In ‘The Pathfinders’ series this week, we are in a tete-a-tete with women entrepreneurs on what it takes it to build an idea into a successful business and the support system that makes it happen both professionally and personally, as they prepare up for the upcoming Myntra For Her event scheduled between 5-8 March, 2022.
Entrepreneurship has long been a male bastion at large, but women are gradually breaking the glass ceiling and re-writing the new code. As per a Bain & Company report, India has 13.5–15.7 million women-owned enterprises, representing 20 percent of all enterprises. And the journey is plagued with both conscious and unconscious gender bias, even as women stand shoulder to shoulder with men.
In this edition of Pathfinders, we spoke to women entrepreneurs to understand their journeys, how they overcame gender bias in their growth journey, and partnering with ecosystem enablers such as Myntra, and participating in marquee events, such as, Myntra For Her.
mCaffeine: Winning over complexes with body positive beauty| Vaishali Gupta, Co-Founder & Head of Marketing, mCaffeine
With a degree in Electronics and Communications, Vaishali Gupta started working at an analytics firm early in her career. But that didn’t stop Vaishali to go the extra mile; the constant urge to do something creative and chase her dream of building something unique led her to launch mCaffeine. “We researched for eight to nine months, starting October 2015 and we launched mCaffeine in 2016 and I think after that it has always been a tremendous learning curve for me,” she says.
Contrary to how brands leverage people’s inferiority complex when selling products, mCaffeine aims to change the approach and make people more confident. “Caffeine is a super food for your skin and hair, and it has a very strong psychological connect – it gives energy and excitement to the youth including the millennials of India. And we felt that the product and the brand can be positioned well for the right market at this point of time. That’s when we started our beauty journey,” she says. The caffeinated personal care brand has a strong personal care portfolio that focuses on confidence over colour or gender.
Vaishali relates to Myntra both professionally and personally. mCaffeine started working with Myntra closely in the last two years. On speaking about the journey with Myntra she adds “They have an ability to unlearn their past experiences and learn new things while entering into a new space, which is beauty. And I think the team has been extremely flexible to take our opinions and build it together with us,” she says, adding that she looks forward to a lot of support from events such as Myntra For Her that propel demand.
But the journey wasn’t a walk in the park. Vaishali realized there are unsaid expectations set by society when it comes to women. She says, “Navigating through these expectations itself was a very big challenge.” Another point, she feels, is that women have higher EQ (Emotional Quotient), which is often looked at as a weakness. “Changing that norm has been very exciting and very challenging. Basically, saying that being emotional or sensitive to certain things doesn’t mean you can’t handle business pressures,” she adds.
Vaishali credits her success to her love for all things coffee. She derives inspiration from the way Howard D Schultz, her role model, who built Starbucks. “His journey of starting Starbucks from 11 stores to 30,000 stores in 70+ countries is a huge inspiration,” On talking about gifting, Vaishali says she would love to give Howard, one of their top mCaffeine products, the coffee body scrub to honor their mutual admiration for caffeine, to experience another benefit of it.
Fitkin: Making movement and fitness a part of life | Surbhi Chawla, Founder and Managing Director, Fitkin
The goal for the Delhi-based startup was an ambitious one – making fitness an integral part of life. Fitkin Founder and Managing Director, Surbhi Chawla reveals that a lot of research went on behind the scenes because high fashion performance wear was a new category in India. “It requires technical expertise, raw materials, and labour which are usually not available in India. So, it’s more like training and learning on the job,” she says.
The fashion designer credits her growth to her background – bachelor’s from New Delhi’s National Institute of Fashion Technology and a degree in MBA from the University of Oxford. Surbhi claims that the three Cs – cut, construction, and comfort – are key for Fitkin. “We are offering a product that is affordably premium and also very international at the same time in terms of looks, quality, and fabric,” she says. Today, after three years of being in business, Surbhi says she is confident that they have hit the right kind of patterns suitable for the Indian market.
On breaking stereotypes, Surbhi opines that being a woman entrepreneur, you constantly have a battle with yourself apart from having it with the outside world in trying to prove your mettle constantly. Sometimes society doesn’t take women entrepreneurs too seriously and you need to work extra hard to be accepted, she adds.
The entrepreneur started selling on Myntra in 2018 and says a big chunk of their sales comes from the website. “I feel that it’s a great platform for women to showcase their products and reach out to the market. Till date, it’s been a great partnership and I am already looking forward to the future,” she says. Customers during the Myntra For Her event, can expect a mix of eclectic and comfortable designs from Fitkin. “So, get fitter, get healthier, and get going,” she adds.
Surbhi draws inspiration from her mother, who is her role model. “Watching her closely has instilled more confidence in me”, she says. On talking about gifting the leading lady in her life, Surbhi adds that she would like to gift plus size leggings from their upcoming launch to her mother to help her be more active comfortably.
VarEesha: Beautiful homes begin with beautiful dreams | Aastha Nagpal, Founder, VarEesha
For the better part of her career, Aastha Nagpal worked in the banking industry for years, and then proceeded to work in the sales department of a global software company. Despite the leaps and moves in her career, as a home decor enthusiast, she craved to work on her hobby – interiors – leading her to launch ‘VarEesha’. The name VarEsha is an amalgamation of her children’s names. The brand offers curated intricate and beautiful handmade decor and home furnishing products.
Taking a leap of faith, Aastha ventured into entrepreneurship without any background in the business. “When I spoke to suppliers and artisans, there were two kinds of people – one who would not take me seriously and others who wouldn’t believe in me. Even today in India, there are a lot of men who do not feel comfortable speaking to women founders and business leaders,” she reveals. Her journey with Myntra started in 2018, and she says the team has been instrumental in helping them create their brand awareness and visibility. “When they started, there were not too many players in the home segment. So, the opportunity that we got along with Myntra was a great one,” she says.
Thinking back about her journey and the support system that empowered her to chase her dream, Aastha fondly thinks of her mother as her role model, who unfortunately passed away last year. “My mother was well ahead of her time. She was very progressive and believed that women should excel in their careers. I could have given any of our VarEsha products as a gift and she would have loved it. Today, the VarEesha team has grown from five people to 30, with 40 percent women representation in the organization.
The Myntra for Her Event
The second edition of the shopping carnival, dedicated to women, is slated to be held between 5th-8th March. ‘Myntra for Her’, enables women shoppers to pick their favourite fashion, beauty and lifestyle products across categories at sharp prices. The event is set to offer a whopping 9lakh styles from over 3000 brands.