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In India, entrepreneurship is at an all-time high

 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C), Finance Minister Arun Jaitley (R) and Minister of States for Independent Charge Nirmala Sitharaman releasing the Action Plan at the launch of Start-Up India at Vigyan Bhavan on January 16, 2016

Mohd Zakir | Hindustan Times | Getty Images
Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C), Finance Minister Arun Jaitley (R) and Minister of States for Independent Charge Nirmala Sitharaman releasing the Action Plan at the launch of Start-Up India at Vigyan Bhavan on January 16, 2016

India is witnessing a major growth in entrepreneurship — not because of its X factor but out of the need for its citizens to create their own job. With more than 65 percent of the population under 35 years of age and a record-breaking growth in smartphone adoption and data services across the country, there has been a rising demand for next-generation services with simplified solutions.

While India has been seeing this increasing trajectory of entrepreneurs and new start-ups over the last five years, 2016 has been a major milestone year for all of the key stakeholders in the Indian ecosystem — including government, educational institutions, entrepreneurship support organizations, investors and entrepreneurs — to seek and provide support in sustaining the biggest hurricane of entrepreneurship to date.

All this, as India is set to celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week 2016.

Major factors fueling the momentum

january 16, 2016

  The year started with Prime Minister Narendra Modi launching the “Startup India” action plan to provide entrepreneurs with various subsidies, as well as relaxed norms for starting up businesses in India. The government of India’s Innovation arm, Niti Aayog — the National Institution for Transforming India — also announced there will be up to $2 million in support for those setting up and modernizing existing start-up incubators across the country — as well as to promote entrepreneurship right at the high school level. We at the Global Entrepreneurship Network also saw a growing demand from entrepreneurs seeking support through mentorship, capital assistance, legal advice and more to ensure the sustainability of their ventures.

It was also a historical moment for India at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit held in Silicon Valley, where President Barack Obama announced India as the next year’s destination for the summit, as well as showed interest in participation at the summit.

lobal Entrepreneurship Network also announced its official affiliation in India and plans to set up a dedicated office, bringing all key stakeholders together. GEN India made progress in consolidating major ongoing activities by formal nomination from India through the Global Entrepreneurship Research Network, as well as contribution to the Startup Nations Atlas of Policies through Startup Nations.

At Global Entrepreneurship Week 2016, the momentum is strong. Startup Ashoka, organized by GERN partner Ashoka University, saw more than 100 students on Nov. 4 and Nov. 5 coming forward to pitch new ideas, showcase their existing start-ups and learn from fellow aspiring student entrepreneurs to make their ideas viable and scalable. We were also honored to have MakeSense community members visiting us from France and the United States that organized a meetup to talk about innovations to fight climate change.

From students and women entrepreneurs to policymakers and investors

we are getting to see everyone celebrate entrepreneurship, share their own entrepreneurial journeys and provide support to keep this momentum going. GEN India is focused and committed in supporting each and every entrepreneur in the country by providing them all sufficient means to take their enterprises to the next level.

Some of the major events during Global Entrepreneurship Week include the Think Big conference, organized by WeConnect India. The conference attracts more than 2,000 women entrepreneurs in Bangalore and is jointly hosted by the government of Karnataka and WeConnect. Think Big will be followed by keynote talks by the U.S. Ambassador to India, Richard Verma; Amitabh Kant, the CEO of Niti Aayog; a panel discussion with SlideShare co-founder and current head of India’s DigiLocker Project, Amit Ranjan; as well as the voice of women entrepreneur Sairee Chahal, founder and CEO of Sheroes.

With the newly launched Digital India initiative by the government of India, we are seeing a huge increase in tech start-ups and mobile applications. This is due to the adoption of digital practices. To catalyze the same, a digital marketing workshop was organized by Jaarvis Accelerator. The workshop witnessed great participation and enriching discussion on changing trends of digital marketing and upcoming challenges.

Sairee In Discussion With NIKKEI On Opportunities For Women

Social constraints and dearth of opportunities are the primary reasons for low participation of women in the workforce. Even lack of flexibility in working conditions tends to dissuade women from joining the labour force as they turn to their domestic duties. It was a major task earlier to find work from home jobs, today SHEROES is breaking stereotypes and encouraging women from all walks of life realise their aspiration.

In the article by NIKKEI, founder Sairee Chahal discusses how team SHEROES is committed to engage and inspire women to ‘make more from life!’

