From play to sleep to nutrition, these 8 women entrepreneurs are solving the everyday challenges of motherhood
YourStory is the outreach partner for SheLeadsTech from Facebook
If you're one of the thousands of Indian women who own a business and are a parent at the same time, you're in great company. Today, the number of women who are stepping out and carving a niche for themselves in what has been a male-dominated sphere is rising. Government initiatives and corporate programmes are enabling women to tap all opportunities and balance motherhood and entrepreneurial responsibilities, with support from their families.
This article features women entrepreneurs who have devised unique solutions to address unique challenges related to motherhood. These include designing fashionable maternity wear, affordable and environment-friendly cloth diapers, nutritious baby food sans preservatives, safe and natural sanitary products, to creating forums for mothers to connect and engage on relevant topics, safe and engaging toys, and more. Here are some fantastic stories of women who have made the journey simple for both parents and their children.
Top left to bottom right: Natasha Mittal Saraf, Malika Sadani, Meeta Sharma Gupta, Mansi Zaveri, Tamanna Dhamija, Rachita Agarwal, Meghana Narayan and Shauravi Malik
Tamanna Dhamija, Co-founder and CEO, Baby Destination
Prior to founding Baby Destination in 2016, Tamanna was an investment banker in New York for close to a decade. When she became a mother, she realised how very little content online was tailor-made for Indian mothers. Although she could rely on family and friends, she couldn't depend on them 24/7 for her basic doubts for the simple fear of being judged. She travelled to India and spoke to new moms, realising that the need for information and community is much bigger in India. This led to Tamanna founding a safe and thriving community for mothers to ask questions, learn new things and hopefully find a friend in the process.
Baby Destination provides moms with information about being a parent, right from planning a baby, to pregnancy and parenting in multiple languages across all digital channels. They also have a community of over 7 lakh moms to facilitate mom-to-mom conversation. They use AI and ML solutions to analyse these conversations.
During her entrepreneurial journey, she realised that building leaders in the company was equally important as getting new clients. "Building an ecosystem of teamwork and productivity means to create multiple leaders. I've started to put processes in place to identify and nurture talented individuals in my team," she says.
On being a mompreneur, she says, "Entrepreneurs need support, not only from investors and mentors but their family members and friends." Going ahead, her dream is to build the largest ecosystem for moms and reach over 100 million moms across India over the next three years.
Rachita Agarwal, Founder and CEO, BabyPro
Rachita Agarwal from Kolkata always had the zeal to start something. She thought she'd wait for a few years and build a network before starting up. But two years into her corporate journey, things changed. She dreamed of building a valuable brand that would contribute to society and touch lives. During a video call with her friend, she observed baby proofing and researched on it. She realised that this was a huge untapped market in India. So in 2017, she decided to start Baby Pro, a babyproofing startup that makes the environment safer for babies. Soon they added injury-proofing services for adults as well.
Initially, they found it challenging to find the right fit of products. Once they sorted out their product portfolio, they expanded in Mumbai and Pune to provide end-to-end service. She says the struggle is real in entrepreneurship. Her vision to grow big, persistence to keep moving, and positivity is what keeps her going.
On competition, Rachita says, "Competition is always good, but it gets dirty when there is price competition. However, in the baby industry, it’s more about trust and quality. To beat competition, we always focus on our product differentiation and quality." She adds that the Indian startup ecosystem is encouraging, and they are excited to use Virtual Reality to audit homes as part of their business.
With over 2000 clients, Rachita wants to create more awareness about injury prevention products for babies. Her mantra for happiness and success is a combination of, “Mind, health, work and relationships."
Mansi Zaveri, Founder, Kidsstoppress Media
When Mansi, a marketing professional with a decade's experience was travelling abroad with her first child, she realised that there was a gap in the parenting and baby care market in India compared to global markets. Three years later, Kidstoppress.com was born to resolve the many questions, doubts and anxieties of first-time mothers in India. "Today, parents suffer from a paradox of choice. Being a full-time working mother, I had limited access to other moms’ discussions about what's good or bad, tried or tested with children. But I had access to technology, and wondered why information was not available to us in that format," says Mansi.
Based in Mumbai, Kidsstoppress Media was founded in 2012 with a vision to create a unifying digital platform for the discerning Indian parent who was looking at global resources to raise kids in India to help them simplify parenting. They create unique marquee properties such as the first family subscription business with KSPCODE.com, the first radio station for kids, podcast for Indian parents, online book club for kids, curated summer planners and camp guides. Right from educating brands to devising digital strategies, the startup now has 150 brands. "It was initially difficult to get brands to understand the power of digital in the parenting and baby care category, especially in a diverse country like India, but we got there," she says.
