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Sairee Chahal is co-founder of Fleximoms, a diversity solutions provider based in Delhi which connects women seeking to enter or re-enter the workplace with job opportunities, information, and mentoring.
Although women outnumber men on many higher education courses in India, just 22 percent of all female graduates go on to enter the workforce – and nearly half of those drop out mid-career. These discouraging figures are a result, Chahal believes, of the social pressure on women to be involved only in domestic matters such as caring for the extended family and the home. At the same time, the country is in desperate need of educated, qualified professional and managerial staff.
For Chahal, the answer is flexibility: the ability to use alternate formats in the working world. By means of community, information, networking, and coaching, Fleximoms works with women who are making work-life choices and help them prepare for and connect with professional opportunities. As many women in India do not have access to the internet, the company uses both online and offline approaches and works with a network of partners and service providers such as care-givers, childcare organisations, and remote-work-enabling technology specialists. Job opportunities posted on the Fleximoms board are carefully screened to ensure they offer flexible working hours or conditions.
Fleximoms itself employs twelve people – seven fulltime and five on a flexible basis – to manage the 250 companies who now use the job board and the over 2 000 job connections that have been made since the company launched in 2011.
Chahal has had a varied career, having worked in research, translation, PR, leadership consulting and the media before setting up SAITA Consulting in 2006 to work with businesses reinventing themselves. Fleximoms was a natural development from that.
“I always knew I had to be an entrepreneur”, Chahal tells thehatch.in. “When you can’t stick in a job long enough, have too many questions and have trouble following rules without reason – that’s where you head. I dabbled a lot, and the process of creating a business and seeing it grow was the one that stuck”.
If she were able to do it all over again, she says, she would start earlier and say ‘no’ more often. “Being responsive is important, but you can only chase one goal at a time. Figure out which one”.
And the single most important characteristic for success? “Personal clarity – who you are and what drives you is important before anything else. Your own response to situations and things that drive you are the foundation you build your business on. In every business the entrepreneur is the biggest asset and the biggest liability”.
“Just don’t park yourself – for success, failure or perfection. Go on!”
This article was originally published in emerging stars.
It was after becoming a mother that Sairee Chahal realised the gaping need for flexible work options in corporate India. She could have been one of those numerous women who, after having children, opt out of lucrative, fulfilling careers because of rigid work formats of organisations. But she had different plans. “I often think I could have been a statistic had I not pushed back,” she says.
Chahal co-founded Fleximoms, a New Delhi-based company that helps women find flexible work options. “You don’t realise the need until it hits you in the face,” she says. Fleximoms, whose other founder is Anita Vasudeva, helps find flexible work options for women who have fallen off the career ladder and also provides them training to bridge any skill gaps.
Fleximoms rolled out as an independent company only last year. Chahal incubated it for nearly two years under Saita Consulting, a consulting firm that she and Vasudeva founded in 2006 to advise on small and medium businesses.
Fleximoms works with 300 companies. “There are a lot of companies that want to connect with this demographic,” says Chahal.
This Business Today piece appeared as part of a larger series of profiles with five unusual women entrepreneurs.
Sairee Chahal seamlessly weaves her world between her business, her four-year old child, a household and varied other interests. As the co-founder of Fleximoms, Chahal, 36, is a pro when it comes to juggling work and personal life.
Chahal comes across as a person who is in control of things, a quality she has acquired in a career graph that is as varied as it is interesting.
Right after her Masters in the Russian language from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Chahal worked for Central Asian countries that were opening their embassies in the capital. She then joined a magazine.
After a while, Chahal decided to venture out on her own as she was not happy being an employee any longer. In 1999, she set up NewsLink Services along with a couple of friends.
This was the country’s first magazine for mariners and had operations in India, Philippines and Cyprus. Chahal was in charge for three years and during that period, the workforce was expanded to 130 members.
Chahal then moved out to set up Russian outposts for the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), and the executive search firm, Heidrick & Struggles.
