Blog by Aishwarya Meenakshi
It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a woman entrepreneur in possession of a startup must be in want of a healthy ecosystem to connect with like-minded and determined women. (Jane Austen, thank you.)
It is with great pleasure that Headstart Navi Mumbai launched the WE initiative on Saturday, 18th February. A round table conference was hosted with the intention of bringing together prominent women entrepreneurs. The aim was to share their journey and to discuss the challenges and opportunities of being a woman entrepreneur.
What is WE@Headstart?
WE@ Headstart wants to be a prominent platform to enable Women entrepreneurship where women can get connected with other motivated and determined women, self-help groups, and economic empowering platforms; to share, acknowledge and collaborate on making ideas happen.
WE@ Headstart initiative is aimed at early and growth stage ventures, preferably in their 1-3 years phase. The motive is to handhold, guide and nurture the women-founded startups.
(Your friendly neighbourhood blogger would like to take the time to announce that she has been honoured to be chosen as the Lead of WE initiative in Navi Mumbai. Woo hoo!)
Meet the Speakers
Netra Shirke, Corporator of the NMMC, currently serving her third term and has been elected as the first female Chairperson of the Standing Committee, NMMC.
Alongside the political arena, she is the director of Navi Mumbai Awaaz and Aashish Cablenet Pvt Ltd. She is also the proprietor of Radiance Spa & Salon (beauty-wellness startup)
“I rarely doubt my decisions. Any decision I make is very carefully considered before implementation.”
She is known for her work in solving several civic issues, environmental, social issues related to senior citizens, women and child development.
She had always been an ambitious person, and politics was an arena she entered only after marriage. We learnt of her first foray into the cable business, and how she became a Corporator for the NMMC. She shone with confidence, speaking of having no regrets and that whatever challenge life likes to throw at women, it can always be taken into stride and turned into an opportunity. (Readers, I clapped so hard my hands hurt.)
She mentioned the Maharashtra Chamber of Commerce as an excellent resource for entrepreneurs, with meetups, brainstorming and networking available.
Her experience as a serial entrepreneur shone through, as she touched upon her projects and initiatives. She emphasized that the greatest asset she had was her education, along with an excellent support system.
Dr Lata Menon , Deputy CEO of Pillai HOC, Mahatma Education Society.
” I began my PhD at the age of 43. If I can do it at that age, then anything is possible for all of you.”
Her definition of success as a teacher hinges on the success stories of her students (*I’m not crying, a dust ball just exploded in the room*) She also beamed with pride at the fact that two of her favourite students, Smedha Sarkar and Bikash Sahoo, were spearheading the initiative.
As her career progressed she learnt how to switch from politeness to being shrewd, a very politic learning curve indeed. She firmly believes that learning how to communicate is the key to success.
She maintains that she was blessed with an excellent support system, and her drive to keep moving forward, always, is what contributed to her success.
Dr Kanaklata Tiwari ,assistant professor at KJ Somaiya College of Engineering, a consummate author, a bilingual writer, screenwriter, All India Radio artist and Columnist and to top it all off, a classical singer! Among the various accolades she has received over the course of her journey, she has received the Gaurav Award from the State Government.
“I come from a conservative background. Writing allowed me to express my opinions and confront my fears.”
She spoke of her conservative upbringing and marriage at a relatively young age as perceived challenges. Her freedom for writing and subsequent career as a bilingual writer while gradually exploring other forms of expression was a heart-warming tale.
She is currently a mentor, and her love of teaching shone through as she described the opportunities and all the love she has received in this position. Her talent as an artist ensured that the story was fluid and captivating.
(Here is a compilation of the books she has published. #goals)
Paramita Mukherjee, columnist for the Anada Bazaar Patrika fortnightly since 2008 ,author of 4 published books that are a collection of these very columns. She is also the editor of leading Bengali newspaper Protibimba.
“My education in Kolkata is what created the base for my future, where I learnt about Indian and Bengali culture. I also had a very supportive work environment.”
She is extremely shy, and professed her slight bafflement and pride at being asked to speak about herself. (The insidious nature of self-deprecation occurred to me at this point. It does a number on self-confidence, folks.)
Her next volley was the importance of communication, and how she found it a challenge initially. She commended her holistic education, which was tempered with the cultures and values of West Bengal. She also had an extremely supportive work environment, where her boss was the first push into a writing career. The rest, as they say, was history. (May we all be so lucky 🙂 )
We were graced by the presence of Mrs. Chaya Kubal, Asst. Director, Skill Development, Employment and Entrepreneurship. She emphasized on the importance of skill development for employability.
(from left to right) Chaya Kubal, Dr Supriya Shinde , Dr Tejal Kanwar.
Tejal spoke briefly about Klienetics: its conception, her role in it & current growth. She also pointed out the rigors of being a woman entrepreneur, and her observations on the women she regularly interacted with over the course of her career. ‘People do not like it when you are aggressive, and I am very aggressive’, she said. The importance of having the right co-founder was emphasized upon & personal anecdotes were shared.
Supriya then continued the discussion, accentuating on her self-confessed aggressive & frank nature. She verbalized her surprise and apprehension at introducing TechChikitsa initially in a room full of men at a renowned incubation space. (*sips tea, Kermit stylez & steers clear of controversy*) A tiny brainstorming session erupted then and there about the nature of presentation & appearances while pitching a product. After a brief talk on these lines, we began with the panel.
(We were overjoyed that there was a microcosm of networking being created within the confines of the event as well! Such lovely discourse warms my stone cold heart.)
Speakers being felicitated by the team 🙂
A detailed record of the panel can be found here.
Special thanks to WE Country Lead Smedha Sarkar for her gentle guidance and infinite patience : )