While most of us dream of building a business of our own, the majority of us give in to the hard reality of bank loans, lack of investors, and above all the risk of going out of our comfort zone to start something from scratch. This month three women, Anita Vasudev, 50; Sairee Chahal, 34; and Chitra Iyer; 35 of Fleximoms, Workflex Solutions, talk about the excitement of building their own venture.
For Vasudev and Chahal a chance meeting on an online forum, Caferati–a writers’ group that the former was moderating almost a decade ago-led to a lasting friendship. It grew into a professional partnership. Chahal who had just launched her local social networking site www.ryzi.com, connecting Delhi and the NCR at the time, invited Vasudev to join the hub and soon they found themselves sharing ideas.
They were surprised to find themselves connecting despite their age difference, although the thought that they would start a business together seemed like a far-fetched idea to the two at the time. But in 2006, when the two found themselves out of jobs, coming together for business seemed like a great idea. That was when then their maiden venture SAITA, a general management consulting company, focused on small and medium businesses was born.
Within three years of working together the two realised that they felt a sense of empathy towards woman professionals. “While we were consulting with businesses and people, we wondered why corporates weren’t using the available talent pool of women?” says Vasudev. Chahal enunciates saying, “Why weren’t we, as a country, creating an eco-system that encouraged women to get back to work keeping in mind all variables? Why weren’t women ramped up to work flexibly? The story was the same everywhere, the constant fight between juggling home and work,” she says.
Every year, thousands of women who are just about entering or are at midmanagement leave the professional workspace, succumbing to what is popularly known as the ‘leaking pipeline’ (mostly due to care giving responsibilities). With a focus on connecting women professionals to employers Fleximoms was launched in 2009.
Chitra Iyer, 35 , CEO and Director, Fleximoms
While the idea was at a nascent stage they met Chitra Iyer, 35. She showed a keen interest in their idea.”I had started my own venture back in 1999 as well, which continues to be run by other directors. I moved on for personal reasons and worked for the corporate world,”she says. “But. the desire to have freedom to experiment and leave a legacy that was beyond a role or a title brought me back to entrepreneurship,” she says.
Meeting Vasudeva and Chahal was an aha moment for her. “I felt excited at the work they were doing and the role I could potentially play in this journey. I had always wanted to do something around enabling women and when they offered me an opportunity to come on board, I knew it was the right thing to do for me,” she says.
In the two years since its launch, the company has made a name for itself as India’s premier web portal focusing on women professionals and life has become hectic for its three founders. Iyer, a self-professed workaholic, is responsible for the corporate profile of the company in terms of planning and growth targets, while Chahal deals with the online content and operations, Vasudev brings in business.
By defining specific roles, they feel they have avoided the clashes that come with too much interference into each other’s work.”Trust is important when you are building a business and you have to learn to respect each of your team members in order to perform better,” says Chahal.
For Vasudev, the joys of starting a business together have outweighed the stress, she is candid about it. “Sairee had a baby who grew up as we worked, I had a son who finished college and turned pro, and I cared for ailing parents. We shifted office, and many in the team moved homes and cities, some of us were working in office three days a week. Some of us were on tour, but we made it happen.”
Women are natural entrepreneurs. “That is how they are always making things work for their family, homes and friends.” She sees entrepreneurship as the real road to empowerment, as it allows a woman to be economically independent, gives her flexibily and find her own little place in the world’s 45 per cent working population says Chahal. Not having enough women making this choice not only leaves us as a poorer society in terms of output but also leaves women poorer for not having experienced one of the most significant life changers.
This piece was published in India Today.