Recognising Exceptional Women Entrepreneurs
Sairee is one of the serial businesswomen in India. She was a co-founder of Fleximoms and Newslink. Furthermore, she is the founder of Sheroes. in. She is also a TED speaker and was voted the most powerful woman in Indian Business in 2012.
She has been awarded the Devi award, Femina Achievers award, Cartier Award, editor’s choice for L’Oreal Femina Women’s Award, Business Today and Most Powerful Women in Indian Business. In 2018, she was ranked 53 on Onalytica’s “Future of Work Top 100 Influencers” list.
Hailing from the small town of Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh, Chahal decided to move out just as soon as she was a teenager.
“If you are a small-town girl, life can be pretty restrictive [there],” she said, adding that the opportunities were few, the society orthodox and what helped her through the time were books. Calling herself a ‘complete bookworm’, she recalls that by the time she was 10 or 11, she had finished reading Salman Rushdie and other authors she was ‘not supposed to read’.
“We were always taught that we have to face our own consequences. If you make a decision, you should be prepared to face the music too!” she added.
At a time when tech startups were taking off in the country and Sairee set up SAITA Consulting, a company to help tech startups scale by helping them build systems and processes. In her five years with SAITA she met a lot of women applicants with a lot of attention from very high calibre women workers. That’s when she launched Fleximoms, a community-led platform for companies and women to talk to each other.
She started empowering women in remote areas through this platform, providing them with genuine jobs and helping them grow. All her stints so far in entrepreneurship were boutique businesses and she was faced with the question: What next?
“I got to thinking, what do you want to do? Do you want to continue with boutiques business or do you want to venture into something bigger, something that possesses higher risk but higher growth or low risk but lower growth? And of course, I picked a high risk and higher growth,” said Chahal.
With a background that had given her a lot of exposure and experience of the internet, Chahal came to the conclusion that while a lot was being done, many new platforms were coming up, nothing was being done in particular for the women. At least not in a constructive way. She pointed out how when people thought of building something for women, all they thought was selling to women.
“Men have built the internet and they have built it for themselves,” – Chahal
Realising the big gender gap in the Indian internet ecosystem, the lack of diversity in the workplace and the insignificant amount of women workforce, she set up SHEROES, which started off as a career-centric community for women.
SHEROES: Social Media For Women, By Women
Even as a platform that just provided jobs and career opportunities to women, SHEROES did pretty well. In just two years, they had almost 1 Mn women and 20K companies signed up and would post 100K job listings a month, Chahal told Inc42.
SHEROES then set up a helpline for women to enable them to talk to a professional if they had any sort of career questions.
“Initially, we would get calls from women who wanted to talk about jobs. ‘How do I get back to work, how do I find work, how do I work part-time, how do I negotiate a salary’ and more. But soon, the conversation started to shift, and what we saw was that women were asking us about everything. They were asking us about health, relationships, in-laws, children, startups, entrepreneurship, and everything else,” pointed out Chahal.
“Even if you built something and failed, you are still more valuable. Think of it as an amazing learning experience, you will get so much to learn and experience. We have got nothing to lose.”
Women started coming to SHEROES for everything. These were not just corporate women; these were women from all over India right from Tier 2 cities such as Jaipur, Aurangabad, Surat to Tier 3 cities and more. So they decided to tap into this opportunity in two ways — One, they acquired a company named Babygogo, a community for mothers, and then they shut down its job listing section.
Rebirth Of SHEROES
Realising the opportunity that lay ahead, SHEROES became a space for women to come online in a high trust environment. The idea was to help women get ‘more from life’ — from careers and jobs to health, family life and wellbeing.
As the world’s first and largest women-only social network, SHEROES functions across four core pillars – building digital identities, making meaningful connections with other women, investing in mental and physical health and finding financial independence. Over 2 million women have benefitted from the helpline till date. The platform has over 20 million women as members and aims to scale to 100 million women by 2023. Its counselling helpline enables members to chat with a professional counsellor at any time and seek support.