Read how SHEROES is empowering 1,000,000  womenRead how SHEROES is empowering 1,000,000  women professional across levels, stages and sectors and offering quality and quantity of opportunities to increase women participation at work –  Indian StartUps Open a World of Opportunities to Women professional across levels, stages and sectors and offering quality

Sairee In Discussion With NIKKEI On Opportunities For Women

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Social constraints and dearth of opportunities are the primary reasons for low participation of women in the workforce. Even lack of flexibility in working conditions tends to dissuade women from joining the labour force as they turn to their domestic duties. It was a major task earlier to find work from home jobs, today SHEROES is breaking stereotypes and encouraging women from all walks of life realise their aspiration.

In the article by NIKKEI, founder Sairee Chahal discusses how team SHEROES is committed to engage and inspire women to ‘make more from life!’

Read how SHEROES is empowering 1,000,000  women professional across levels, stages and sectors and offering quality and quantity of opportunities to increase women participation at work –  Indian StartUps Open a World of Opportunities to Women

Indian startups open a world of opportunities to women

Sheroes staff met clients face-to-face at the company’s 2016 summit in New Delhi (Courtesy of Sheroes).

NEW DELHI — Snehita Mukherjee, 24, left her job in an Indian information technology services company to study interior design. But when she needed to supplement her income, she found a job through a website called Sheroes.in as a data processor working from home so she could continue her studies. Mukherjee then recommended the website to her mother and her elder sister.

Sheroes, a members-only career networking platform for women, is one of a handful of startups that have sprung up in India in the last few years to help women find full-time or part-time work, identify mentors, tap into networks or receive career counseling.

Sairee Chahal, founder and chief executive of Sheroes (Photo by Megha Bahree

Some, including Sheroes, are exclusively for women. Others, such as Flexing It, offer freelance work for women and men, while the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi has started a mentorship program for female entrepreneurs. The networking startups charge companies for placements and recommendations; women seeking jobs or information join for free.

“The traditional job market gives you a burden of expectation,” said Sairee Chahal, founder and chief executive of Sheroes, which has roughly 1 million registered women on its platform, by far the largest such startup in the country. “This [flexible work] helps them take charge of their own way.”

About 21.2% of working age Indian men — those between 15 and 59 — have a regular salaried job, compared with 13.4% of Indian women of comparable ages, according to a 2014 report by the International Labor Organization. A 2015 report by the McKinsey Global Institute found that Indian women account for just 17% of India’s gross domestic product. Full employment equality would raise GDP by 60% by 2025, the report claimed.

The jobs and networking startups feed a real hunger from women, according to Chahal, who said that women in isolated and rural communities are now able to find work that they can do from home. A good example, said Chahal, was an online query from a young woman in a village near Lucknow, in the relatively poor northern state of Uttar Pradesh, who wanted to work from home. Chahal pointed her to Sheroes’ listings, and then coached her through the application process and the process of setting up at home.

Chandrika Pasricha started Flexing It based on her own needs. She left her job at McKinsey to freelance and found that there were few options for consultants. Seeing a gap in the market, she set up Flexing It, which says that 40% of the nearly 40,000 professionals registered on the site are women. The company finds work for mid-career professionals with a median work experience of eight years in areas such as marketing and branding, running business units, hiring and managing personnel, finance and analytics.

Struggling for talent

At least 55% of the paying companies at Flexing It are startups and small and medium sized enterprises. “Startups are always struggling for talent,” said Pasricha. “They can’t afford to throw money at talent, and we’re finding a lot of organizations are turning to people like us to get help on specific pieces of their businesses.”

According to the 2015 Global Women Entrepreneur Leaders Scorecard, produced by the U.S. research company ACG, India ranked 28th in a survey of 31 countries for gendered access to fundamental resources such as education, the internet, bank accounts and SME training programs. Only Bangladesh, Ghana and Pakistan were ranked lower.

The survey inspired IIT to set up the Women Entrepreneurship and Empowerment Foundation, which launched in October, offering a three-month mentorship program for 30 women entrepreneurs. Aparna Saroagi, the foundation’s co-founder, said India’s burgeoning startup companies tend to be run by so-called “boy’s clubs” with very little female representation at the top levels.

“Women have the potential and they only need the support to rise up,” said Saroagi, who also heads market risk reporting and control at Royal Bank of Scotland in India.

Lack of internet access in some areas could hamper the growth of startups, but Chahal said: “We believe that internet access is only going to grow, even on low bandwidth. Our endeavor is to build an ecosystem that can serve anyone as India grows.” About 32% of the women on the Sheroes platform are from small towns.

“There’s a huge rise in aspiration, in understanding that work is integral, and there’s a huge hunger for growth from wherever they are,” said Chahal, who grew up in small towns across the country thanks to her father’s job as a consultant to the steel sector.

“I come from a big Punjabi family where the women go through college and get married to a jeweler or a builder,” said the 40-year-old. “In my head I had written that off at 18.”

