Sangita Pal

“Starting something on my own and building an enterprise from scratch was always a dream.”

Setting up an enterprise of her own was a dream for Sangita Pal, Founder of www.pulsatech.comwww.arteastic.in. Having spent more than 25 years in the IT industry, she has served in many leadership positions in leading IT firms like HCL Technologies, Tech Mahindra and Tata Infotech Ltd (TCS) across India, Europe, US, MEA & APAC regions. When she returned from South Africa to India, she got the chance to break out on her own. She chats with Madhura Chakrabarty to reveal her story….

Entrechat - Sagarika Dev

Entrechat with Sagarika Dev

“Women entrepreneurs are creating synergies with other women to get ahead in the game.”

Soon after completing Master Degree in Media Science, with a specialization in marketing, Sagarika Dev started her own clothing label ‘Raaika’, the brand which has got the attention of online shoppers. Today, it is growing rapidly to reach an even wider range of audience. 

Originally from a small hill station called Haflong in Assam, Sagarika moved to Kolkata 7 years back, and since then she was determined to do something unique that would lead her towards her goal.

 In conversation with Shree Lahiri, she reveals where she gets her inspiration from. “A girl should be two things: who and what she wants” said Coco Chanel – this is from where she gets the energy to follow her dream and move forward, despite many obstacles that life had laid before her.

1) Tell us a little about your venture. How long ago did you start up? What has been your motivation and what do you aim to achieve?

Raaika is an online clothing brand of women’s western outfit. It represents every fashion-conscious and independent woman who wants to look good, feel great and confident about herself. With our extensive research and fashion forecasting methods, we bring out the designs which are unique, latest and trendiest – yet truly affordable.

The venture was incorporated on February, 2017. However, it was April, 2017, when Raaika went live online for the very first time. That’s when the dreams started to come true. It is more than a brand to me, it is a seed which we planted and now we can witness it growing.

Self-confidence has always been the motivating factor for me as I have always believed that right outfits always bring the best out of a woman, by making her more confident and self-assured in whichever role she is representing. On that account, the aim is to be the brand which should always be present in the wardrobe of every single fashion-conscious woman.

2) Where did the inspiration for setting up a business come from?

Whenever I bump into people I know but not very close, a common question I get asked is –“Wow you’re running a brand now! Did you start it after you completed your fashion designing course?”

But, I believe things do not work in that way all the time. Inspiration does not always come from what you study. Even though being from Media & Marketing background, apparel designing and visualising has always been an important part of me. So, the inspiration comes within. It is the inner-self which has inspired and motivated me to chase the dream and make it a reality!

It is not always necessary that a specialist of a particular field can be a good entrepreneur and vice-versa. Moreover, in my case, self-inspiration plays a big role to motivate me as I have looked at things from different angles. Being passionate about apparel designing and shopaholic at the same time has helped me to acquire a lot of knowledge about brands, textiles and their designs. My post-shopping excitement never ended with a selfie or donning new outfits. My excitement has always extended to the technical knowledge I acquired by researching and studying every new outfit that I used to purchase. I still do the same!

On the other hand, being from Media & Marketing background I have always been a great enthusiast understanding human behaviour & psychology. With the evolution of social media, my interest in understanding and researching human behaviour on social media platforms has grown immensely and hence, the connection with the fashion industry has grown even stronger. It has helped me to a great extent to understand my potential business opportunities way before my venture was incorporated. These have played an integral role, inspiring me to start this venture.

3) How easy or tough has it been for you, as a woman entrepreneur, to set up and promote your business?

It has never been an easy journey. Things cannot be special if they are easy to achieve. It doesn’t matter which gender you represent as an entrepreneur, because the process remains the same.

The challenge for every entrepreneur in this clothing industry is the competition. Competing with international labels as they all have online presence and also with the booming domestic online brands – it is never easy to fit your products in as a start-up brand. However, with proper management, a balanced working team and understanding consumer psychology – things can be set. Also, it is important to understand that promoting your business is not all about spending money; it is more of a tactical approach by doing things which are relevant and which increases the awareness of your brand.

Nevertheless, being a woman in this ‘still’ male dominant culture, I feel blessed that I am an employer of 15 people currently, and it feels great to be the reason for someone’s employment where the majority of your employees are men! This shows gender can never become a pivotal factor, if you have the intensity.

As I have mentioned previously, entrepreneurship doesn’t represent any gender, it is a regular practice and discipline attached to your mind and soul.