It was in 2006 that Chahal teamed up with Anita Vasudeva, Co-Founder, Fleximoms to set up SAITA Consulting Pvt. Ltd., a firm which deals with small and medium businesses. SAITA is a Japanese word for excellence, explains Chahal. It is also a combination of the first names of Chahal and Vasudeva. SAITA began operations by helping in the internal matters of organizations so that the management was free to deal with customers and clients.
“When we were running the consulting business, we ended up hiring a lot of women. It was not intentional. However, the number of women who wanted to join us far exceeded the numbers we could employ. This got us thinking,” says Chahal.
At SAITA, every client that Chahal worked with had a people issue—there was a lot of pain around hiring and retention. “We soon realized that there was a gap between what women want and what mainstream industries seek when it comes to work,” says Chahal.
By 2009, she started toying around with the idea that fleshed into Fleximoms. Between 2009-2011, the concept was part of SAITA Consulting, after which it was hived off into a different unit.
Fleximoms today is an independent entity offering a flexible employment model for mothers and placing them in organizations which understand the value of an experienced and qualified workforce. In fact, it is considered the largest aggregator for genuine flexible jobs in the country.
Fleximoms has now expanded its scope to find jobs for women who have taken a break from work. The back-to-work programme, Second Chance, offers an opportunity for women who have been away for a significant time from the work force.
“We have also launched various programs like career guidance, interview preparation, resumé guidance, workplace coaching among others. These programmes are based on the aspirations and the present position of a candidate,” says Chahal.
The founder understood that work-life choices for women are heterogeneous and hence, it was important for Fleximoms to be the top resource for women while seeking employment.
Chahal also worked intensively with corporate entities. “We wanted them to hire women because it made business sense. A lot of work that we do with companies is to get them to accept flexible working hours as a business case and use it as part of their workday and not because it is something
good to do.”
Fleximoms currently reaches out to about 30 cities in India, and allows its customers to access the entire ecosystem for finding the right job— a prospective candidate can find a suitable job in a city other than the one she is living in.
Fleximoms also conducts online teaching, coaching and classroom training for long-term interventions in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Pune. “A lot of women are also starting up and we have tied up with a number of incubators and accelerators to provide support,” says Chahal.
Robin Hood and the moms
Fleximoms is bootstrapped with an initial investment of about `2 crore. “We had the consulting business, so we call it the ‘Robin Hood approach’ of moving money from one to the other,” says Chahal.
The response to Fleximoms has been phenomenal—what started out as a small project has become highly successful, informs Chahal.
“We knew [from our experience] getting a job was a problem for women, but never imagined it was a problem of such magnitude. It has grown through word-of-mouth and we feel we are only scratching the surface. Clients, who have worked with Fleximoms, refer us to others and this has helped a lot in our growth.”
Chahal says that in April 2011, the first month of operations, Fleximoms had 16,000 members. Today, the company has local chapters and the community is 2 lakh strong. “We have consistently grown month-on-month and we have reached this number in practically a year and half.”
When a company, which is their client, wants to access Fleximoms’ database, it has the option of taking a subscription. These subscriptions form the primary source of revenue for Fleximoms.
“We also do a lot of custom work for companies with specific needs,” says Chahal. However, information and membership is free for women. Fees are only charged if they join a coaching intervention.
Chahal reveals that the firm’s current revenues are a little less than `1 crore and by the end of 2013, they are expected to grow three times over.
Fleximoms has now evolved into a site where any woman can search for a job opportunity—the website is not merely limited to a mother. “The ‘Mom’ aspect is symbolic for a care-giving economy. About 75-80 percent of women who take a break from work do it because they have to take care of their children. This is not restricted to India and is a global phenomenon,” says Chahal.
More to follow
With changing times and needs, Chahal feels that a number of firms now realize the value of what Fleximoms offers. “A lot of companies realize that this demographic can be a game changer for them,” says Chahal.
