Overcoming pandemic challenges: resilience by winners of the Britannia Marie Gold My Startup initiative

Launched in 2019, this annual initiative for homepreneurs has documented its earlier successes, and how they are coping with the coronavirus crisis.

Britannia Marie Gold, the third-largest biscuit brand in India, has completed two seasons of its annual women entrepreneurship initiative, My Startup. Ten winners each year are awarded Rs 10 lakh each to kick-start their business ventures (see Part I of our coverage here). The pandemic crisis has forced many of them to modify their plans and bounce back.

Season 1 winners

YourStory was part of the external jury for the 2020 competition, along with Rashmi Daga (Founder, FreshMenu), Aarti Mohan (Co-founder, Sattva Consulting), Shubhra Chadda (Founder, Chumbak), Kanwaljit Singh (Co-founder, Fireside Ventures), and S Venkatesh (Senior Head, NSDC).

The initiative also provided 10,000 homemakers access to a customised online skill development programme, in partnership with National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC). Topics covered were communication skills, financial literacy, ICTs, and micro-entrepreneurial skills.

Funding and skills

“Britannia Marie Gold has been the Indian homemaker’s teatime companion for years. With changing times, the brand has evolved from just being a homemaker's downtime partner to a friend, guide, and confidant that enables her to do more in her life,” explains Vinay Subramanyam, VP Marketing, Britannia Industries, in a chat with YourStory.

The company noticed a “silent revolution” in the aspiration of homemakers over the years, with a growing ambition to become entrepreneurs as well. “In a report on Indian Women Entrepreneurship that we commissioned with AC Nielsen in 2018, financial assistance followed by skill development emerged as crucial need gaps in homemakers’ journey towards entrepreneurship,” he recalls.

The Britannia Marie Gold My Startup Initiative was thus launched to encourage and empower homemakers to fulfill their entrepreneurial ambitions, and take a step forward in their journey to become self-reliant and financially independent.

“In today’s times, the country can do with more job creators and women entrepreneurs can be the much-needed change makers in this regard,” Vinay says. Through the annual initiative, ten homemakers with unique and innovative business ideas are awarded with a seed capital of Rs 10 lakh each to kick-start their own business ventures.

“Encouraged by the response to Season 1, we decided to make Season 2 even bigger and better,” Vinay adds. The Indian Women Entrepreneurship survey revealed that lack of finances was the biggest barrier for homepreneurs, followed by lack of time and skills.

Hence, Season 2 included NSDC skilling programmes along with seed capital. Season 1 received 1.3 million entries, while Season 2 attracted 1.5 million entries.

Winners and support networks

The ten winners for the 2020 season come from eight states, and plan to launch businesses in clothing, healthcare, agri business, and education. In this article, we trace some of the achievements of the 2019 season winners.

Season 2 winners

The grand finale of the first edition of My Startup was held in March 2019 in Bengaluru. Drawn from 1.5 million entries, the 10 winners came from Pune, Bhubaneshwar, Namakkal, New Delhi, Kolkata, Baramati, Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Coimbatore. They started ventures in solar energy, tailoring, food products, fitness, and cosmetics.

For example, Anita Balasaheb Hore from Pune runs a solar product company in her village. Vijayeeni Sahoo from Bhubaneshwar is a tailoring professional who now runs a boutique called Shri across villages in Odisha.

Darshana Dilip Pawar from Pune runs her brand Modakam for a variety of confectionaries. Sneha Kumanduri from Bengaluru launched a handmade skin and hair product line called Cikitse, using organic ingredients. Lalita Pravin Patil from Thane owns a restaurant business serving home-cooked food, called Gharchi Aathvan.

“We have set up an internal team who are in constant touch with winners to map their progress in business. We also try to provide adequate coverage to the winners of Britannia Marie Gold My Startup in their respective regions, so that they get better visibility,” Vinay explains.

From confidence to success

Lalita Patil, Founder of Gharachi Athvan, explains that her dine-in restaurant clocked a monthly revenue of Rs 3-3.5 lakh and registered revenue of Rs 25 lakh in the last eight months (see our earlier coverage here). During the coronavirus lockdown, she had to switch to tiffin services for medical staff, chemists, working professionals, and students.

Lalita Patil

Her plan is to expand the business through franchisee models and provide employment to other women, depending on how things revive in the course of the year. She says the Britannia Marie Gold My Startup platform provided financial support and confidence, even though an earlier small business of hers folded due to unfortunate circumstances. “The dream to re-start persisted,” she recalls.

Being in charge of one’s own business and overcoming initial struggles are highlights of her journey. “People started recognising me as an entrepreneur, that was the biggest achievement I could have ever thought of. Also, being an entrepreneur gave me the confidence to support other women and give them the inspiration to pursue their dreams,” Lalita says.

From offline to online

Vijayeeni Sahoo used her prize money as a Season 1 winner to start her own boutique line called Shree Boutique in Bhubaneshwar, employing over 25 female employees. “A lot of the work was hampered due to the pandemic outbreak, and I shifted a major chunk of my work at home. Now I have re-opened my boutique and employees are coming in batches of five,” she explains.

Vijayeeni Sahoo

Plans to open another branch have been postponed, hopefully in 2021. “With ecommerce and online stores gaining a lot of traction, I am working towards launching my own online store for garments. The website named Meeshap.com is a work in progress and will take some time to be officially launched,” Vijayeeni explains.

She grew up in a village where girls were expected to be only homemakers. Her mother had an unfulfilled dream to own her boutique, she explains. Fortunately, her husband and entire family supported the new venture.

“Today, I am a proud entrepreneur. My story has inspired many homemakers in smaller villages and towns to step forward and chase their dreams. The best part of becoming an entrepreneur is you become an inspiration for homemakers and women around you. They look up to you and follow your footsteps to succeed in life,” Vijayeeni explains.

She is happy to see another batch of ten homemakers become entrepreneurs with Season 2. “If you have dreams to start something of your own, go ahead and try your best. Be confident in your abilities,” she advises aspiring entrepreneurs.

The road ahead

Britannia Marie Gold is already working on Season 3 of the startup programme. “While Season 1 focused on providing financial assistance and Season 2 focused on providing skill development, we are aiming to add more levers in Season 3 to add wings to the homemakers’ ambitions to help them take flight,” Vinay says.

On August 21, 2020, which was World Entrepreneurship Day, the brand launched its new thematic campaign telling homemakers that they already possess the skills required to be a successful business owner, and all they have to do is believe in themselves and take the leap. “We hope our campaign touches homemakers across India and inspires them to take the first step in the journey of entrepreneurship,” Vinay enthuses.

Homemakers are “everyday athletes” and have naturally in-built business acumen. "So, go ahead and do more and be more,” Vinay signs off. He is confident that Britannia Marie Gold will not just be a tea-time partner but an achievement enabler for all the work that needs to be done ahead.

Edited by Megha Reddy


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