Coming to a big city like Kolkata from a very small town called ‘Haflong’-  in the hills of Assam, I have never felt for once that I am inferior to anyone because I am a woman! That I belong to a small town, who is now in this “City of Joy”. The same confidence and message I would like to convey to every individual woman and the upcoming woman entrepreneurs. Things are never meant to be easy, so in hard situations don’t let yourself down by comparing yourself with your corporate counterparts. If you have the belief and the self-confidence, you can reach any heights regardless of what gender you are!

4) Do you think women entrepreneurs support other women across the value chain of business? How have you impacted/ supported/ mentored the careers of other women?

Yes, I do think women entrepreneurs are creating synergies with other women to get ahead in the game. They have figured out a ‘pay-it-forward’ mentality through mutual respect and ingeniously want to see each other succeed.

It really feels great to be the person and, as a woman who can make an impact on other women’s career or life. In my case, one of my employees, decided to handover her notice period at work. It was really unexpected from her and when I asked the reason, I heard the same old story which we all are used to. Her parents want her to get married as she has younger sisters, who need to get married too. Initially I thought not to intervene as it is their personal matter but, later on when I spoke to her personally I realised that being a woman myself I just couldn’t let another woman be forced not to fulfil her dreams! Marriage is not everything for a woman. So, I decided to speak to her parents personally (without thinking what would be the outcome!). I was well aware it would not be an easy task (as I know how uncompromising Indian parents could be, where marriage is concerned)!

However, the outcome was sweet, though not expected! Her parents postponed her marriage for a year and surprisingly, they are looking for a ,son-in-law who would let their daughter work even after marriage!!

5) How has the support of friends and family played a role in your being a successful entrepreneur? How do you balance your professional and personal life?

Parents did play a significant role for what I have achieved so far. Without their support and patience, things wouldn’t have happened the way it has! Being the only daughter, it is always obvious to assume that any typical Indian family would think of marriage; or, they would always prefer their daughters to work in a MNC company, because setting up a business takes time and money (with huge risks involved!).

But things were different for me; I got immense support from my parents. Every day, they always show their great interest in helping me move my business forward. It really motivates me a lot and makes me even stronger as a woman!

Yes, sometimes it does get hectic to balance professional and personal life but, I always try to maintain an equilibrium. It is very important to realise we work to live the life we desire to. So, paying attention to your personal life is more of a reward to yourself!!

6) What is the road ahead in 2018?

Within a month, we are going to launch our fourth collection, which I am sure will mesmerise our existing brand audience!!

Also, we are digging more and more to understand the market gap, the opportunities and the psychology of the consumer –  which will lead us towards better product development and will also cater to the needs of every woman’s wardrobe.

Later this year, our fifth collection will also go live.

A very busy and important year ahead!

 

Entrechat - Neetu Bajwa Malladi

Entrechat with Nitu Bajwa Malladi

 

“Being a woman, the first thing that innately comes to us is empathy and the ability to connect to a person.”

 Nitu Bajwa Malladi, Nutrition and Fitness Coach describes herself as mother, a fitness freak, a former mountaineer and amateur chef. She shares her story with Shree Lahiri on how she managed to shed loads of fat and took up fitness as her goal in life. Then she worked in a fitness centre and now has branched out on her own, giving consultation in fitness and wellbeing. Read on, to find out what she has to say…

1) Tell us a little about your business venture. How long ago did you start up? What has been your motivation/inspiration and what do you aim to achieve?

I have been in the fitness industry for over 2 years now. Initially I was associated with an online health portals a fitness consultant where I managed a good client base, ranging from doctors, working professionals, business heads, house wives, young professionals, pilots ,CEOs, bankers etc. Recently, I branched out on my own with my brand ‘Nitu Bajwa’. The motivating factor being the ability to help and assist people with their health and fitness goals, making them achieve their dreams of a better health, through my expertise.  What really thrills me is the part where I can help them understand and achieve their health goals, hand-holding them. The connect one makes with an individual during the consultation gives me immense satisfaction and motivates me. I am a firm believer of educating people/clients about their lifestyle and how easy it is to make sustainable changes in it – to maintain good health and fitness levels. It’s my way of giving back to the society I am a part of.

 

2) How has your experience been so far, with setting up an entrepreneurship business?

Things have been on a roller coaster pace till now, with tons of work. Setting up  the tech support and website – it’s like giving birth to a child, where you have to be mindful of every tiny requirement the infant has, till she grows up to be independent. It’s been a good learning experience till now – with so many aspects, right from making sure that client service, finance, legal, tech support  everything is in place. I have taken professional assistance to get all these in place form venture.

 

3) How easy/ tough has it been for you, as a woman entrepreneur, to set up your business? What are your plans to scale up?