During the first month of its operation, Fleximoms had about 22 companies on its rolls, a number that has since grown to 400. Chahal says in the same month the firm found placements for 12 women. Since then, it has found jobs for over 5,000 women across the country.
Archit Gupta, Co-Founder and Director at ClearTax, a tax filing provider, says that he heard about Fleximoms through a friend. “We were looking to hire people remotely, so that we do not have to expand our office. We wanted self-motivated people. Three months ago, I sought Fleximoms’ services to hire for two positions: a support role and for content writing .”
Though Gupta was able to fill the positions he was looking for, he feels a lot more could be done with regard to filtering resumés. “Most of the leads [given by Fleximoms] were good but there were some which were outside our mentioned criteria. This is one area where Fleximoms can improve upon—[put in place] a better filtering system,” says Gupta.
Chahal points to another challenge—to keep adding value to the needs and aspirations of women. “That is a tricky place to be,” she says. To do this, Fleximoms will be looking at Series A funding in the next six months to add scale, she adds.
This interview by Pranbihanga Borpuzari appeared in Entrepreneur Magazine in March 2013
Yahoo jolted everyone this week by banning remote work for its employees. The story has not stopped making headlines since then. The great thing that emerged was that the seemingly global majority undecided on workflex turned out to be its supporters. We have to thank Marissa Mayer for spotlighting the issue.
Traditionally, it is not new for businesses to deem workflex as ‘not for us’. For years, businesses have left un-extracted value on the table. For the fence-sitters and cynics, it might be interesting to go over key work-life trends in this context.
TRUST IS THE NEW BUSINESS CURRENCY
In case you haven’t noticed, businesses need to acquire, retain and grow trust from all their stakeholders, more than ever before. The open information network, the rise of global citizenship, the younger workforce have all meant that trust is the core around which businesses need to maneuver themselves. The trust economy lends itself to what is termed as the rise of creative collaboration – multitude of skills, backgrounds and energies combining to solve common problems.
ABSOLUTISM NO MORE
There is no absolutism in business anymore. Blended business models, complex eco-systems, shorter business life cycles – have reduced the island approach in business. Never say never was never truer. Collaboration, blended models, constant reevaluation, fast change, constant communication – are some trends businesses have to live with now.
AGE OF CHOICE
Isn’t 21st century an age of choice? The choice to be able to marry who you want, live where you want, learn what you want, have the world’s information at your disposal? And that applies to corporations too. Variety and variation in everything – from products we buy, to services we choose, to lives we lead. Workplaces need to acknowledge that needs and aspirations vary from individual to individual, from geography to geography and that workforce is not a lump of homogenous large group with no individuality. It includes everyone – global migrants, the natives, the digital citizens, the DINK couples, the single moms, gay families, elderly, veterans, the Gen X, Y and more.
FORMATS AND FITS
Remote work, telecommuting, work from home is just one page out of the workflex formats. There are over a dozen other formats that fit various business and strategic needs. These include flex work day, flex work week, job share, part time, core team flex roles etc. Carving out flex formats to suit an organisation’s growing needs is a function of business needs and needs to be thought through as part of the core planning process. However, many business teams find them at a loss when it comes to curating these engagements. Workflex formats are not one size fit all but. Workflex formats are not one size fit all but when applied in business contexts, will be key to business results. Businesses, which commit time and resources to plan these as part of their core, yield better long-term gains – of productivity, cost saving and engagement.
VIRTUAL MEETS REAL
Virtualisation of work and life is a real thing. For every 100 texts, IMs, Skype calls, there are perhaps five meetings. It is only going to grow, as we raise of children with smartphones in their hands from day one. They know no other reality and it simplifies things to enhance adaptability for us, who came in with a different version of work-life fit. Work will never be fully virtual or fully cubicle. Both will stay but the trend is weighing towards higher virtualisation.
