Women’s Day: 8 entrepreneurs share the best business advice they ever received

This International Women’s Day, eight entrepreneurs tell HerStory the best business advice they’ve received on their startup journeys so far.
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Starting up is not easy. It’s rife with niggling self-doubt, challenges, and plenty of risks. If you want to make it as an entrepreneur, you need to surmount all these with a lot of grit, determination, and self-belief.

And some sincere advice from people who matter to you, who want you to succeed in this journey to the top also matter. 

Once you succeed, it is then your turn to pay back and offer a helping hand to other women who might be struggling through their journeys.

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, we spoke to some of the top women entrepreneurs of India about the best business advice they have received so far – on starting up, growing and scaling their business, juggling work and life, hustling, and finding success.

(Clockwise from top left) Suganthi Shivkumar, Pavithra Rao, Jyotsana Uttamchandani, Neha Motwani, Komal Agarwal, Simran Mangharam, Annu Talreja and Sabena Puri.

Right relationship matters

“The best business advice I got was from my mother. Since I was a child, she insisted that as a woman I must have control over my finances. She was widowed at 26 and had to not only raise two small children, but also earn and manage her finances. This certainly affected my business decisions, including prompting me to take the entrepreneurial plunge by founding Floh.

"Her advice also gave me the confidence to get into the right relationship. I got married at the age of 37. The fact that my husband and I are on a level playing field actually makes our marriage stronger. There is no powerplay as both of us are very secure. And, now I am raising our nine-year-old daughter with the same advice.”

Simran Mangharam, Co-founder, Floh

Be your own CEO

“The best business advice I have ever received, considering the role I play is of a leader, is to not be the smartest person in the room. It helps in meetings when you sit back and let your team ideate and challenge each other. Then, we can work and discuss as a team to bring out the best ideas or solutions.

"However, the one thing I personally believe in is to be my own CEO and channel out the noise happening around me. It is only then one will ever be able to listen to their inner self and chase those dreams. They often say, 'hustle in silence, and let your success make the noise'."

Jyotsna Uttamchandani, Executive Director, Syska Group.

Embrace diversity and inclusion

“Michael Goldsmith inspired me when he said, ‘change involves both courage and humility’. The courage to be aware of the unique difference women bring to the workplace in whatever role we play – as individual contributors or leaders – and the humility to accept that this is not about bashing our male colleagues.

"It is about embracing diversity and celebrating its inclusion and successful outcomes. So, earn a place at the table. And, for our voices to be heard and create an equitable workplace, so our daughters and granddaughters benefit from our efforts today.” 

Suganthi Shivkumar, Managing Director for ASEAN, India, and Korea, Qlik. 

One size doesn’t fit all

“‘While you have a vision to impact the consumer journey in fitness in a certain way, it may not be one size fits all’. We actually built Fitternity on this foundation. We looked at the consumer data in India and built a proposition that was relevant at the time, eventually taking the business from a discovery platform in 2014 to a marketplace in 2015.

"Need-based evolution has always ensured we keep up with constantly changing consumer preferences.

"We then introduced pay-per-use and capsule inventory in 2017-2018 and launched our subscription product- OnePass in 2019. Our take-back from the advice was to be nimble, adaptable, and use our customer as the main data point to scale the business further.” 

Neha Motwani, Founder and CEO, Fitternity

Pilot projects as experiments

“Whenever I have a new idea, I always believe in starting by investing small amounts of capital to run projects centred on the concept. These pilot projects act as a series of experiments – if they prove to be viable and successful, that is when I launch them at full scale.

"If they don’t work, that becomes a valuable lesson in itself.

"A professor who taught me at Harvard Business School had given me this advice and it is something that I swear by.”

Sabena Puri, Co-founder, Stage3

Power to impact people’s lives 

“When we started building WaterScience, one of our mentors told us, ‘you now have the power to impact the lives of your employees and their families – their hopes, dreams, and ambitions’. Remembering that I have this power can be overwhelming, but on most days, this is what keeps me going.

"WaterScience is nothing more than its people, and the team is at the core of everything we do. It guides every decision we take as business owners and ensure that we make the right choices for the business and employees.” 

Pavithra Rao, Co-founder, WaterScience

Make quick decisions

“The best piece of advice that I received was from my father who has been a successful entrepreneur throughout the 35 years of his professional life.

He said, ‘if we keep waiting for the perfect opportunity, the perfect idea, the perfect talent, we may never be able to move ahead with anything, and by the time we do, it might be too late’. 

"Making quick decisions and taking risks is an integral part of any business and we cannot afford to shy away from doing either. Entrepreneurship is a continuous learning process and it’s more important to improve and adapt along the way.”

Komal Agarwal, Founder and Marketing Director, Pebble

Benefit the next generation

"I come from a traditional business family and growing up, I always heard small but priceless nuggets of wisdom from my father. One such was when I started Oxfordcaps – ‘always focus on a five to 10 year horizon, concentrating on what you can do now that can benefit the next generation". This advice has held me in good stead."

Annu Talreja, CEO, Founder, Oxfordcaps

(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)


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