The connotation of ‘you need to be a man to be a manager’ must change: Britannia’s women entrepreneurship panel
Female entrepreneurs and experts share light on the experiences, hindrances and growth challenges from their journeys
Sep 16, 2021 04:20:00 AM | Article | Eularie Saldanha
Britannia hosted a virtual panel to kickstart its 'Marie Gold My Startup Season 3.0', which funds and provides skill development for Indian homemakers to embark on their entrepreneurial journeys. The panel comprised Rashmi Daga, founder and CEO, FreshMenu; Shubhra Chadda, co-founder, Chumbak Designs; Kanwaljit Singh, founder and managing partner, Fireside Ventures, and Aarti Mohan, co-founder, Sattva Consulting. It was moderated by independent journalist Faye DSouza.
The topic of discussion revolved around 'Women entrepreneurship – the right time is now', and saw panellists speak about their own journey and hindrances they faced while jumping on the entrepreneur bandwagon, especially during the initial phases of their businesses. It also shed light on how technology has increasingly proven to be an enabler for women in many key areas.
The origin story
Speaking about her own experience, Daga shared that she first started working at a start-up 13 years ago and as a woman, had to go through a series of tough questions and doubts. Times have changed, though, in her opinion. "It's amazing to see so many women come forth with a variety of ideas. All of us are fighting for a lot of women out there and we need to encourage more and create a network."
She believes that the largest gap is the fact that women don't ask for help.
As one of the jury members on Britannia's start-up contest, Chadda was inspired to see how most women accept that their primary responsibility is the home, but don't let it stop them from starting something. She reminisced how she started as a first-time entrepreneur 11 years ago, with no role models in this regard. However, she accredits her achievement to her desire to start.
Speaking about her biggest challenges at the time, she said, "I had no direction on how to start and no access to funding. However, funding today is more accessible and has become a norm as compared to what it was when I started. I sold all my assets to put into the business that I wanted to start. There was no cultural openness for women in business before."
20% of all businesses in India are run by women but over 90% are still small, Mohan explained, as she pointed out that only the first generation of women have earned money that has come back to their pockets. Speaking on how to create a conducive environment to help these women, she said, "They need mentorship, credit and a cohort of support systems across all stages in their journey.”
Mohan began her company with three other male co-workers. "We also need more women on the investor side and in the value, supply chains of large corporations, so that they can bring in more women on board," she added.
Stating some interesting statistics, Singh reveals that 50% of his founders are women. "We believe that women might be even better entrepreneurs than men, for consumer brands, which are our focus. We've started to see women having not only an entrepreneurship spirit but also better skills compared to other founders. I definitely see more women activity."
Impact of societal conditioning
When asked why women have been cornered and not trusted with things like managing finances, Daga believes that societal conditioning has a big role to play. Speaking of how that can be corrected, she said, "A lot of acceptance to really claim and be more vocal about their capabilities are tools for women to help themselves. They have to stop being afraid of sounding vulnerable and foolish. We must all do our part. That's what we'll do going forward but it'll take years to change social conditioning."
She also highlighted that the reason why most women do not trust themselves, even with their own finances, is because they were kept away from these subjects. "You would not trust yourself to file your income tax returns or other finances. There is a need for a lot of startups to bring that up."
On the other hand, Chadda stated that one of the biggest enablers was the fact that she took charge of her finances very early on. "I booked an apartment a year after I started working and that decision helped me start Chumbak. I know working women who don't have access to their own bank account because they feel that finance is something they can't get into and is best kept with men."
Underrated leadership qualities
A lot of attributes assigned to a leader are those which are very male-focused and do not come naturally to women, explained Chadda. She spoke about her own strengths like multi-tasking and emotional intelligence which are often ignored when defining a leader. "This is a big aspect when you're running your own business. No one tells you that these are interesting skills needed to be a leader and that perception really needs to change to have more women in leadership roles. The connotation that you need to be a man to be a manager has to change."
Daga came across women from all corners of the country, some of whom declared that the biggest risk they took was - "humne ekdam daring kiya hai" (we've taken a brave risk). She added, "It was very heartening to see so many women had their sons-in-law and family that would come to support them. You have to create that ecosystem where the family hugs the woman with support."
Singh believes that women are not celebrated enough. He said, "We have to get more ladies on panels; women who have every right to this sort of treatment. One big societal opportunity is to recognise women and put the successful ones on a pedestal."