I would say it’s been super easy! Being a woman, the first thing that innately comes to us is empathy and the ability to connect to a person; and these two aspects are extremely important in my business. I am working on associating my brand with a few other brands in the fitness sector, and there are plans to expand.  There are many things in the pipeline, like to get in more coaches on my platform.

 

4) Do you think being a woman entrepreneur worked to your advantage or brought challenges to your path?

Fitness industry till now was a male dominated one, but with time a lot of female experts have created their own niche. Today it’s a very balanced field, where the gender has no importance, what makes a difference is how knowledgeable one is about the latest developments and researches, how well one can guide and help the clients and above all, your personal fitness levels – you got to walk the talk. My biggest advantage being my age, having brought up two kids and gone through the stage of a very unhealthy lifestyle which integrated into a healthy one. I have been through the different stages and that helps me a lot to identify and solve issues with others.

 

5) What would be the top 3 things to watch out for, if you’re a woman looking to start her own business?

A man or a woman, the three things that I rate highest to start your own business are – vision, hard work and integrity. Rarely, you would find businesses not working inspite of these three aspects in place!

 

6) How has the support of friends and family played a role in your being a successful entrepreneur? How do you balance your professional and personal life?

My family has been very supportive of my venture, and without their support it would have been very difficult to pull it off! My husband has been in the corporate field for many years and his expertise came in handy, while getting all the legalities and the website work in place. I work 5 days a week and the weekends are strictly for family and ‘me’ time. My kids are in a growing stage and they require my undivided attention. I am also into dramatics, trekking and I love cooking….these things help me unwind and spend quality time with my family and friends.

Entrechat

Entrechat with Anshu Patni Singh

Having co-founded her company – Katha Pictures just three months ago, Anshu Patni Singhi is all excited about her business venture. In an open chat with Shree Lahiri, she touches on how the idea germinated, her media background, the disruption happening around, getting used to being a woman entrepreneur and more…

1) Tell us a little about your business venture. How long ago did you start up? What has been your motivation/inspiration and what do you aim to achieve?

The company is just 3 months old. I have been in media for the last 14 years and the motivation was to use my experience to build a company which partners with brands and companies and create content IP’s along with them rather than being vendors. This is the age of disruption and business models are changing everyday as is the landscape driven by technological and economical changes. This is in essence the genesis of Katha Pictures, to be a content studio, which is known for all forms and formats of storytelling. Simply put, to create content which is part of people’s lives through brands, platforms or any other products.

2) How has your experience been so far, with setting up an entrepreneurship business?

We are still new into the business, but the response has been tremendous as there is a lacuna in the market for a content studio. We have great team of collaborators and storytellers and if your work ethics are strong and people respect you for that, things fall into place sooner or later.

3) How easy/ tough has it been for you, as a woman entrepreneur, to set up your business? What are your plans to scale up?

I don’t think there is any difference in the challenges a woman or a male entrepreneur faces the in current environment. Setting up is always easy but sustaining is tough. The media and entertainment business is in a state of transition where brands are understating how to create better forms of storytelling in the digital age. There is a lot of education and work required and we are working towards that with our partners

4) Do you think being a woman entrepreneur worked to your advantage or brought challenges to your path?

Professionally, no. Because challenges are always the same. However, as a woman the approach sometimes is different. As women we have our own set of fears and conditioning which we need to learn to let go off. Not that men don’t have it, just that they work on it better as compared to women.

5) What would be the top 3 things to watch out for, if you’re a woman looking to start her own business?

Many a time, women under estimate and undervalue themselves and seek validation from others. However, they don’t need this or have to wait for others to notice and reward them for their contributions. All we need to do is remind ourselves how we have reached there and believe in our capabilities.

6) Women often tend to ask for less money when in negotiations. It is fine to quote an amount you think you deserve and not be worried about the opposite party!

Make your own networking list: When you start a business, you need all the help in the world and that’s when you need to sit and make a list of people you want to reach out to. It’s okay to reach out to as many people you want to. Don’t hesitate in reaching out and making them part of your ally network.

7) How has the support of friends and family played a role in your being a successful entrepreneur? How do you balance your professional and personal life?

My family and a group of close friends have been my backbone and biggest support system. When I am away, my husband and family support me in taking care of our 3 1/2 year old daughter. Also, the support system in family and friends make you want to go back to work without worrying much. But also, my business partner Suparn is a man and we respect each other’s family time; so, depending on who needs me more, I divide my time. Sometimes the balance is more towards work and sometimes towards family!