DON’T FORGET SBMs
The uncertainty surrounding global economic conditions, the fall of the big global corporation, the result of the industrial age environment fatalism have shifted the pointer towards Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs). Anyone who follows the changing workplace trends will be able to tell you that SMBs are the big adopters and drivers of workflex. They are agile, adoptive, extract business value and are ready to make that investment. They are the ones who employ a large percentage of the workflex employees and build flexibility as a core business value. Home based work is only going to grow as technology gets better, work more knowledge driven and work-life choices more diverse. In fact, teleworkers is the fastest growing category of workers globally.
HAPPINESS, AN ADVANTAGE
The central resource in a knowledge led organization is the disposition and discretion of the worker. A CEO’s task before the balance sheet is to tilt the mindset of the knowledge worker in favor of the organisation and its mission. Leadership today is less about whom you lead and more about who wants to be lead by you. Physical, mental, cognitive well-being is the most valuable unwritten column in the P&L statement of a company and its impact is only set to grow.
REDUCED SILOS, MORE SHARING
No organisation of today is built on industrial age principal of silos. Flow, fluidity, constant change leading to increased sharing is the form of new age business. One thing leads to another, the world is a networked place, we want to share more, participate in the open sharing economy, learn through open streams of shared knowledge and align ourselves with communities that catch our interest, irrespective of their global locations. Businesses need to be cognizant of this fact and respond to the fact. The future is now.
The original article was featured as a opinion piece in The Times of India, Crest Edition
India: If you grew up in urban India in last three decades or so, chances are that the top achieving students in your class were women. Some of the men might have even passed because the women made all the notes and helped classmates. Most of these women would then go on to some great career opportunities or find interesting things to do. Revisit the same at a reunion few years hence and chances are the men are still managing to run up the ladder, while a significant number of women would have off-ramped.
Universality of marriages, child care, elderly care, spousal duties for traveling spouses, army wives, large traditional families, lesser access, fewer women friendly opportunities, a gender stereotypical society, falling confidence, lack of re-skilling opportunities, changing job market — the list of factors leading to the phenomenon is long.
When you do a little math, given that India produces the largest number of graduates in the world, is home to over a billion people, has a plethora of educational institutions and growing corporate classes and not to mention the over-arching environment that is not particularly great for women — it is easy to guess that something is majorly amiss. Work-life choices for women are rather heterogeneous and somewhere the homogeneity of career ladder and the weight of stereotypes make things tough. Almost 50 percent graduating class and less than 5 percent women CXOs, less than 15 percent women managers tell the tale.
Consider These Facts
113: India’s ranking on the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index (out of 135 countries), measuring economic, health care, education and political issues.
24 percent: The percentage of women in India’s workforce –117 million out of 478 million people.
5 percent: The percentage of senior level female employees in India. The global average is about 20 percent.
48 percent: The percentage of women who drop out of the workforce before they reach the middle of their careers. The Asia regional average is 29 percent.
62 percent: The percentage of a male counterpart’s salary that a woman earns in India. In the United States, it’s about 80 percent.
Source – CSIS
How can an aspiring economy be built by letting talent lie latent? Would you run a factory by leaving out your finest hands on deck out?
Women: Women globally shoulder the care-giving economy but in India the weight is doubled — gender stereotypes and patriarchal super-structures make the situation even more complex. There is an inherent distance between women and the world of work — especially, one with a fiduciary nature. In India, there are almost 300 million women who are working moms, housewife moms, housewives and working wives. About 100 million live in urban India. Growth in education, media influence and consumer focus has created an opportunity for women to pursue their ambitions and make active choices.
Organizing Work: The way work is organized for contemporary societies is a reflection of post industrial age but for centuries prior work was either an individual pursuit or organized in guilds. Modularity and integration are two significant aspects of worked, which got overlooked in the industrial age expansion. The industrial age also passed on the means of production and access to financial resources in hands of men worldwide.
