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Although, women are half as likely as men to start a business, they are still underrepresented in the field of entrepreneurship. So what could be the reasons for this abysmal state of women in business? Is it because the male dominated society considers entrepreneurship to be just their cup of tea? Is it due the challenges faced by women in maintaining a healthy work-life balance? To support the ecosystem of women entrepreneurs and analyze the various factors concerning their progress, Headstart Kolkata launched the WE (Women Entrepreneurs) initiative for the first time on 13th December. Our objective was to infuse self confidence in first-time women entrepreneurs, so that they are able to headstart their journey with no constraints whatsoever; to make the ecosystem conducive to the specific needs of women entrepreneurs; and to complement and collaborate with existing women entrepreneur groups and initiatives in order to make the pie bigger for everyone.

The WE initiative began with an inspiring talk by Payal Nath, Founder of Kadam, an an organization that creates handicrafts and manufacture products of everyday use by combining the skills of village artisans with the right techniques and upcoming technology. Her organization also establishes children’s schools, buildings, and livelihood solutions for the workers. A designer turned social entrepreneur she shared the story of her initial days of struggle as an entrepreneur. The biggest hurdle for her was to gain the trust of the villagers, to understand and fulfill their needs, and to get them to commit to the organization to ensure that the products were delivered on time.

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Running her business, she stated,  was no small feat. She had to deal with threats and other adverse situations while training the communities. But, the obstacles couldn’t discourage her. Like a true champion, she persisted on her entrepreneurial path. Payal credited her family for being the pillar of strength during tough times. Her great oratory skills and charming persona won the hearts of all the women in the audience, and left them energized.

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Following Payal’s talk was the day’s most engaging session – the Panel Discussion moderated by Meghna Bhutoria (Founder at MakersLoft) and featuring panel speakers: Akriti Dokania (Founder , CoderBhai), Chetnaa Karnani (Founder, Market Concepts), Charu Rajgarhia (Founder, Design Definitions),  Prachi Agarwal ( Founder, superWOWstyle -Youtube Channel) and Payal Nath (Founder, Kadam). The topic of discussion was “Empowering Women Entrepreneurs” and the following points were discussed during the session:

  •  Reasons why we do not see many women on the entrepreneurial map
  •  Opportunities for women entrepreneurs in Kolkata’s startup ecosystem
  •  Necessary support system needed for women entrepreneurs

Below were some of the insights shared by the panelists as they answered the questions fired at them by the inquisitive audience:

  • Follow your passion; be visible to others by talking about your work and your company
  • Kolkata is business oriented, but mentorship is still missing in the city, so opportunities should be brought in from the other cities.
  •  We should know how to fill the gaps by finding out solutions for our problems rather than getting stuck.
  •  Entrepreneurs are known not by their gender, but by their passion
  • Do something and you will figure it out and learn in the process
  • India is going through a technology boom. We need to put in more effort to enable the community in India
  • Finding the right team takes time
  • If you come up with a random idea, just gamble with it. There is always a chance that it might work out.

The panel discussion was followed by a fun and intense learning exercise for all the participants. The women in the audience were made to pick up chits that corresponded to specific mentors(comprising of our esteemed panelists). A few groups were formed consisting of 3-4 members, and these groups were assigned mentors, who shared some valuable insights on various business-related topics.

The first WE event at Kolkata struck a chord with the audience, and received lot of positive feedback. Team WE@Headstart Kolkata was immensely pleased to inspire the attendees and provide them with a platform where they could receive mentorship. To stay updated on the upcoming WE event in Kolkata, do follow the Headstart Kolkata Facebook page.

About Headstart:

Established in the year 2008 with the vision to ‘Change the World through Entrepreneurship’, Headstart Network Foundation (headstart.in) is the largest network of early stage startups in India. A non-profit, volunteer-driven organization, HeadStart  facilitates entrepreneurial learning, hiring and peer mentoring amongst the startups and addresses their issues through various initiatives such as: Startup Saturday Bangalore, Headstart Clubs, Headstart Higher, Headstart Cofounder Search Program and Headstart Inturn.

Want to volunteer for the Headstart Content team? You can email us with your interest at swati.ramnath[at]headstart.in

Written by: Annupreeti; Edited by: Swati