HerStory salutes these inspiring women, acknowledges the battles they have waged, and celebrates their victories, big and small.Athira Nair
Selecting a handful of women from hundreds who have made marvellous achievements in various fields was not an easy task. But Team HerStory, after due consideration, has managed to pick 22 women who have outstanding journeys. From sports and culture to entrepreneurship and aerospace technology, these inspiring women of today and tomorrow have left their mark in every field.
Find out more about them, and the category under which they slayed, here:
Entrepreneur: Anita Gupta is the Secretary of Bhojpur Mahila Kala Kendra in Bhojpur district of Bihar. In one of the most underdeveloped States in the country, Anita started this SME in 1993 to provide skill training to underprivileged women. It has provided training in 300-400 different skills to more than 25,000 women so far, and has formed around 300 women self-help-groups (SHGs) in Bihar. The body manufactures crochet jewellery, engaging 200 women in Bhojpur. Anita has also won the State award for Artisans in Artificial Jewellery.
Young Achiever: Garvita Gulhati was 15 years old when she founded Why Waste, an initiative that is transforming institutions by making them more water positive. Today, Why Waste is active in six cities globally. She was awarded the title ‘Global Changemaker’ (the youngest and only one from India in 2018), and is Charge.org India’s youngest fellow. Garvita, now 18, is pursuing her engineering degree, and also holds a Bachelor’s degree in performing arts in Kathak.
Education: Kirthi Jayakumar from Chennai dons multiple hats to advocate gender equality. She founded The Red Elephant Foundation, which works for gender equality through storytelling and digital interventions. Kirti has authored two books, coded an app for survivors of gender violence, and a Facebook chatbot to assist bystander intervention against violence. Kirthi has received prestigious awards including from the UN and the US government. She is currently pursuing her second MA in Peace and Conflict Studies as a Commonwealth Scholarship Awardee in the UK.
Art & Culture: Leena Kejriwal is a photographer and installation artist whose work reflects her preoccupation with human trafficking. She launched the MISSING Game for the Cause in October 2016, which won the Nasscom Indie Game award. The MISSING project is working with the Women and Child Development and Welfare ministry to spread anti-trafficking awareness. Her two-part photography installation, titled East City, has been displayed in India, Iran, and Germany. Her accolades, both on the national and international front, are aplenty.
Young Entrepreneur: An eight-year-old starting up a home-based beauty salon and spa? Hard to believe but that’s Nayantara Narayanan for you. When she was 11, she did a summer internship with Myntra. Now 13, she is an Class VIII student at Mallya Aditi International School, Bengaluru, and is also an award-winning singer. Aided by the YEA (Young Entrepreneur Academy programme), she has launched La Mode, a personalised online shopping advisory consultancy.
Social Impact: Rajshri Deshpande is an actor and an activist. She has portrayed nuanced roles, including Laxmi in Angry Indian Goddesses, Durga in Sexy Durga, Ismat Chughtai in Manto, and Subhadra in Netflix series Sacred Games. She has adopted a drought-prone village in Maharashtra, and has executed a rainwater harvesting project. She continues to work in villages to build toilets and conduct health camps. In 2018, she started Nabhangan Foundation for sustainable village development, and is a core member of Citizens For Tomorrow, an NGO working against plastic pollution.
Fashion: Sujata Chatterjee is the founder of Twirl.store, an online fashion platform that offers buyback option to shoppers once they stop using the clothes purchased on the website. These clothes are either donated or upcycled. Sujata was felicitated at Tata Social Enterprise Challenge 2019, and her startup was selected in the Nasscom 10000 Startups programme. It has been recognised by IIM-Calcutta as one of the best ideas to transform India.
Science and Technology: Tessy Thomas is an Indian scientist who has treaded uncharted territories. A doctorate holder in Missile Guidance, she is Director General of Aeronautical Systems. In her work spanning over three decades, she has contributed much in guidance, trajectory simulation and mission design. She designed the guidance scheme for long-range missile systems, which is used in all Agni missiles, and was conferred with Agni Self-reliance award in 2001. She is a recipient of multiple fellowships and honorary doctorates.
HeForHer: Doraswamy is a partner at Brandix India Apparel City – an integrated special economic zone (SEZ) park in Visakhapatnam, which employs 18,000 people, 16,000 of which are women from rural areas. He stands out in his efforts for the welfare of the labourers – with free medical camps for women and adolescent girls, cancer screening initiatives, free basic amenities like water, and sanitation facilities to schools, support to handicapped children, etc.
Sports: Despite being born half-paralysed, Devika Malik fought against odds, and is an international para-athlete with eight national and three international medals. Now 24, she co-founded the Wheeling Happiness Foundation, which promotes disability sports, raises funds for people with disabilities, and promotes equality for those facing physical, emotional and social challenges. Devika has received the Queen's Young Leaders Award from Queen Elizabeth II, and UN’s Women Transforming India Award 2018, among other honours.