One can look at this phenomenon through various lenses — a feminist’s perspective, a job seekers dilemma, a corporate productivity and talent management issue – the fact remains there is a challenge and an equal opportunity to serve the women workforce in urban India. The case for women at work has been illustrated before. What is required is to address the how to and curate the customer experience? That is exactly what Fleximoms set out to do when it rolled out commercial services in 2011. These included coaching services, corporate services for Workflex and a community to connect women making work-life choices.
Fleximoms is a Workflex readiness specialist – which in simple words means being able to use alternate formats to stay connected to work and workforce – for women professionals and corporates. Fleximoms works with women and businesses and helps them connect to opportunities, community, information, network and coaching.
As a team we stand by the credo: “Who we are and what choices we make is going to decide the life we have.” And we want that to be a conscious choice, and one each one of us is ready for. Fleximoms hopes to be that partner when one is making those choices.
The original article was featured as a blog/opinion piece in Huffington Post
“It’s all about the work you are willing to do,” said poet and award-winning Yale professor Elizabeth Alexander, at President Obama’s swearing in ceremony in 2009, reading from her poem ‘The Praise Song for the Day’ which highlights the virtue of work. In the context of women and work, nothing could be truer. By definition, work is not only “anything, which is produced as the result of labor” but among other things is as much an “act, deed, service, effect, result, achievement and feat.” There are clearly, two aspects to this definition: work as productivity and work as defining an individual or being an achievement.
Work as productivity
Productivity is linked to remuneration. Overall, there is enough research to prove that work-for pay has been a male domain. Thus it is clear that whether by design or by default traditionally women have been distanced from the ‘world of work’, especially of a remunerative nature.
Yet, it is said a woman’s work is never done. But is it ever valued? Why has the unpaid work done by women at home come to be undermined / ignored? The answer goes back to the advent of modern day commerce which moved the means of production into hands of men. This was a major factor in alienating women from the workforce. Did you know that women form 2/3 of the world’s workforce but occupy only 1 per cent of the assets? In this process, women have become the temp staff (workers with little stake, ownership or rewards) in the global economic engine!
How can this change? Women need to build and display greater ownership of the world of work and perhaps rediscover that work is more than just a means of earning an income. The ownership of the world of work will come through owning accountability, responsibility, as well as the risks and rewards that come with it. I know quite a few mothers who only want to ‘marry daughters up’. It is almost like having very little faith in the ability and ambition of our daughters to think for themselves, to dream and achieve big. Why won’t we tell our children and especially our daughters that they can wish for anything they want, a large wedding, a business, a Tiffany’s stone as long as they work towards those goals? Recent research by Dr Catherine Hakim has thrown up uncomfortable questions about the choices and preferences women make: she says there is proof that women choose to undervalue themselves despite equal opportunities…
Work as a yardstick of self-worth
Which brings us to the second critical aspect of work: as a means of defining self-worth. “Work is an expression of who you are. So who you are is what needs to be worked out,” says spiritual mentor Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev. Work can therefore imply or be:
A sense of purpose: Work has the ability to put purpose into our lives. Thus, for instance, empty-nester moms can find a new raison d’être in work, and housewives can find fulfillment in using and honing their inherent skills.
Ideation: The human brain has the potential to create, envision, and share. Ideation is the biggest joy of work.
Contribution: Work makes us contribute to a larger whole and brings in parts of millions of contributions to us. Not being part of this circle of creation is a sore loss.
Circle of Support: Work creates a circle of support, a network of peers, a range of experts to learn from and an eco-system of interdependence – one that is hugely social in nature and essential to individual development.
Wealth Creation: Work provides that essential access to a system of wealth creation. Wealth is also the single largest factor in determining the access to resources and level of development.
A Change Agent: Work allows each one of us to be our own change agent – to change what we don’t like, build on what we do etc in a continued effort to better the best in us.
A Tool for Sustainability: Global economic development needs women to display greater participation in global socio-economic affairs. One of the objectives of the global sustainability movement is equitable distribution of access and resources and bringing more women into leadership positions across the spectrum.
