Women entrepreneurs reveal lessons from the pandemic and how they dealt with unprecedented times

By Rekha Balakrishnan|19th Nov 2020
On the occasion of Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, HerStory spoke to a few women entrepreneurs to find out how they are coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. They also revealed all about the lessons they learnt while navigating the “new normal”.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has been a difficult time for the entire world. It has seen economies floundering and businesses taking a hit due to increased restrictions and lockdowns. Pay cuts and loss of jobs have only added to the growing concern.


In between all this, entrepreneurs have learnt a few lessons along the way. Ingenuity, innovation, and the determination to stay on course and steer the business towards profitability have helped women entrepreneurs to pivot during the pandemic.


A number of them have branched out into allied functions, or simply reformatted their operational styles to stay afloat during these tough times.


But whatever lessons they have learnt, it has stood them in good stead as they increasingly look at the future with optimism and courage.


HerStory spoke to a few entrepreneurs on the lessons learnt during the pandemic.

Being innovative

khushboo jain

Khushboo Jain, Co-founder, ImpactGuru.com

I have learnt quite a few lessons during these tough times.


Agility


How to immediately find opportunities despite hurdles and do something even better than the original idea - the pandemic made us figure out varied ways to pivot!


Innovation 


The constraints faced during this time forced us to become innovative in finding a solution to all problems. We identified processes that worked with the team to ensure a seamless workflow, including which mediums of communication helped get the best results.


Be a better manager


Understanding the employee’s perspective as we all transitioned from office work to work from home environment. During the pandemic, we figured out ways to motivate the team remotely. Everything was happening at one roof at one point and suddenly we all were dispersed. We learnt many things from working effectively remotely that is going to serve useful for a long time. 


The skills developed during this period will help us navigate the next few years after the pandemic scare has passed.


Khusbhoo Jain, Co-founder, ImpactGuru.com

Learning to say ‘no’

pamela puja

Pamela Puja Kirpalani

Ironically, the COVID-19 pandemic has created much more revenue for my business, more than what I had ever expected. Because the nature of my services are workshop-oriented, I was lucky that everything quickly migrated to Zoom and the process was more or less seamless.


On top of this, I also launched my book Whole, The 11 Universal Truths to An Inspired Life (now available on Amazon) during this period. However, what was not seamless were my levels of anxiety and burnout with the sudden influx of requests and opportunities. As the constant tap of requests would never end - and so did my energy levels after a certain point. Ultimately, a few months into the pandemic when I started noticing the signs of being overwhelmed - in body and mind - it was plain to see that my inspiration tank was emptying out. And I took this to be a sign of learning to stop, and say no. So now, with a steady eye, I am able to step back from an out-of-the-box perspective; assess whether this opportunity meets my long-term objectives; and express gratitude but politely decline the opportunity. 


Pamela Puja Kirpalani, CEO, Inner High Living

Importance of empowering people

Namita Thapar

Namita Thapar

The pandemic has truly tested the resilience and mettle of leaders across all sectors. The past seven months have taught leaders more about leadership than any business school or management book. Personally, I have learned the importance of empowering people and the importance of agility in responding to complex situations.


At the very beginning of the lockdown, when there was mass paranoia with protocols evolving everyday, our HR and IT teams were true heroes in coming up with creative solutions to ensure that we operated at 80 percent capacity as early as April. Our supply chain teams ensured there was no shortage of essential medicines pan India, and our sales teams worked tirelessly to deliver PPE kits and masks to doctors at a time when there was massive shortage of these protective equipment.


Our people truly came through in all aspects and proved yet again the importance of hiring the right people and empowering them! Additionally, there have been irreversible shifts in industry dynamics and leaders have had to adapt quickly and creatively. One example is that our 6,000 sales representatives who could not meet doctors had to rapidly upskill and learn increasingly digital means to engage their customers/doctors; a big mindset shift in the pharma industry that has historically been very slow to adopt digitisation. As the pandemic continues, leaders will have to continue to manage change and complexity like never before.


Namita Thapar, Executive Director of Emcure Pharmaceuticals and the CEO, Incredible Ventures, Master franchisee of YEA! India.

Learnt to roll with the punches

I picked up a great skill-set in the pandemic – I learnt to roll with the punches better. For a lot of us, this is the first black swan event we are facing as adults. There is no playbook for this. Depending on what your startup does, it will thrive or go into hibernation for a few months in this black swan. We used tech to invest in equities for clients. Hence, the pandemic was both the best and worst time for us – best from a performance perspective and worst from a sales perspective. The pandemic, therefore, taught me a great life skill – take the good with the bad, accept and roll with it. I also learnt how to code and how to cook – both important life lessons! 


Kanika Agarrwal, Co-Founder, CIO, Upside AI 

Pushing creative boundaries

While leading a tech-enabled fitness marketplace, we have created a strong industry standing for Fitternity. As an entrepreneur, adverse times like these enabled me to learn how instrumental pushing creative boundaries is. It is these times of disruption that demand for us to keep calm and look at the brighter side while innovating and rethinking on our feet. Thus, the need to mitigate the risks and focus on opportunities is essential to build a resilient business.


Although the uncertainty and complexity still exists, it has been my constant endeavour to encourage the team to be agile and receptive to the changing dynamics within the industry and overcome challenges by excelling them.


Neha Motwani, Co-Founder and CEO, Fitternity


Edited by Megha Reddy

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