This women-centric platform has helped 300,000+ women grow their careers and businesses
Neha Shah says her maternity break in 2012-13 was “the most beautiful phase of my life”.
It led to a huge lifestyle change—the hectic pace of a workaholic corporate life that she had lived for more than a decade suddenly came to a grinding halt.
“I was lucky to have a huge support system to take care of the newborn. That gave me the opportunity to balance motherhood and my professional life, but it also forced me to think if other women in our country are as lucky,” she says.
Neha started speaking to friends and family, and these conversations and their observations came as a shocking revelation.
“I saw lack of support, presence of social barriers, and preconceived notions like ‘it’s a mother’s responsibility to raise a child’…no matter how progressive people were or how highly qualified the woman was. These issues were eye openers and made me realise the struggle of women looking to navigate marriage and motherhood while maintaining or even restarting their careers,” she says.
This formed the pain point to startalong with her friends Niti Jain and Deval Shah in 2015, with the aim to create an online platform where women, especially those on a break, could upskill, network, and find suitable career opportunities.
Born and raised in a middle-class family in Virar, a Mumbai suburb, Neha’s father’s dream was that she should get an education in the US, a relatively rare and unheard-of thing in their community circles at the time, especially for a girl.
At 16, she left for the US to pursue her graduation from Baruch College, City University of NY, in finance. She undertook several internships, part-time, and full-time jobs with corporations like GE, Phoenix Realty Group, BNP Paribas, etc., to make the most of the opportunity and ensure she could make enough to cover her cost of living and not stretch her parents’ finances further. She also did volunteer work with terminally ill patients and mentored young girls in her free time.
While in the US, Neha realised that many students needed accommodation but were not able to sign long-term leases. So, with the help of a friend, she started a business leasing apartments and subletting to students with a minimal deposit. Apart from helping her make money, this opportunity helped her learn the on-ground challenges and intricacies of running a startup.
Realising the value of work from home
Neha moved back to India in 2010 to be close to her family and to scale up the family business. She restructured her father’s company and help set up end-to-end operations for finance, marketing strategy, and administration, thus converting a family-owned real-estate business into a corporate conglomerate.
And then, QWEEN happened.
The beginning was promising. The team received a good response for their awareness workshops, training, seminars, community activities, and other outreach programmes.
“We could see a huge need and demand from women looking for flexible work options. The concept of work-from-home jobs was not as popular as it is now, and most corporations were not very open to it. It was indeed an uphill task to convince companies to hire women who were on career breaks and looking for flexible/hybrid work opportunities,” Neha says.
The pandemic changed all that.
She explains, “Overnight, the whole world started working from home, giving corporates and HR teams a chance to explore it as a mid to long-term work solution. There have been instances and reports about how COVID-19 has been a difficult phase for women as they had to juggle both professional and personal lives, leading to mass resignations owing to burnout or rearranging priorities.
“But I’d like to take away the good part, which was men stepping up to support women and realising the value of work-from-home as well as work-at-home. It levelled the playing field and opened many doors for women, who were earlier ignored or relegated to household duties.”
The founders’ belief in QWEEN proved right as they witnessed a huge surge in companies reaching out to them for a remote talent pool as they looked to build a more diversified and inclusive work environment.
QWEEN is a 100% women-led startup run by 50+ remote women employees, residing in different parts of India. It also has 100+ freelance resources who work on an on-demand basis for projects.
Diverse opportunities for women
The platform has so far seen 3,00,000+ women choosing it as their partner for career and business growth. It offers a variety of job opportunities, including full-time, part-time, work-from-home, and freelance positions to women.
Women need to register on the website for free, and explore various opportunities from job skills, personality development, vocational training, and even upskilling to advance in their careers. A team of counsellors, trainers, and recruiters is at hand to help.
Apart from diversity recruitment solutions, QWEEN also offers training and diversity programmes designed for women across all industries looking to advance their careers. It has partnered with some top learning institutes and upskilling partners.
On the business side, QWEEN helps companies build high-performing, motivated, and diverse teams that focus on productivity and growth. As a recruiting partner, it offers a team of professional recruiters who work with the company to find the best-matched professional for any position.
“We place diverse talent across all industries and skill levels, and have seen successful placements. Each candidate on our platform is vetted carefully and we match their skills and goals with companies’ candidate requirements, creating a win-win relationship between the company and its new hires. We have a strong ATS system on our portal that makes the recruitment process completely hassle-free,” she elaborates.
QWEEN has two more founding members; Niti Jain and Deval Shah. The three met in the US, moved back to India around the same time, and coincidentally also had their maternity break around the same time.
Niti is a computer engineer from Mumbai University and has a master’s from Syracuse University, NY. She has worked with many large corporations in Chicago, New York, and Mumbai. She manages the entire technology and product for QWEEN. Deval takes care of the end-to-end administration and finance department.
Towards a gender-equal future
QWEEN’s revenue comes from the services it provides to clients for recruitment, diversity programmes and training, and consulting on a fee-for-service basis. It also offers paid skilling, upskilling, and reskilling opportunities to women who register on its platform.
The startup has successfully placed 11,500+ women in top companies and helped 20,000+ women in upskilling.
Apart from QWEEN, Neha believes there are only a handful of companies that work in the diversity and women empowerment space at the scale that they do. And yet, there is so much more need and “a huge gap that needs to be filled”.
She cites a recent Oxfam report that detailed gender discrimination as the root cause of over 98% of the employment gap between men and women in India.
“These shocking numbers show that we have miles to go towards a gender-equal future and there is an urgent need to bring more awareness and support, not just from companies and businesses, but also from policymakers and leaders who can drive this change.”
QWEEN’s focus is on women actively seeking career or business growth in the age group of 25-50 years across India. It is working with over 500 clients—and companies like Amazon, Genpact, BYJU’S, Axis Bank etc., and others to fulfil their diversity hiring needs.
In the next five years, Neha says their aim is to reach out to over 10 million women across India, and support them in pursuing their professional development and growth.
“We hope to see a day when all women can continue pursuing their passion or working and being financially independent, irrespective of the challenges that lie ahead of them. For our clients, we aim to be the one-stop shop for cost-effective and customised recruitment and D&I services,” Neha says.
Edited by Teja Lele