Enterprise: Entrepreneurship is empowering. Being able to choose a dream, create it, mould it, execute it, risk it is the ultimate path to embracing fearlessness. 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 – the joy of enterprise.
Let us give ourselves the power to create, lead, make, sculpt, change, build, acquire, dispose, envision and grow. There are seeds to be sown, ideas to be propagated, rewards to be harvested and future generations to mentor. Let us get to work!
The original article was featured as an Opinion piece on Accenture’s website here
Interview of the Day: ‘Workflex no longer implies low value, but a strategic way to manage diverse talent’
A finalist at the Cartier Women’s Award Initiative for 2012 Sairee Chahal, co-founder of Fleximoms, is an ardent workflex advocate and industry influencer
What was the inspiration for Fleximoms? Going by the name, is it only for mothers or for any woman who needs work flexibility?
Inspiration for Fleximoms is really every home and every family of this country, where women limit their ambition, do two jobs or just do not get the professional attention they deserve. Fleximoms is symbolic of the care giving economy – millions of women who take care of their children, run homes, take care of the elderly, move houses, plan weddings and birthdays, be on spousal duties and much more. Many of them take breaks, re-tweak careers, take up less deserving jobs, run home-based businesses and what not! Fleximoms was set up keeping them in mind.
Till date, how many women has Fleximoms helped take a second shot?
Fleximoms is the largest community of women professionals in India. It is the place to go to for women who are returning professionals, making comebacks, transiting careers, re-tweaking careers, rethinking work-life choices and diverse options available to them. Over a 100 thousand women are in touch with Fleximoms directly while the community touches over 200 thousand. Over 5000 women have taken considered, conscious career steps.
Can you tell us about the thought behind the programmes and services offered? How did you visualise it?
The programs are built to help and guide an individual work on the personal-professional roadmap. Women have diverse and dissimilar lives and each has to take decisions that work best for them. Fleximoms facilitates this through various interventions, taking into account each one’s personal and professional needs, including duration of break, level of skill, personal interest and the intensity of approach.
What is the kind of response you generally get from employers and corporates?
Owing to the spread of awareness about the how-tos, which includes formats, policies, doing pilots, and sensitisation, corporates are realising that allowing flexibility to talented and skilled women makes business sense for them. However, given that we are a patriarchal society, gender awkwardness is part of our DNA. We have a long way to go before we find the ideal social solution but technology and a high number of qualified, bright women are a big plus.
Have you seen any change in mindset from the time you started?
Huge. From being considered scammy, cheap internet-based work to being part of business strategy at town halls, we have come a long way. Workflex no longer implies low end, low skill, low value but a strategic way to manage diverse talent. And I can easily say that companies who accept this willfind themselves at an enormous advantage.
What is the way ahead for Fleximoms?
The way ahead is to continue strengthening women in their professional-personal pursuits, adding efficiency, scaling, and experimenting ways and means to find more positive and effective solutions.
This was first published in TimesJobs
“Personal clarity – who are you and what drives you is important before anything else. Your own response to situations and things that drive you are a foundation you build your business on. In every business the entrepreneur is the biggest asset and the biggest liability. ”
Sairee Chahal, Co-founder – Fleximoms
Sairee shares her views about entrepreneurship and lots more with The Hatch.
The Hatch: A bit about yourself and a bit about your current venture
Sairee : I grew up mostly in small town India, in and around steel plants and industrial townships. So it was a regular middle class childhood – as one would have in 80’s – days of a solitary TV channel, no internet, lots of reading, book fairs and Russian books, days of pop music and crappy movies, time spent with family, doing things, exploring, just day-dreaming. College was JNU and studied Russian language and International Relations. Got an M.Phil from JNU and decided to get an executive MBA from IMT Ghaziabad just to undo the effect
Started work very early in my career and have dabbled among various things in research, translation, PR, setting up of embassies, writing etc. My first job was at a magazine called A&M and since than have worked in leadership consulting, set up world’s first paper for shippies – Newslink have worked with CII among others.