She moved to Delhi for a degree in Russian studies in the mid-1990s — a time when several Central Asian countries were setting up embassies in Delhi — and got her first taste of financial freedom by helping them with translation and public relations. Since then she has worked in, and helped scale up, several businesses.

Chahal launched Sheroes in 2014, and has since raised $2.6 million from the U.S. private equity firm Lumis Partners, India’s HR Fund, the venture capital fund 500 Startups and the digital media startup Quint Media. Other investors include Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Google India managing director Rajan Anandan and Flipkart co-founder Binny Bansal.

“We’ve built a category — women and their professional space,” said Chahal. Working from home used to be a scammy thing and we’ve made it a respectable option.”

What keeps top angel investors going?

Do angels really help?

Sairee Chahal, founder and chief executive of Sheroes, a career platform for women run by Applied Life Pvt Ltd, says the most important advice Bansal has given her is to stay true to the ‘core focus’, which is women for Sheroes.

“He is just there. If we ever get into trouble, we know who can get us out. He is a big door-opener. For us he’s always there when we ask for help,” she said, adding that Bansal invests in the creation of a strong platform and a strong community.
Promoters say as these investors have been entrepreneurs themselves they are typically more patient than pure play investors.

Startups like Sheroes, JobsForHer help women find work after a career break.

 

Opportunities provided by such portals have seen a significant increase in applications by job-seekers and postings by recruitersVarsha Bansal
Startups like Sheroes, JobsForHer help women find work after a career breakStartups like Sheroes, JobsForHer help women find work after a career break - Image
Thirty-year-old Ruby Gupta was in search of a work-from-home opportunity when she chanced upon a Facebook post which said recruitment startup Sheroes is the go-to platform for women exploring work options. She decided to give it a try.

Within days of applying, she landed a work-from-home project with UrbanClap.

Lumis Partners-backed Sheroes is among a slew of women-focused recruitment startups that have come up over the past few years to help women who have taken a career break find work, including jobs that offer flexibility in terms of hours and place. JobsForHer, Her Second Innings, V-Pact are among the other popular organisations.

“We work with women at different stages of their career. While we have hiring opportunities, our approach is to build a system to support, advice and provide skilling around the job,” said Sairee Chahal, CEO of Sheroes. “We also have a career helpline through which candidates can talk to a coach or mentor.”

Bengaluru-based JobsForHer is a similar online portal with primary focus on women who have taken a break and want to restart. It not only helps job seekers connect with potential employers, but also helps bridge the gap with skills upgradation.

“Usually, women are told to hide the gap in their resume,” said Neha Bagaria, CEO of JobsForHer. “But when they apply through our portal, they know that they will be evaluated on the basis of their qualifications and experience, rather than get dismissed because of the gap.”

Startups like Sheroes, JobsForHer help women find work after a career breakStartups like Sheroes, JobsForHer help women find work after a career break - Image
Opportunities provided by such portals have seen a significant increase in applications by job-seekers and postings by recruiters. Sheroes, which has built a base of 1 million users since its inception two years ago, has witnessed a seven fold growth in job opportunities on the portal in the last one year, said Chahal.

With over 1,600 companies as potential recruiters on JobsForHer, including the likes of The Future Group, Genpact and Unilever, the portal is receiving over 50,000 applications on average every month, which is nearly 300% increase from last year, according to the company.

“MakeMyTrip has hired 40-50 holiday experts from us for sales of their travel packages and all these women candidates work from home,” said Bagaria.

Why SHEROES Exists: An FB Live With Sairee

This morning, we shared our morning cuppa with Sairee Chahal over a Facebook Live Stream and lots of chatting up with friends of SHEROES

View the video here

Here are excerpts from the session(- in case you are at work and cannot hear the audio)

1. Why does SHEROES exist?

Sairee: SHEROES exists to put every woman’s life on the map. From a career, a personal issue and advice. Even if you need nothing, SHEROES strives to be your go-to place to make your world a happier place.

2. What’s the larger purpose of SHEROES?

Sairee: SHEROES aspires to help you find your purpose. Any woman, from all walks of life- facing the global truth of unequal opportunity can arrive at the platform and make the most of it!

3. How does an organisation achieve operational excellence?

Sairee: 3 things.
User First
Process Excellence
Sustainable culture and business model
4. Women Entrepreneurship Quest and Anita Borg Institute with SHEROES, why?
Sairee: we are all looking to put women on the map. WEQ, Anita Borg Institute and SHEROES build a platform that can help women from all sects of life- arrive. For themselves.
5. Why would you take a silicon valley trip?
Sairee: To broaden horizons and expand the option of equal opportunity- worldwide
6. What’s your take on making mistakes?
Sairee: I’ve made many mistakes. I fix them and I seem help. My only tip is: make new mistakes!

