On Friendship Day, women entrepreneurs share how their friends became co-founders
“Friendships between women, as any woman will tell you, are built of a thousand small kindnesses swapped back and forth and over again.” - Michelle Obama.
Having that one friend whom you can count on no matter can make you feel strong and empowered. And while many would love to work and have a successful venture together, there are few who turn this dream into a reality.
There are those who frown upon building businesses on friendships, but these women entrepreneurs say that becoming co-founders has brought them closer and strengthened their bond with each other.
Speaking with HerStory the duos share the story of their journeys so far.
Richa Sethi and Priya Rajive, co-founders, GetLitt!
Neighbours for the past 10 years, Richa Sethi and Priya Rajive launched GetLitt!, an interactive online community for children's literature, in 2018. It has ebooks from leading publishers and also allows children to share their own stories. The friends decided to start up together after bonding over their passion to work with children and love for books.
Being business partners with a good friend can have its repercussions. But Richa and Priya have learnt how to navigate around the risks, and keep their friendship away from differences they may have at work. They say,
“It has taken time to bring in that understanding and maturity that work-related pressure cannot be allowed to affect the friendship. We still have heated discussions and disagreements in the morning but we have also become good at overcoming them and going for movies in the evenings.”
But before taking the leap into starting up, the Mumbai-based duo explored initiatives like getting acclaimed authors and illustrators to mentor talented kids, and hosting an online writing exchange programme with students of a school based in New York.
In 2012, they organised the Junior Writer’s Bug Literary Festival for children, and that started their journeys towards making children's literature more accessible. Richa and Priya also run a book club - The Writer's Bug - which they started in 2011.
Apart from work, the friends have other common interests like movies, trekking, travelling, and food. They say it’s the similar journey they have shared, across these various avenues, that makes their friendship so special.
“Over the years, we have experienced many challenging as well as exciting journeys together. Both of us have strong personalities and are aware of each other’s strengths and shortcomings.”
In the next few years, Richa and Priya aim to make reading fun and accessible to kids across India and around the world. They are building partnerships with individuals to create community reading centres, and working with corporate CSR programmes and the government to reach their goal.
Shefali Shah and Karishma Gupta, co-founders, Bliscent
First meeting as teenagers at a boarding school in Ooty, Karishma Gupta and Shefali Shah went on to start up together with Bliscent, a skincare brand in 2014. The startup, based in Mumbai, makes skincare products with safe and simple ingredients, aiming to steer customers away from storebought products laden with harsh chemicals.
Attending the same classes in school and having late-night conversations as each other's confidante quickly turned the duo into best friends. As young girls, they even dreamt about starting ventures like bakeries and boutiques together.
"Being in a boarding school away from home brings you closer to the friends around you. Sharing these experiences together is what strengthened our friendship," they say.
As fate may have it, Karishma and Shefali ended up at the same workplaces twice. During one of their coffee breaks in 2013, they happened to discuss their shared love for quality bath and body products, and voila - the idea for Bliscent was born.
"We are both quite opposite-minded people, so even while taking business decisions, both of us are on the other end of the spectrum. But we always manage to meet in the middle and that’s what makes our friendship so special. Even after all these years, we’re so grateful to have each other, in friendship, and in business," they say.
Karishma and Shefali say that it was a lot easier to jump into the deep end while starting up as friends, because they already know each other's strengths and weaknesses. Working together has brought them closer, and they say there hasn't been a single day in the past five years where they haven't spoken to each other.
Over the next few years, the entrepreneur duo aims to have a strong online presence in the Indian skincare market. Bliscent’s products are available on its website, and a few other portals like Nykaa, Amazon, and Flipkart. They also plan to sell its products at select retail stores and spas.
Shauravi Malik and Meghana Narayan, co-founders, Slurrp Farm
Shauravi Malik and Meghana Narayan met at a Diwali party in London, in 2007, and have been friends ever since. In 2016, the duo launched Slurrp Farm, a food startup aimed at giving children high quality packaged food. The company, based in New Delhi, offers products like millet-based cereals and cookies, and pancake and dosa mix.
In London, Meghana worked at McKinsey, and Shauravi worked at JP Morgan. Over several other parties and events, they exchanged business ideas and bonded over ambitions. When they finally came up with a solid plan, they gave up their well-paying jobs, and decided to take the plunge into entrepreneurship.
While figuring out recipes and marketing techniques, the duo dug into the ingredients that sparked childhood nostalgia. Revisiting old recipes and reminiscing about the past brought them closer, and helps them stay motivated.
"We are 1+1 = 11. Our friendship ensures that we never question each other’s motivation, ability or core ethos. We have a high degree of personal integrity, and that mutual respect is a foundation for everything we do," they say.
Shauravi and Meghana say they have very different, but complementary leadership styles, which helps them learn a lot from each other. While they do have business disagreements, they have learned not to let that affect their friendship.
"Keeping the startup grind isn't easy, but we have sacrificed a lot to pursue the things we want. Our typical day is just about believing that it's all worth it!"
Slurrp Farm's products are currently available in 600 stores across eight cities in India. Shauravi and Meghana aim to "take Indian millets to the world," and change the way the world is eating. They also want to develop a team culture of respect, fun, and care, where employees also have a share of the profits.
Nikita Chhaparia and Priya Gandhi, co-founders, Prink Crafts
Nikita Chhaparia and Priya Gandhi met seven years ago, at a training programme for new joinees at their former workplace. In 2018, the two launched Prink Crafts, a curated marketplace for B2B export of Indian handicrafts.
After spending a few years in the corporate environment, Nikita and Priya realised they both had the common goal of doing something different and impactful. They used to discuss startup ideas with each other during breaks, and one day decided to seriously pursue the idea for Prink.
"The rapport and understanding that we had with each other before venturing into the startup helped us make some important decisions and prevent any misunderstandings. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey and what's better than doing it with a friend!"
The duo believes it's good to have disagreements, because the varying opinions steers them towards thoughtful decision-making. They say that their blunt and frank personalities help keep communication free-flowing.
In the next couple of years, they aim to take their marketplace online, and have curated vendors all over the country. They also want to establish themselves internationally.
Are you looking to start up like these women? You may probably have to look no further than your best friend for your co-founder. Happy #FriendshipDay!
(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)