In 2006, we set up SAITA Consulting to work with SMBs and businesses reinventing themselves. Fleximoms came into picture in 2009 and in 2011 Fleximoms was incorporated as Workflex Solution Pvt Ltd and that occupies a large portion of my time now.
Fleximoms (www.fleximoms.in) is a Workflex readiness specialist – which in simple words means being able to use alternate formats to stay connected to work and workforce – for women professionals and corporates. Fleximoms works with women making work-life choices and helps them connect to opportunities – using community, information, network, coaching among other elements. Fleximoms sanitizes the Workflex pipeline for corporates by connecting it to their business case.
The large part of Fleximoms caters to women professionals – offering them services like the Career Advisory service, Fleximoms 2nd Chance – Back-to-Work-Program for Women, Skill building programs like Seal the Deal, Business Refresher, Growth programs like Money and You, among others. The Corporate team works with companies to build the business case for WorkFlex. It design policies, systems and processes to enable WorkFlex, including flexibility consulting, Flex Work Programs, customized corporate programs, inductions for line and HR teams, diversity audits etc thereby driving the overall adoption of Workflex. The Fleximoms FlexConnect team finds and matches great opportunities and options for women professionals with business interests. These include franchise businesses, associate programs, partner programs etc.
Planning your business – a skill building program organised by Fleximoms.
Fleximoms Community is strung together using online and offline reach. The offline community chapters meet once a month and the online community is growing every day. We also actively partner with the enabling ecosystem for Workflex by working with a network of partners and service providers – like care giving industry, daycare industry, remote-work enabling technology companies etc. All of this is supported by the core team, facilitators, Fleximoms Professional Associates, moderators and evangelists.
The Hatch: What motivated you to be an entrepreneur?
Sairee : I always knew I had be one, not because there is something intrinsically sharp about it but when you can’t stick in a job long enough, have too many questions and have trouble following rules without reason – that is where you head. I dabbled a lot – media, consulting, start-ups and writing – and the process of seeing a business grow and creating one was the one that stuck. So I couldn’t have gone elsewhere.
The Hatch: Describe the challenges and joys of your entrepreneurial journey
Sairee : It is too early to really start reminiscing about it but if one has lasted without realizing how time has flown it can only be good. There is a lot of first-degree experience and learning as one goes about doing things. It is also the best way to find out who your real friends are!
Personally, the most joyous part of the having done what I have is being able look at perspectives beyond me, connect with ideas, people, experiment – I call it ‘joy of creation’. When one is attempting something beyond themselves, failure is bound to show up often – and no one likes that. One just has to learn from it and move to the next thing.
The Hatch: If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
Sairee : I would start even earlier. And say NO more often!
The Hatch: What are the three things you would ask aspiring entrepreneurs and startups to focus on?
- Personal clarity – who are you and what drives you is important before anything else. Your own response to situations and things that drive you are a foundation you build your business on. In every business the entrepreneur is the biggest asset and the biggest liability.
- Open and organized at the same time – Being responsive is important but also you can only chase one goal at a time. Figure out which one.
- Find people – There are people out there who do pretty much everything better than you – find them, align them. Stop being your own bottleneck.
The Hatch: What are the common mistakes entrepreneurs make?
Sairee : There is a whole sub text of macho success and chest beating that accompanies entrepreneurial activity these days, almost implying everything is right. Is it? Most entrepreneurs ignore issues of personal growth, organizational skills and corporate governance. Almost all start-ups I know have issues of shareholding, financing, negotiation, fairness and almost all entrepreneurs don’t come with these skills, they are building product and business – but these issues need timely attention. Asking for help – paid or voluntary is a good sign.
The Hatch: What’s your mantra or a one-line thought about entrepreneurship or for entrepreneurs?
Sairee : Don’t park yourself – for success, failure or perfection – go on!
This interview was published in The Hatch