Half their team members are parents themselves and that's an added advantage. Machine Learning has also enabled them to study over 100 data points to curate users feed by city, age, interest and milestone. "We have 35 percent of our traffic coming directly to us and that shows the loyalty the user has," she says. This year, they opened their platform for user-led content with over 250 handpicked contributors, and are directly servicing three more cities.
She feels the startup ecosystem for technology startups in India is great but definitely very fragmented and polarised. "It needs a huge amount of evolution and I think people need to be more accessible and more emphasis should be on the product than funding."
On how she balances motherhood and entrepreneurial responsibilities, she says, "It’s like a see-saw, one day one gets higher than the other but that’s the way it is. I don’t try to achieve perfect equilibrium because that will lead to dissatisfaction."
Meeta Sharma Gupta, Founder, Shumee Toys
Meeta was working as a researcher with IBM Labs in the US in 2012, when she had to move back to India. As a mother of two boys looking for good toys, she realised that the Indian market was a fragmented one. "There was a lot of focus on education and learning, but no focus on safety, design, and play value. I wanted to bring back the simple joy of playing with toys which were safe, had good design and quality.” This led to the start of Shumee Toys in 2014.
Their toys help children develop naturally through play. They are focused on the quality, design and aesthetics of toys, and want to let parents connect to their child through play. "Play time is the fundamental right of a child,” says Meeta. Initially getting the right manufacturers was a challenge. "We needed manufacturers who understood what we wanted in terms of quality and standards. We've overcome that and now work with a healthy pipeline of manufacturers." The angel-funded startup based in Bengaluru has around 25,000 mothers as clients and sell via Amazon, their own website and FirstCry. In the last four years, they have grown 4x with annual revenue close to Rs 3 crore.
Amidst competition, she works to understand and get the best possible product out in the market. “There are many unbranded and smaller players, but we are the first ones to get into a focused play.” She has witnessed the startup ecosystem growing in a healthy manner in India, and a lot of support systems coming into play. “It's a good time to be a startup in India,” she says. She is excited to see how Data Analytics and AI can help them as a brand to better engage with their customers and improve the play experience.
As a mother and entrepreneur, she says that work-life balance is always a challenge, but she is fortunate enough to have a supportive family. "As a conscious effort, we set aside some time as family time. It’s an enriching experience as this journey is one my kids could relate to. It has helped my boys be a part of it something which is related to what we’re doing. Their own feedback on the toys that we make excites them. They are our first customers."
On the way forward for Shumee Toys, she says, "We want to make it a brand synonymous with play and kids in India. If you think of anything good for your child in terms of development or play value, Shumee should come to mind. Also, we want to explore the global market as it’s a huge and ready market."
Meghana Narayan and Shauravi Malik, Founders, Slurrp Farm
Prior to founding Slurrp Farm, Meghana was a public health practitioner and was more famously a national level swimmer for India with over 400 gold medals. Shauravi has over a decade’s experience as a financial professional at reputed organisations. Both were London-based mothers who saw a gap in healthy eating options for children whenever they visited India. They dug deeper and found out that some of the organic products that are available abroad source ingredients from India. Both couldn’t understand why there weren't more suitable products for children in India using the available indigenous ingredients like millets.
This curiosity led to a lot of time studying, sourcing and understanding the several problems with the food chain today, which eventually led to the birth of Slurrp Farm in 2016. Slurrp Farm is a health and organic Indian food start-up with a mission to provide healthy snacks and meal options for young children and their parents. They offer a range of nutritious and tasty cereals and cookies made with organic ingredients, whole grains and essential minerals and vitamins. They also have a variety of millet dosas, millet pancakes, and multigrain snacks that are available in both savoury and sweet flavours.
Their products contain no added artificial colours, flavours, stabilisers or preservatives. “Our intention is to revive traditional ancient grains like the vast variety of millets available in India. We also ensure that our packaging plays a key role in making our product portfolio appealing to little ones with mascots like monkey, rhino, parrot, and more,” says Meghana. Today, they cater to 300,000 customers through online stores like Amazon, BigBasket, FirstCry, BabyChakra, and their products are available in 500 outlets across three major Indian cities.
Even though they had prior experience advising clients on how to run their companies and get funding, it was a challenge when it came to their own company. “It literally means going down to the brass tacks and building from ground zero,” says Shauravi. They both agree that as entrepreneurs, the learning never stops. They feel that the evolving tech space is providing opportunities in the FMCG industry to capture and analyse consumer buying behaviour. “It’s an exciting opportunity to be a part of this digital wave, and with the adoption of data analytics, we’ll be able to provide a truly valuable brand offering,” says Shauravi.
