Meet 8 women entrepreneurs taking Bharat by storm with their startups

From natural cosmetics to telemedicine service and redefining fashion for local audiences, these women entrepreneurs are making the best of opportunities in non-metro cities.

Indian entrepreneur’s vigour and drive for starting up to solve problems in real-time are no longer confined to metropolitan cities. The pandemic not only pushed many to return to their native homes in Tier II and III cities but also drove the startup ecosystem in Bharat.

As a result, existing and new entrepreneurial ventures coming out of non-metro cities are creating more job opportunities, while solving unique problems for non-metro audiences.

HerStory takes a look at eight women entrepreneurs who are bringing change and giving their entrepreneurial dreams a shot from non-metro cities.

(From L to R clockwise) Ami Baxi and Deepika Lakhani, Co-founders of Buy HomeMade; Shabna and Shaiba Salam, Co-founder of Maneraa; Dr Meghna Sharma, Co-founder of Jiyyo Mitra e-clinic; Unnati Mittal, Co-founder of Plament; Neeta Vijay Kumar, Founder of Stardom Accessories; Kruthika Kumaran, Founder of Vilvah; Shivani Soni and Sakshi Soni, Co-founders of BeYoung; Sanidhya Pareek, Co-founder of Mtoto

Kruthika Kumaran, Vilvah

Former engineer Kruthika Kumaran witnessed her mother fight complications due to a skin condition for over a decade. Her mother’s passing prompted Kruthika to start Vilvah, a natural cosmetic brand that uses goat’s milk, in 2017.

Based in Coimbatore, she pursued an online diploma in natural cosmetology and began experimenting with soaps, before starting the venture with an initial investment of Rs 10,000. Sold on major ecommerce platforms including Amazon, Flipkart, and Nykaa, and on its own website and Instagram store, it is now clocking an annual turnover of Rs 15 crore. Besides a flagship store in Coimbatore, online channels contribute to over 80 percent of its revenue.

Unnati Mittal, Plament

A camping trip to the Amarkantak Hills in Madhya Pradesh opened Sunny Goyal and Unnati Mittal’s eyes to the rampant use of single-use plastic in local food shops - the plastic waste would further cause air pollution as people burnt them along with wood during the winter season. 

This prompted them to take matters into their hands by founding Plament, a portmanteau of the words plastic and management. Based in Indore, the venture recycles plastic waste and converts them into furniture and home decor items.

Plament claims to have sold its product to furniture makers in Indore, and is expecting to see Rs 12 lakh profit for FY 2021-22. 

Ami Baxi and Deepika Lakhani, Buy HomeMade

As the pandemic-induced lockdown led to an increased appetite for home-cooked meals, Ahmedabad-based homemakers Ami Baxi and Deepika Lakhani jumped on the opportunity and founded Buy HomeMade, an online platform that enables people to discover and buy regional, homemade snacks.

Launched in October 2020 with an initial investment of Rs 20 lakh, it has over 30 chefs on board with a wide offering of homemade snacks, pickles, organic oils, chocolates, and baked goods.

The platform delivers to 23,000 pin codes across the country at present and plans to go international via franchising, starting with Canada and the UK.

Neeta Vijay Kumar, Stardom Accessories

Kochi-based entrepreneur Neeta Vijay Kumar is making most of India’s imitation jewellery market, which is expected to reach Rs 65,620 crore by the end of 2022, through her venture Stardom Accessories.

Before founding Stardom Accessories in 2018, her first entrepreneurial stint began with her passion for fashion during college by making and selling jewellery items to friends. 

Procuring from craftsmen in Jaipur and Delhi, the jewellery items are sold on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, starting at Rs 300. The brand is looking to work with more craftsmen and increase its product offerings.

Shabna and Shaiba Salam, Maneraa

Pune-based sisters Shabna and Shaiba Salam set on a journey to bring small and unbranded fashion retailers to Indian youth in Tier II and III cities through Maneraa, a lifestyle and fashion ecommerce platform. 

Launched in 2019, the omnichannel platform is a “Made in India, Made for India” venture. Shabna claims about 70 percent of the $100 billion Indian fashion retail space comprises unorganised and unbranded retailers, smaller brands, and unknown designers.

With more than 80 sellers onboard offering over 9,000 SKUs, Maneraa hopes to get another 500 unique sellers by 2021. 

Bootstrapped with Rs 1 crore, it has a team of 15 people working from its headquarters in Pune and an office in Kochi. 

Dr Meghna Sharma, Jiyyo Mitra

Chandigarh-based startup Jiyyo Mitra e-Clinic aims to bring digital health services like telemedicine to remote areas of India. 

Founded in 2017 by siblings Dr Meghna Sharma and Siddharth Angrish, along with friend Jahid Ali, it is collaborating with the local healthcare workforce from rural and semi-urban facilities to help patients connect with specialised doctors across the country.

Started with an initial investment of Rs 1 crore, it has more than 250 e-clinics in over 70 districts in the country. The startup was recognised by Google for Startups programme held last year and also received recognition from Atal Innovation Mission, NITI Aayog, for its part in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis in India.

Shivani Soni and Sakshi Soni, BeYoung

Fashion designer Shivani Soni is targeting India’s youth, aged between 16 and 45, through her apparel and accessories startup BeYoung.

Founded in 2018 with Shivam Soni, Sakshi Soni, and Shankar Mali, the venture focusses on plus-sized and customised clothing where users can submit their own designs as well.

Based in Udaipur with a team of 75 people, the founder’s aim is to reduce the brain drain of talent from smaller cities to metro cities. 

The startup claims to record over 40,000 transactions per month, clocking in monthly revenue of Rs 2.85 crore approximately, and projecting revenue of over Rs 125 crore by March 2023. 

Sanidhya Pareek, Mtoto

Parental concerns over what is best for their child, led Shujalpur, Madhya Pradesh-based couple Sanidhya Pareek and Shuchi Sharma to start Mtoto, a babycare venture. Founded in 2020, it offers chemical-free baby care products like shampoos, moisturising lotion, diaper rash cream, etc., priced between Rs 300 and Rs 400.

Despite initial challenges due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown, the startup was able to carry on the manufacturing process in October 2020 and launched in the market within a month. The products are now available on their website and ecommerce marketplaces like Amazon, Flipkart, and FirstCry. With a team of 10 people at the moment, the brand is looking to diversify its product offerings and increase its reach.

Edited by Megha Reddy