The Future Is Female – When Techcircle Spoke To Sairee

community platform, a career destination, a guide in all spheres of life, SHEROES aims to be a one-stop shop for women for all their personal and professional needs. It currently has a one million strong community of women, who come together to share experiences, use resources for self-development, and find opportunities to improve their work and life prospects.

Run by Applied Life Pvt Ltd, the platform raised $1.8 million from private equity firm Lumis Partners; country’s first human resource-focused investment platform HR Fund; entrepreneurs Rajul Garg and Raghav Bahl in August and followed it up with two acquisitions.

In an exclusive conversation with Techcircle, SHEROES’ founder Sairee Chahal says she is looking for more acquisition opportunities especially in content and career development segments. In the short-term, she is open to acqui-hiring, too. Maintaining that SHEROES is well-funded for the next six months, Chahal says a consumer-centric company that is in scale-up mode will need consistent funding.

How do you see SHEROES shaping up in future? Any new segments you aim to enter in the near future?

We see SHEROES as an ecosystem of women and their career and aspirations. Within this ecosystem, we are lining up elements such as opportunities, support, network, content, learning and growth. Within these elements, wherever we find relevance, we will acquire.

The challenge in our category is that there aren’t many people. The women and career space is a new one. We hope to find some new synergies. Acqui-hires are always welcome, but not as a long-term strategy. We are looking for acquisition in content and career development.

SHEROES has recently made two acquisitions – LoveDoctor and Gharkamai. What led you to the decision?

In the case of LoveDoctor, we run a career helpline and mentorship network, but we weren’t equipped to handle emotional or non-career related queries. We needed competence in that. Its trained counsellors are now integrated with us.

Gharkamai had a lot of women looking for work from home, a common use case with SHEROES, and a lot of companies we were working for were looking for work from home candidates, so it made sense to match them.

What is SHEROES’ target market?

We are targeting urban educated women. All women who can read/write and can use a phone are our target market. Careers are not linear, and an average woman makes four to five transitions throughout her career. SHEROES is your partner through all those phases, so we are not just a job site. We have jobs as one of the enabling function to the community. A Naukri or Monster would monetise job listings, SHEROES runs them for free. We work with about 300 companies for our paid product.

Women get various things from SHEROES, such as support, advice, information or resources, and not just jobs. Somebody who took a career break uses SHEROES differently from somebody who is just starting out.

What is your revenue model?

We are like any other community platform, like Facebook or LinkedIn. They build a user-base and engagement, and then monetise. We also have two B2B service lines. We help companies manage remote work force, and the other is hiring on demand service. Our monetisation is from companies only, we don’t charge the users.

We have long-term relationships with companies, but we have an on-demand model, where companies can give us a call with their requirements and they will get the person in the next 24-48 hours. So, we help them from spotting people to managing people.

How much traction does the community see?

SHEROES has almost a million women using it, and 15,000-18,000 companies use it actively at any given point of time. The way it works is that some companies use our services while others use the do-it-yourself platform. Our estimate is that there are a lakh women who have found value here, whether it is job, startup help, fellowships or being a part of managed workforce.

Moreover, tier 2 is about 40% of our user-base. Bangalore, Bombay, Delhi top the list in terms of absolute usage. We are also the largest database of remote and work from home jobs anywhere in Asia. The average profile is 29 years of age, with seven years of work experience.

Would you be looking to add skill-building resources to the community as well?

Currently, we do share career resources and advice on the platform. At some point of time, we will do more experiments in this space and add more use cases.

How gender-oriented is the hiring process in India?

There are two kinds of companies. A lot of these companies come to us because they find good hires here and authentic users. It’s not that they hire women, it is just that women get hired. They also find value in the manage remote work process, they are doing it for their business. There is a small diversity in the hiring process, which we do end up catering to. Hiring is not a gendered process, but most companies realise they don’t have enough women, and they realise they can’t ignore this workforce.

I don’t think it is about gender, it is about serving underserved markets. You don’t serve saturated markets. Women of India haven’t got representation in the professional network. LinkedIn, for instance, is 75% men; Naukri is 80% men.

For women, it’s hard to make a comeback, especially in India. There are hardly any opportunities. Jobs, as a category, is shrinking. In that scenario, we help women manage their transitions, when coming back from a break. The companies are not there yet when it comes to gender parity consciousness.

Would you be looking at another fund raise?

I think when you are a consumer-centric company, you have to raise funds. As the platform scales, we would need more funds. I would give it at least another six months. We have adequate support from Lumis, and strategic support from HR fund and Raghav Bahl. So, we are not worried about funds right now.

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