Being mothers in this competitive landscape isn’t easy, but they’ve learnt to manage with practice. Meghana says, “It takes a village to grow a business, and we’ve both been fortunate enough to get all the support from our families, friends, and a wonderful team of talented individuals in our workforce.” Shauravi adds, “Starting the company was like having another baby, and the energy and dedication required to bring it to where it is today was extraordinary.” Their vision is to build India’s most loved food brand for children, with an ambitious plan to reach 2000 stores, across eight Indian cities by the end of this year. “When a customer holds a Slurrp Farm product in their hand – we want them to feel tremendous pride at holding a beautiful Made in India and Made for Indians product in their hands,” says Shauravi.
Natasha Mittal Saraf, CEO and Creative Director, The Mommy Collective
Natasha’s true passion was always in sustainable design, and over the last 12 years, she’s successfully worked on a diverse range of projects. After becoming a mom, she saw a whole new side of what it means to be a woman. She wanted to build products for women that would help them embrace their true selves, connect with other women, and shine light on their inner strength. In 2017, she launched The Mommy Collective to offer premium maternity wear in accessible price ranges. “Maternity is an ignored fashion segment, and I wanted to offer the same attention to detail and high-quality as designer brands,” says Natasha. Based in Mumbai, her startup is an ode to the modern-day mother, combining style, with tradition, craftsmanship and community.
Looking back at her entrepreneurial journey, she says, “Building the right team was a huge challenge initially, but now we have an extremely driven and creative set of people.” Their key challenge was keeping the customer acquisition cost really low, since customers perceived that maternity wear would only last a few months. Over time, people who have experienced their brands have become their patrons, and today, they have around 5000 clients on board. They use technology to listen to their customers, connect with them and really be ‘glocal’. The entrepreneurship journey can be lonely, but she says that the internet is driving and building support communities, and that’s inspiring. She looks forward to seeing where wearable technology and fashion technology takes her, especially with sustainability in mind.
As a mother, she doesn’t strive for any sort of balance, everything co-exists. With a great support system, motherhood and entrepreneurship go hand in hand. She also follows a weekly office hour routine, where her team can meet her in person, which reduces the time she has to be physically present in office. She aims to build The Mommy Collective as an international brand and is also working on a few other sustainability-driven startups.
Malika Sadani, Founder, The Moms Co.
Malika’s journey to founding The Moms Co was born out of a personal struggle of not being able to find good quality, natural and safe products for her daughters. During her stay in London, she got to know about the harmful effects of chemicals used in skin care products. After moving back to India, her daughter’s skin reacted to some product available here. When she spoke to other moms, she realised they had similar issues and depended on family and friends who travelled abroad to stock up on safe products. In 2017, the idea to create a brand that helps moms make natural, safe and effective solutions for themselves and their families came into being. The Moms Co has a range of solutions for moms and babies for breastfeeding, stretch marks, diaper care, tear-free bath, and more.
Over the years, her challenges have evolved from getting the right products to getting the right talent. They’ve now grown to 10 owned stores, 23 products and over 2 lakh women as part of the family, and 10 lakh customers. She says that it’s an interesting time for technology startups, with a lot of resources readily available and AI coming into play. “You just need to know where to look. Today, we work with great investors, partners and mentors who have helped us grow.”
As a mother, she follows three mantras to maintain work-life balance – discipline, routine and prioritising. She also makes it a point to work out for at least an hour daily, which helps her remain energised for the day. “I would love to see The Moms Co grow to be a household name and have a meaningful impact in the lives of many mothers,” says Malika.
A community to empower women founders
All these amazing women entrepreneurs are part of Facebook’s SheLeadsTech, a programme to support women-founded startups by providing them with access to community, tools, resources and mentorship to grow their business. As part of the programme, they were able to meet other budding entrepreneurs and get access to programs like FbStart, monthly Ask me Anything (AMA) sessions, and so on. Tamanna says, "It allows us great mentorship opportunities with the Facebook community and product team and networking opportunities to connect with relevant entrepreneurs and potential investors." All the women agree that the meetups were helpful for them to bounce off ideas and seek help for their business solutions. "The SheLeadsTech conference gave us access to an entirely new entrepreneurial community in Mumbai, which we didn’t know existed," says Natasha. Malika adds that the AMA sessions helped her understand how she can make the most of social media platforms to grow her business. "When women (and men) support other women, great things happen. Communities like SheLeadsTech will bring about monumental changes that is needed for women to enter, survive and thrive in the workforce," adds Natasha.