Chhalaang’s women-only hackathon fosters new techies
The hackathon saw about 110 young women develop tech solutions for companies backed by Blume Ventures.
Talent recruitment firm Passion Connect, a recruitment agency incubated under Blume Ventures, held its first-ever all-female hackathon at Microsoft’s office in Santacruz, Mumbai. The event saw about 110 young women techies come together to solve a technology-related problem.
The participants that YourStory spoke to were eager to spread their wings in the tech ecosystem.
The youngest at the event—which included HSBC's Rakhi Sharma, and Madhurima Agarwal from Microsoft for startups as their backers—18-year-old Jeevika Tiwari, is currently studying engineering at Thadomal College in Mumbai. Jeevika has already organised multiple events in her college, including Hackathons, and aims to join Microsoft once she is older.
Pooja Kale from Pune said: “I have done quite a few online hackathons before. But meeting people physically and coming up with solutions is a great practice.”
Having graduated a year ago, Pooja, Amisha Shukla from Thane, and Mansi Dhal from Delhi had mostly participated in online hackathons.
“There was no way to meet people during the pandemic. Forget being part of a tech event,” said Amisha, who wanted to be an entrepreneur since she was 17. “This is so great. We get to meet technology heads, whom we might not come across in usual life,” she added.
A self-proclaimed shy person, Mansi got a slight push from her parents to fly down from Delhi. The 22-year-old engineering graduate is working for a tech firm and is a regular at hackathons.
“It is like an exercise for the brain. And doing it with other women has been easier. There is less alpha energy. Initially, another person in the group was taking the charge, but we keep changing the role depending on who can do the job better instead of thinking about seniority or work experience,” said Mansi.
These 18-26-year-olds were challenged to come up with a solution for Blume Ventures-backed companies, such as(a financial fraud detection firm), (which provides finance for rural areas), and (a B2B SaaS company), Turtlemint (an financial services firm), and Idfy (a cyber fraud prevention firm) on the same day.
While most hackathons are conducted over two to three days, Sanam Rawal, Partner, Passion Connect, said, “We were not sure how many women would be comfortable staying over and coming to a new city. Hence, we decided to keep it only for a day.”
The shortlisted candidates formed groups of two to five through an online portal a day before the main event. About 20% of the candidates flew in from Jharkhand, Nepal, and Delhi, among other domestic regions for the event, while most others were from Mumbai and Pune.
The Indian startup ecosystem, which pulls in billions of international funds and creates first-generation millionaires, is notoriously low on female participation. The ecosystem contains only a handful of females in leadership roles.
These include Divya Gokulnath (), Gazal Alagh ( ), Falguni Nayar ( ), Vani Kola ( ), Vineeta Singh ( ), Saroja Yeramilli ( ), Padmaja Ruparel (India Angel Network), and Tarana Lalwani (Innoven Capital) to name a few.
The ones working in the ecosystem have to also go through casual sexism and not get involved in important decision-making processes only because of their gender.
Sanam feels organising an event like Chhalaang will let more young women become active and think of careers in the ecosystem.
“There is no gender when it comes to talent. And we don’t even want to label them as female developers. But when the gender ratio in tech roles is skewed, we have to push out these kinds of initiatives to make women and the startup ecosystem aware about the opportunities,” said Sanam.
The recruiting firm plans on having the event across India in Mumbai, Delhi, and Bengaluru as these cities attract the most startup attention.
While women seem to be having it a bit hard at the moment, the ones getting newly inducted in the tech ecosystem—through product, tech, founding and investment roles—keep pushing the envelope and be there to do the work so that there are more women in the tech ecosystem.
(Disclaimer: HerStory was one of the official sponsors of the hackathon.)
(The story was updated to mention all participating companies and official sponsers.)
Edited by Megha Reddy