Sairee Chahal- A sea of opportunity for women

Sairee Chahal- A sea of opportunity for women

About 75-80 percent of women who take a break from work are because of children or childbirth. This is a global phenomenon. At Fleximoms we help women get back to work and go about their job in a flexible manner. Fleximoms evangelizes work flexibility. The primary thinking is work and life needs to come together for women.

After returning from Russia in 2006 I teamed up with Anita Vasudeva to set up SAITA Consulting, a firm which deals with small and medium industries. SAITA as a consultant would help the enterprise in the internal matters of the company so that dealing with customers and clients was the sole focus of the company.

When we were running a consulting business we ended up hiring a lot of women. It was not by design but it so happened. However, the amount of women who wanted to join us far exceeded the numbers we could employ and this got us thinking.
On the other side every client that I worked with had a people issue.

There was no denying the fact that there was a lot of pain around hiring and retention. I soon realized that there is disconnect between what women want and the corporate format that main stream industries have when it came to work.
By 2009 I started toying around with the idea of Fleximoms. I set up the basic website and decided to start work on it. The hunch was correct and there were a lot of women who wanted that career support and a work life that fits them and not a prescribed fit.

Fleximoms provide career destination to women and evangelize work flex, which is not limited to the regular nine-to-five. Such jobs are difficult for someone with multiple primary responsibilities. Multiple primary responsibilities can be for example someone having a job and also studies. Another can be a mother and have a job. When you give your commitment then doing this becomes acute for the people who are parents or care givers because you can never go to a job and you can never say you will not take care the responsibility that comes with parenting.
We are social enterprise meets internet start up. What Fleximoms is doing and will do in the coming years will impact social structures, women at work and work flexibility.
But the way we operate is like an internet startup and we are very sure that we are not building a Facebook but Fleximoms.

Mental Impression
Women should not fall off the professional map by virtue of the fact that the world outside is not really catering to them.
We are not conscious about their needs but they still need to stay within the professional circle, they still need to be financially independent. They need access to the world of opportunities and that is what we want to provide. We provide various options of work whether you are a care giver or have other needs.
Between 2009 and 2011 the concept ran as a part of SAITA Consulting, after which it was decided to hive it into a different unit.

Fleximoms as an independent entity is a flexible employment model for women with skills and expertise seeking professional challenges and place them in organizations who understand the value of an experienced and qualified work force.

Not merely limiting it to help find a job, we also launched a programme called the ‘Second Chance’, which was a back to work programme for women who had been away from the job scene for a significant time.
We also launched various programmes like career guidance, interview preparation, resume guidance, work place coaching amongst others. These programmes were based on the aspirations and the present position of a candidate. No two people have the exact same solution that work for them. Work life choices for women are very heterogeneous and the importance for Fleximoms was to be the source they could come to when they were looking for jobs.

During education women and men are at par, with most women often being toppers of the classes. Then they get married and have kids and with household responsibilities they gradually fall off the career map. That is how workplaces change and as you go senior in workplaces, the number of women gets fewer when compared to men. Women are hugely under numbered at CEO positions, boards, etc.

We have reached to the women around the country, reached out to the corporate, started talking to women about flexible work. We had to put a lot of policies and process that majority of the companies use today. It was all done in one step at a time and now we are building on what we did – adding more women, companies and processes. It is just a big stone which we are continuously carving and fine tuning.

Feminine Power
Women make great managers, they have more integrity, they stay longer with the projects and they give their best shots to every task they do. And companies do prefer women as franchisees as many of them want to build their businesses on the back of women networks.

We do not employ women directly but still we have provided opportunities to 5000 to 6000 women and when we say opportunities, it is just not giving a job. It could be starting up, franchisees or becoming a part of an affiliated network. It is basically finding work that fixes their life and that is how we define a job.

On Franchising
Franchising is a very interesting format to build a business because for a company which does not have the bandwidth to start from a scratch. It is a great model but a lot of franchising is taken for granted, a lot of misuse of franchising happens at various levels and this remains an issue in industry. However, it offers exciting opportunities to many people and moreover, it is a huge push for women to utilize the resources they already have like space and time. They can fantastically build business around that.
Curves, a healthcare community came into India using Fleximoms. Another company, Vocaboom which is an after school program for vocabulary building for kids and it has been hiring and building their franchise network through Fleximoms.

With our support, other companies can use Fleximoms to reach out to women and set up their franchise model. If you want to open a preschool, salon, learning school then you can use Fleximoms to build your network.
Our challenge is to keep adding value to the needs and aspirations of women and that is a tricky place to be. Everybody is welcome to try Fleximoms and we even have men signing up to pick up jobs.
The platform is open to everyone and we are gender agnostic.

This was originally published in Franchise Mart .

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