Entrepreneurial Grit and Drive: Rashmi Chadha, 32, is the Founder and CEO of Wovoyage, a travel startup, focusing on solo women travellers. Wovoyage assigns expert women guides and women-driven cabs for women travellers across the country. With Wowheels, it also encourages carpooling for women. A journalism and communication graduate, Rashmi has a Master’s degree in Social Entrepreneurship. She recruits and trains youngsters from underprivileged backgrounds to work with her. A sports enthusiast, Rashmi has won many accolades nationally in sports during her school and college days.
Facebook SheLeadsTech : Sivareena Sarika, an IIT graduate with work experience in startups and MNCs, co-founded PregBuddy - an AI-enabled care continuum platform for maternal healthcare in 2017. PregBuddy has been recognised by Google Launchpad, Apple, FBStart, and SheLeadsTech by Facebook, and is backed by renowned angels like Rajan Anandan, Rekha Menon, HNIs, and IAN.
Dynamic Leadership: Jayashree Nair grew from the position of a chemist to a senior director at Pune-based pharmaceutical company Emcure with unique achievements in her portfolio. She is one of the few women globally who has enabled technology transfer from manufacturing sites. She has set up first-time regulatory inspections in South Africa, Canada, the UK, and the US. She is a veteran in good manufacturing practice (GMP) regulations and quality systems.
Emerging Tech Entrepreneur: Jayalakshmi Manohar stands tall in the male-dominated world of engineering and product development. She has co-founded two startups: Trialkart, an artificial intelligence (AI) solutions company that was later acquired by Voonik, and Streak, which enables retail traders to participate in the stock market. It helps traders and investors calculate their risks before taking a position in the market. Streak has acquired over 130,000 users who have run 10 million backtests, and have generated transacted value of $250 million so far.
Seasoned Entrepreneur: Veena Kumaravel was looking for a meaningful pursuit after her children started attending school when she decided to set up Naturals unisex salon chain in 2000, along with husband CK Kumaravel. Now India’s largest salon chain, Naturals is headquartered in Chennai, and is a network of more than 670 salons, 400 women entrepreneurs, and 40 lakh customers across the country.
Corporate Excellence: Nivruti Rai, in her 25 years at Intel corporation, has made a name for herself, and is a towering presence in women leadership in India. An alumnus of Stanford and Harvard business schools, she did her Master’s in Electrical and Industrial Engineering from Oregon State University in the US. She has been a champion of implementing machine learning for road safety, and has steered Intel’s tie-up with the Karnataka government to that end.
Inspiring Role Model: Sudha Murthy wears many hats – engineer, teacher, author, and philanthropist, among others. Her social projects included working with sex workers, street children, and alcoholics, and collaborating with the government in building orphanages, schools, and libraries. When she was in her 20s, she became the first woman engineer to be hired at TATA Engineering. She is also the Chairperson of Infosys Foundation, and has been honoured with dozens of awards.
India is witnessing a revolution in Social Selling where any enterprising Indian can start a business with zero investment, not only in cities, but especially in Tier 2, 3 India. A majority of the champions of this revolution are homemakers, women who had to drop out of the workforce because of a maternity break. Meesho celebrates five Women Entrepreneurs, many of who have become first generation entrepreneurs - the face of the Social Selling revolution.
Pooja Sharma, New Delhi
A couple of years ago, Pooja was a homemaker who wasn't able to work although she had the experience. After finding Meesho, she gained the autonomy to run her business according to her convenience and requirements. Gradually, word about her work spread among her circles, and she now proudly introduces herself as a businesswoman.
Neha Noopur, Pune
Neha began dreaming about running a business of her own when she was working as an HR professional for a garment manufacturing company. She made the decision to resign from the company and pursue her goal. Neha found Meesho online, while looking for ways to start a business with minimum investment. She immediately took the opportunity and was encouraged by her friends and family, and hasn't looked back since.
Sumedha Ainapure, Bengaluru
For six years, Sumedha sourced garments from a seller in Gujarat. Her reselling business was limited to her locality in Bengaluru, and was primarily among her friends circle. But Meesho helped her overcome these limitations with their zero-investment and maximum margin, hassle-free features. Sumedha now has customers all across the country.
Sumana Chakraborty, Kolkata
Sumana started her entrepreneurial journey when she came across Meesho while looking for work-from-home opportunities online. She initially shared her catalogues with family, who encouraged her to expand. Homemaker-turned-entrepreneur Sumana now has her very own offline, where she continues her reselling business.
Vinaya C, Chennai
Vinaya enjoyed working as a lecturer and contributing to her household, but when her daughter was born, she had to quit her job to look after her. She still wanted to work from home, and found Meesho to be the perfect match. Lecturer-turned-entrepreneur Vinaya now has the liberty to take care of her daughter while simultaneously running a hassle-free business. She thanks Meesho for giving her this innovative platform that helps her be a part of India's Social Selling boom.
A big shout out to HerStory's Women on A Mission Summit sponsors: Co-Presenting Sponsor Microsoft, Sequoia Spark, Innovation Valley, NetApp Excellerator,Servify, ZOHO, Meesho, Arctic Fox, DROR, and Gifting Partners WoW, &Me.