fiji. After hunting for it, I came across a similar one by a popular brand, but it was ridiculously expensive.”
That set her thinking and she decided to make her own body scrub – chemical-free and affordable. “We kept adding to the range one product at a time and today we have more than 15 categories of soaps, scrubs, lip balms, sulphate-free shampoos, shower gels, face mists and gift sets.”
All the products are handmade and eco-friendly and part of the earnings goes towards supporting the underprivileged.
A member of SheLeadsTech since August 2017, Shabia explains, “Not being from a business family, it’s good to be part of a group where you find like-minded supportive women, approachable mentors and other resources, which you always need to face the challenges of entrepreneurship.”
These seven women are the faces of the entrepreneurial India, who found a business opportunity and went for it to prove their mettle. Move over, Gwyneth Paltrow. You have serious competition!