Prof. Ramola Kumar

Entrechat with Prof. Ramola Kumar

“Women are multi-taskers and have a unique commonsense, should they wish to engage themselves. They should be the change agents of tomorrow.”

“We need to co-exist and respect women in their entirety,” elaborated the CoFounder & Dean of The Delhi School of Communication – Prof. Ramola Kumar. This was a strong belief that she endorsed. Tracing her ‘power-packed’ performance in the education industry and in the field of Business Communication, she has made a name for herself as a Communication Champion in both corporate and education sectors. In a dialogue with Shree Lahiri, she narrates her journey, the source of her inspiration, the future and more…

Once you decided to venture out, how was the journey? What did you aim to achieve?
The journey was full of challenges – the field of the chosen programme was undefined in the minds of the target audience. Hence creating a basic understanding of the band-width of IMC (Integrated Marketing Communications) was itself a challenge.

Being a boutique, competition from larger institutes was also a challenge. But, building and instilling quality content value and valuable professional attitude was our unique selling proposition.

Where did the inspiration emerge from?
Inspiration came from the confines of a daily routine to one where the mind could envision each child’s future, on his/her life’s canvas. The joy of guiding, mentoring keeping in mind each student’s unique abilities and allowing thought processes to evolve individually and collectively. Another significant factor was – igniting creative energy to guide the spirit through the unknown.

Could you tell us about the challenges that created any blockages along the way?
There were many challenges along the road like :

1) Creating a unique system with and without boundaries
2) Intensely integrating theory with practice
3) Helping a ‘late-teenager’ to evolve into a responsible “young adult”
4) Constantly upgrading the technology, knowledge and methodology of teaching, and keeping in pace with industry requirements

Do you think the current business scenario encourages women entrepreneurs?
Definitely. I feel women can be wonderful entrepreneurs. Even if it be a small body-shop salon, the challenge is to work and fulfill your ‘karma’. Women are multi-taskers and have a unique commonsense, should they wish to engage themselves. They should be the change agents of tomorrow.

How do you envision the future?
The future can be as bright as you wish it to be. There are multiple options, different and new ways to work-from-home and be independent from the boundaries of systems. If one can earn one’s livelihood and eventually also help others build a better future – one’s life would have been lived well.

Would you have any tips for someone starting out today?
Enjoy the challenges life throws at you, be focused, remain grounded and give your best, and you will keep reaching your set goals along the way.[/ffb_param][/ffb_paragraph_0]

Prachi Kagzi

Entrechat with Prachi Kagzi

Prachi Kagzi, Founder, Little Passports India, is a travel evangelist and mother to a five year old. She is a MBA who has been in the corporate world for over 8 years and, now decided to follow her passion for kids and travel.

How did the idea of becoming an entrepreneur come up in your mind? How has the journey been and where has this reached today?
I traveled with my son to exotic locales and soon discovered the extensive interest from my family & friends yet inhibitions they had for these off beat places. I realised these places are out of their comfort zone and/or they lack company for these trips. Even after working in a corporate setup for 7 years, I always wanted to do something for kids and consider myself a travel evangelist. Little Passports was the perfect answer

Little Passports gives parents and kids the luxury of taking the road less traveled along with the safety of group travel.

What were the challenges faced by you?
On the contrary, Little Passports being an innovative concept in the education/travel world , has received an overwhelming response from family, friends , parents and educational institutions, alike! There was a gaping hole in this sphere and, we have touched the nerve of every enthusiastic parent and the IB curriculum based schools in India by offering these tours. We have been applauded many times in the media, including the Travel Magazine Conde Nast Traveller.

How did you narrow down to focus on travel and kids in the business venture you started?
Little Passports is a novel concept in the kids travel space for India. We organise educative travel tours for kids aged between 3 and 15. The concept resonates with today’s parents who value ‘learning by doing.’ These trips are in tandem with popular school holidays.

The tours designed for kids have been formulated with all my travel knowledge and experiences of travelling with kids. The tours are proactive to keep needs of kids and concerned parents in mind. I understand the importance of age appropriate attractions and energy levels of kids and have devised itineraries accordingly.

What are your future plans?
I have a penchant for kid’s destinations and aspire to convert all my experiences to trips through Little Passports. Little Passports envisions to be synonymous with unique destinations coupled with the parent and child bond allowing hassle free travel with a like-minded group of kids and adults.We plan to go pan- India in a bigger format where we have ongoing and multiple trips simultaneously during all school holidays , region-wise.

How do you feel women are placed today, to take up entrepreneurship in India?
Armed with specialised education and supportive families, women in India are at the helm of a golden period for entrepreneurship.

