Women’s Day Special — How Pune entrepreneurs run enterprises powered by conviction

Aditi Bhosale Walunj of Repos Energy, Application Ally's Arya Diwase and Anushka Desai, Shayari Uke of TGFco – The Gourmet Food Co., The Daftar's Sunanda Verma Bhatta and Mauji and TraWork's Vandita Kedia Purohit speak up about their respective entrepreneurial journeys.

Aditi Bhosale Walunj

Co-Founder

Repos Energy

Repos is a start-up inspired by a global issue of petroleum/energy procurement. The need to find a solution that is efficient, affordable, and secure was our greatest will. I come from a background in Forensics and International Relations, and I have no formal training in business management as such. I can say that I am a student of a mistake university. I have learned everything while doing it and making a lot of mistakes.

While we are discussing gender women equality on a global level, the first thing we need to do is to stop calling an entrepreneur, a woman entrepreneur. It doesn’t matter if I am the only woman in a room of 100 men, I am still an entrepreneur. The difference between a man and a woman is in one’s mind, not when I act as the co-founder of Repos. There are fewer women business leaders because of the conditioning we have been through and the stereotypes society has created like – women can’t drive well, we are always too emotional or women can’t handle the business. The women who are away from this mindset are doing exceptionally well across the world.

I have always believed in myself and my conviction towards my work. Even if your family isn’t supportive of what you do, initially, if you are doing it wholeheartedly and you believe in your dreams, your family would support you eventually. Women are born leaders. They lead a family, which is the most challenging institution to lead, and thus they can lead the world. Now will be the time that they finally break this conditioning and start what they are good at — Leading the world.

Arya Diwase and Anushka Desai

Founders

Application Ally

Arya Diwase: I surround myself with women peers and mentors who act as a sounding board and help me navigate the challenges of a patriarchal business world. Both my companies, Application Ally and Jazz Hands Foundation are women-led organizations. Through Application Ally we are also making a conscious effort to support a higher percentage of female clients to allow women to access higher education opportunities and to empower them to be in positions of leadership to bring about systemic change. Eighty per cent of our clients are women predominantly targeting male-dominated fields such as public policy, law and business.

Anushka Desai: Initially when we began working at Jazz Hands Foundation, we struggled to navigate the bureaucratic and male-dominated business environments in India. Having a strong women-led organisation allowed us to ensure that internally the values and ethos the organisation had were inclusive. Those same values have translated into our work at Application Ally where we have an all-female team managing everything from business development to marketing. As women in business, especially women of colour, we are cognisant of what we represent and ensure that our business gives back to the community through CSR opportunities like picking a woman scholarship student every year and working pro-bono with her. As individuals who, initially, doubted their own business idea, I would tell women to believe in their own ideas. When you begin having faith in yourself and your product or service, the results automatically come through. Don’t let naysayers bring you down. But at the same time, learn from other’s mistakes and have mentors that want to help you and see you succeed.

Shayari Uke

Co – Founder

TGFco – The Gourmet Food Co.

The underrepresentation of women entrepreneurs is certainly not a myth. Even when I look at business leaders in this space, most of the positions are helmed by men; and this is something I’ve seen mirrored across industries and organizations. This somewhere seems to be a by-product of years and years of conditioning, where men have been seen as providers and women as nurturers. Going by my own personal experience and having seen my peers in the industry, I can confidently say that these stereotypes and gender-defined roles are just a limited point of view of what women are capable of bringing to the table. I have been fortunate to be surrounded by many spirited, passionate business women who lead their companies with a mission to succeed and are certainly a force to reckon with! While I see the lines slowly blurring, I believe we still have miles to go when we can balance the ratio in a boardroom. I would like to tell women on International Women’s Day that there is no reason to take a step back and shy away from your dream and vision! The moment is now to work towards making it a reality and by doing so, inspiring many more girls around us to do the same. The time is now to be fierce and fearless! As Sheryl Sandberg rightly said, “It’s time to cheer on girls and women who want to sit at the table.” I also want to share what I truly believe in and follow every step of my way — always be open to taking risks and making mistakes – and never shy away from failing, but always remember that every time you fail, make sure you fail differently.

Sunanda Verma Bhatta

Co-Founder

The Daftar

Setting up a company wasn’t a planned thing for me. It happened by chance that is why I call myself a serendipitous entrepreneur. After 6 years of the entrepreneurial journey, there’s a huge realization that it’s not about starting, it’s about persisting and sustaining – and that’s what makes a difference. I am a first-generation entrepreneur so it’s been training on the ground. I believe in doing things myself before delegation and that’s what makes me a hands-on person in everything I do. Well, it’s been a topsy turvy ride however the journey has been nothing less than gratifying. Entrepreneurship is an attitude that grows onto you and makes you evolve into a different person altogether. There have been so many instances wherein the vendors, government bureaucrats have shown the preference to talk to a male for any business-related discussions. In fact, it’s so embarrassing when people don’t make eye contact with you in business meetings. It is thought that women at work can be taken lightly or they are not serious about work. I believe all that it takes is to carry yourself with confidence; and with your work and communication, showcase that you know business and you mean business. Entrepreneurship is a very demanding journey. You have to be physically and emotionally strong to tide through all the challenges that it brings along.I believe that we no longer have to rely on anyone to let us, help us, or make way for us. It’s on us as women to take the baton, create opportunities, strive to achieve, and make a mark for ourselves.


Vandita Kedia Purohit

Founder

Mauji and TraWork

Travel inspires everything I do, I guess. I love traveling, have seen a lot of beautiful places and that is what inspired my Anti Cafe – Mauji in Pune and also my Travel Startup TraWork. I am a first-generation entrepreneur and it’s defining been an easy ride, but has definitely been a very fulfilling one, full of experiences & learning. I started the Anti Cafe just after the lockdown, absolutely unsure how things would unfold, but I just wanted to follow my instincts & that is exactly what I did. It’s great to see people appreciating the idea and the place and now more & more people have started to know about the cafe and it’s growing every day. I am not sure why we have such few women business leaders, but what I know is that only we can change that. Nobody will come to our rescue but we, women ourselves have to break free, do what we dream, and empower others too and that is how the change will occur. It will be slow but eventually, we will reach there. But only if we support each other throughout. I think family and friends play a very important role not just in a woman’s life but also a man’s. If a woman is confident or knows what she wants to do professionally she should speak up, voice her ideas and let her family know what she wants to do. I think most of the women don’t ever speak up assuming that they will be turned down. If one is not getting the desired support, then weigh what is more important — your dreams or your limitations? Most of the times we do get our answers and we act accordingly.

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