‘Be brave, authentic, resilient, and fearless’: How women entrepreneurs can stand out in the crowd

At YourStory’s TechSparks 2021, women entrepreneurs Naiyya Saggi and Hena Mehta spoke about their successes and challenges, and how the new breed of women entrepreneurs can make a difference and stand out in the crowd.
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According to the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap report for 2021, India ranks 148 out of 153 countries. The contribution of Indian women to the GDP stands at 18 percent as compared to the global average of 37 percent.

With only 14 percent of women opting for careers as entrepreneurs, the situation is already grim. With the pandemic changing the business landscape in many ways, how will businesses get future-ready for a post-pandemic era? What kind of resilience do women entrepreneurs need to stand out in a crowd? What does the future look like?

YourStory’s flagship event, TechSparks 2021, touched upon all this and more at an exciting panel discussion featuring Naiyya Saggi, Founder, BabyChakra, and Co-founder, The Good Glamm Group; Hena Mehta, Co-founder and CEO of Basis; with HerStory Lead Editor Rekha Balakrishnan.

Rekha Balakrishnan, Lead Editor, HerStory, in conversation with Hena Mehta and Naiyya Saggi.

Successes during a challenging year

Pivots and resilience have become the hallmarks of the pandemic.

Basis closed a funding round. Recently, Naiyya’s BabyChakra was acquired by the Good Glamm Grop, and the community-first platform for parents has risen in both dimension and scale.

“It’s been an amazing year,” said Naiyya, adding, “Digital acceleration happened not just for tech but a whole lot of other sectors. With the Good Glamm Group partnership, we are looking at scaling the product journey exponentially. It made sense to partner and build together to meet the larger mission for BabyChakra and The Good Glamm Group,” she said.

Hena shared that it had been an eventful few months at Basis as well.

“As an early-stage startup, the joke is that the only direction is up,” she said. “From that standpoint, we were lucky to have closed a funding round. The money got wired a week before the lockdown. It would have gone either way, but we were fortunate to have the timing work out,” she added.

Women – an essential part of the economy

With the country aiming for a $5 trillion economy, where do women figure in the larger plan? Especially as the number of women entrepreneurs in the country is abysmally low.

Hena thinks hitting this kind of growth figure will be impossible without the help of women.

“Women are going to be a key part of that story. I loved what an investor said recently, ‘I would never bet against an Indian woman’. Though we have our share of challenges, women will be participating more in the corporate workforce and entrepreneurship,” she said.

Naiyya reiterated that what’s going to be driving that number towards growth will be the people making the purchase decisions in a consumption economy.

“Women in the household make 80 percent of all FMCG decisions. Even, in tech, for instance, if you look at the 70-30 split, we have in the digital ecosystem in India. If you want to grow the tech ecosystem out, when you’re talking about digital consumption behaviour, you need to create products for women. So, it's a no-brainer because the solutions must be created by people who understand consumer insights, and that would be women, for the most part.”

Hena said the product they were building around personal finance, financial services, education, and staying on top of money management “became more top of the mind for people” as the pandemic struck.

The winds of change

The past couple of years have seen women-led companies being acquired, including Naiyya’s BabyChakra. What does this augur for the ecosystem in general?

Naiyya said: “It shows women can give exits. I think that's a good sign. Women have always been asked questions like, ‘What is your game plan? Where can this go? What is ambition? How big can this get?’ These are narratives we can share and show that women have delivered exits now.”

Hena said India has a long way to go regarding financial literacy education, but there’s a wave of change.

“Financial services, for long, have by default been targeted towards men, as they have historically been owners of wealth. Women are not okay with status quo, and we see an inherent desire to want privacy and autonomy over their money.

“When we talk about GDP targets, women will be a key driver of growth within finserv as well. Women have different needs, and these need to be factored in when you are building a product or service for this market,” she added.

The new breed of women entrepreneurs

Both women agree the change is in the right direction, and that there are so many women out there that one can be inspired by.

“We have many inspirational women – in India and globally – we now had a woman entrepreneur ringing the bell at NASDAQ. Women like Falguni Nayar, who started up while she had a successful career as an investment banker, are a case in point,” Naiyya said.

Hena said women’s risk-taking abilities were always questioned, as was how they can manage both work and family.

“It’s heartening to see women working different things in parallel, figuring out things, and also becoming successful. I can see women running more companies, building for markets previously ignored, holding leadership positions at corporates, startups, and unicorns, and giving incredible exits to their investors,” she said.

Standing out in the crowd

Naiyya advised women to “dig deep, stay authentic, brave, and resilient”.

“Remember what makes you tick. The journey of entrepreneurship is going to be a journey of highs and lows. It's what you signed up for. Be cognisant of that, respect that high, respect that low, and keep going,” she said.

Hena encouraged women to be fearless and, above all, “not undersell themselves”.

“I've been told by some investors that I should be asking for more. You are not going to achieve anything by underselling or undervaluing yourself. I think a lot of the struggle and the doubt etc., tends to be internal; put that aside and be unafraid to take those risks,” Hena said.


To log in to our virtual events platform and experience TechSparks 2021 with thousands of other startup-tech enthusiasts from around the world, join here. Don't forget to tag #TechSparks2021 when you share your experience, learnings and favourite moments from TechSparks 2021.

For a line-up of all the action-packed sessions at YourStory's flagship startup-tech conference, check out the TechSparks 2021 website.

Edited by Teja Lele Desai

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