What advice would you have for someone starting out new?
Believe in your ideas and persist!

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Rashmi Patwardhan

Entre Chat Rashmi Patwardhan

Rashmi Patwardhan describes herself as a “professional with a fine blend of IT & Fashion”. She set up Rush Me Fashions, after she decided to become an entrepreneur.  As she speaks about her journey to Shree Lahiri, she appears to be totally committed to the objective she had set aside for her enterprise  – “to offer an Indian traditional fashion in the most elegant and exclusive form to the clients”.

1) Tell us a little about your Rush Me Fashions. How long ago did you start up? What has been your motivation and what do you aim to achieve?

Rush Me Fashions was started about 5 years ago. We started with an objective to offer some unique, exclusive dress material and dupattas hand-picked from all the corners of India. Although the boutique started with a traditional brick & mortar model, my goal has always been to run it through e-commerce model.

Over these years, Rush Me Fashions has constantly innovated and evolved. Currently, I feel proud that we have our own design unit, that creates original design and prints. Also, over 90% of our business happens through our online portal.

Going forward, we are looking to offer fashion accessories as well as readymade dresses. Also, there has been a constant demand for stitching and tailoring, so we are seriously evaluating those options

2) Where did the inspiration come from?

Whenever I used to buy dresses, I always felt that I can make such (or better) designs or mix and match to make them more elegant. Often I was fascinated to do something utilising my instinct for fashion. Finally I gave in to my calling – to switch my career entirely to pursue my passion, something that I thoroughly enjoy doing today.

3) How easy or tough has it been for you, as a woman entrepreneur, to set up and promote your business?

Setting up and promoting your own business is tough – for a woman entrepreneur or otherwise. The start-up ecosystem in India is still being built. Although some efforts are put in by the Government, Incubation organizations and Business Networking platforms, we still have a long way to go. There are several basic challenges like – ambiguity in compliances, ease and availability of finances and so on.

4) Do you think being a woman entrepreneur worked to your advantage or brought challenges to your path?

I have a mixed bag of experience. Being in the fashion business, plus being a woman – works as a great advantage for me. And, there has been excellent support from my family. Of course, a few things proved to be challenging – especially being a woman entrepreneur – like traveling alone at odd hours to remote places, getting acquainted with the legal framework etc.

5)  Do you think women entrepreneurs support other women across the value chain of business? 

Well, I feel, it’s an individual value system and mindset that largely defines if the entrepreneurs share information and support other entrepreneurs. I personally believe in a free and open business environment. There’s a great value for entrepreneurs in collaborating and growing together.I found a few of our business associates and partners quite supportive and open. Although there are still many women entrepreneurs who are carrying the secretive, proprietary business ownership approach. This needs to be changed.

6) What would be the top 3 things to watch out for if you’re a woman looking to start her own business?

  • First and foremost, get rid of the thought that you have any limitations being a woman entrepreneur.
  • Secondly, take your business and yourself seriously. Never consider it a secondary or trivial activity.
  • Take risks. Be bold and make decisions. Keep progressing towards your goal, and you will eventually make it.

7) What is the road ahead for Rush Me Fashions in 2018?

We are trying different strategies like diversification, vertical integration in supply chain as well as making strategic partnerships. We are still a young company, and will have to weed out the things that do not work out. In this year, we are aiming to evolve our niche, and will focus on those activities and grow. The future looks full of promise, opportunities and well… challenges too!

TD

Spotlight on ‘Technology’ on May 11 – National Technology Day

Technology can become a game-changer for entrepreneurs; it definitely improves productivity and can help them save time and money

It’s ‘technology’ that is celebrated on National Technology Day which falls on May 11, 2018. Highlighted on this day is the fact that it is the anniversary of 1968 Pokhran nuclear tests. It also emphasizes India’s technological advancements.

Tracing back the history, Pokhran nuclear tests were a series of five nuclear bomb test explosions conducted by India at the Indian Army’s Pokhran Test Range. On May 11,1998

pk ec

“Women entrepreneurs can handle business far better, because their degree of empathy is high”

Poonam Katyal, a government registered artisan and has worked with various departments at different levels. She has been creating “papier mache” articles for last 15 years. Originally she worked out of Jaipur, but after marriage, she moved to Delhi where she continued promoting the “Papier Mache” art. Currently she is running an art and craft academy in Janak Puri, New Delhi called –  Kalakriti Creations.

In a free-wheeling conversation with Shree Lahiri, she elaborates on how she started at the very beginning and the milestones crossed in her journey…

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