A Koffeeplace that’s a career starter: How Ashni Dwarkadas helps women get back to work
More power to us. Ashni Dwarkadas took a few years off work to bring up her children and then didn’t know how to get back into her career. Talking to other mothers, she realised she wasn’t the only one with that problem, and that was how Koffeeplace was born. Today, women professionals gather on Ashni Dwarkadas’s online platform to inspire and guide women like them.
Koffeeplace is an online platform for women professionals and entrepreneurs to share inspiration, information, and career-oriented direction. The platform also offers online and offline counselling sessions, networking opportunities and career fairs to help women build skills and find direction.
Excerpts from an interview.
What led you to become an entrepreneur? And what’s the idea behind Koffeeplace?
I did my MBA from the Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University, and returned to India, where I worked in investment banking for about 4.5 years, after which I decided to quit and do something different.
My first venture was in education. We provided career counselling and admissions counselling services to students who wanted to study abroad, as well as SAT, GMAT and GRE courses. Then I decided to take a break from work after the birth of my first child.
Three years and one more baby later, I connected with an old school friend and the conversation led to future plans. My friend was looking for inspiration, guidance and direction for the next step in her career. I shared how difficult it was to stay in touch with my career when I was on a break, and how challenging it was to even begin the journey back to work. We saw a huge need here, so we decided to build a career destination for women.
How does the digital platform help?
Never before has information been so widely available, business more efficient and transparent, or people better connected. Wider search, greater flexibility, cost savings, increased professionalism, less paper waste, opportunities to manage ventures from anywhere – all this would not be possible without a digital connection.
The more women get online, the more developed India will become
What are your plans for Koffeeplace?
Our focus this year is to reach out to as many women as possible, both online and offline. We are also working on a focused module to help career-break women get employment-ready and connect them with potential employers.
How do you empower women?
We help women draw inspiration from other women professionals and women entrepreneurs via interviews and personal stories.
Information is important. We share authentic, honest, and resourceful women-focused articles, and hold offline workshops such as resume building and interview training, image consulting and one-on-one career counselling sessions.
We also help match job seekers with suitable roles, and hold online and offline career fairs.
Do you think the Digital India campaign helps women?
In many ways. Creation of jobs, access to better opportunities, safety through tracking apps, knowledge and information are all available. The more women get online, the more developed India will become.
Women are great at creating and sustaining long term relationships. And that’s great for business
What are your biggest challenges as an entrepreneur?
Time management – it’s a learning process to figure out what and how to prioritise and delegate. Another challenge is to get the right people on the team – it takes a while to find them.
What strengths do women already have that could make them successful entrepreneurs?
Women are the ultimate multitaskers. They already juggle kids, house, and career. In India, women are the decision makers for most household spending. So they understand customers. Women are great at creating and sustaining long term relationships. And that’s great for business.
This is a very exciting time to be a woman entrepreneur in India. But we still need many more women to become entrepreneurs, or get into the work force as professionals.