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Mindset needs to change for women entrepreneurs to succeed, say Facebook SheLeadsTech panellists

Jerlin Justus
17th Oct 2018
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What does it take for women to start up in the Indian ecosystem? At TechSpark’s 9th edition, women entrepreneurs from the Facebook SheLeadsTech community came together to discuss this and other topics related to the entrepreneurial shift for women in the country.

The panel comprised Naiyya Saggi, Founder, BabyChakra; Sivareena Sarika, Co-founder, PregBuddy; and Kalyani Khona, CEO & Co-Founder of Inclov. Naiyya is a mentor at Facebook SheLeadsTech community, while Sivareena and Kalyani are members. The panel was moderated by Tanvi Dubey, Editor, YourStory.

YourStory's Tanvi Dubey in conversation with Naiyya Saggi, Sivareena Sarika, and Kalyani Khona (left to right)

Women are ready, India needs to get ready

Across the globe, the contribution of women to the economy and the labour force is increasing, with many starting up their own ventures. Driving this change are various forums, meetups and programmes designed to help women entrepreneurs, said Naiyya, adding, “When nations and communities succeed, people succeed.”

According to Kalyani and Sivareena, India isn't moving fast enough to keep pace with this global trend. “While there are a number of events and programmes, what’s not changing is the household thought process,” said Kalyani. Sivareena believed that even though in 2018, one sees so many jobs taken up by women which wasn’t the case earlier, the mindset that certain jobs aren’t for women to take up needs to change first for the movement to gain momentum.

Defining success

“I don’t think we ever fully succeed as our aspirations change each day. When I look at stories of women, men, corporate leaders who’ve done so much better than before, that’s what inspires me. At BabyChakra, we win when we are able to make a tangible difference,” said Naiyya. Today, the popularity of the platform which enables the easy discovery of the right maternity and childcare is indicative of its success.

Kalyani said she was inspired to start Inclov, a matchmaking platform for people with disabilities when, as a 21-year-old, she saw a visually-impaired man crossing the road. Though people helped him, no one spoke to him. Today the platform has enabled around 16,000 matches to be made. While that’s a huge achievement, she adds, “When we take time out of our busy schedule to help out a person struggling in a wheelchair at a railway station, that’s when we know we’re getting closer to equality.”

PregBuddy initially aimed to support pregnant women at the start of their journey. While working on the solution, they understood how healthcare wasn’t addressing the needs of to-be mothers, especially in urban India. They decided to be a ‘care continue platform’ for hospitals and be there for mothers from the beginning of the journey till they delivered a healthy and happy baby. “We’ve seen stories of expectant mothers and how we’ve helped them. That’s something which keeps me going every day. More and more women are joining the team to create an impact at such an early stage, and that’s success for me,” said Sivareena.

Leveraging technology for greater good

BabyChakra is trying to penetrate into the family ecosystem which is a huge opportunity that has not yet been disrupted by technology. They are doing two really interesting things. The first is personalising user experience using personas, simple UI, and super intelligence. Since the future of tech is hyper-personalisation, each user in their platform will need a personalised experience to find meaning and derive value from it. “Two mothers in the same city facing the same problem will have two different BabyChakra products customised for them. That’s what we’re doing differently,” said Naiyya.

Second, they’re building for the next generation of mothers online. Young mothers are now using emoticons and voice notes to talk to their doctors, making it complex to analyse data. This is one interesting problem they are looking to solve.

The PregBuddy platform monitors a to-be mother’s entire health journey and passes that information to doctors, in case a timely intervention is needed. They also help reduce anxiety among expecting mothers. “At a time like this, the couple requires medical assurance and that’s where we come in. We use machine learning to ensure that the entire care path is personalised with the right doctors and care providers,” said Sivareena.

At Inclov, they realised that 15 percent of India’s population has disabilities and the internet as a model was inaccessible to a large section. Creating a profile on a matchmaking website was challenging, as several are unable to view images, tap the phone screen, and so on. “A lot of our investment has gone into making the platform accessible for disabled people. We’re using voice command technology and Inclov Light to help them find a match,” said Kalyani.

To improve functionality, Inclov Light doesn’t feature images and is accessible to visually challenged individuals in both Hindi and English. Their algorithm enables users to understand who is from their location and fits their lifestyle the best, making it easy for them to communicate with each other and find the perfect match.

Key takeaways from SheLeadsTech

The panellists agreed that SheLeadsTech from Facebook was a great initiative which provided them with the right resources and mentorship to scale. It enabled them to learn about the challenges that other women entrepreneurs face. The panellists added that it also helped them learn how to go to market quickly. “Entrepreneurship is a lonely journey and such platforms help you reduce some of the costlier mistakes you would make,” said Sivareena.

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