The Digital Women Awards 2023 by SheThePeople was an unforgettable celebration of women entrepreneurs. The theme for the ninth edition 'Access To Success,' aimed at recognising the feats of women who have leveraged the power of technology and artificial intelligence to make remarkable contributions to society.
Held at T-Hub in Hyderabad, the Digital Women Awards 2023 saw a diverse set of women from different corners of the country come together and connect, collaborate, and celebrate each other. SheThePeople hosted a captivating lineup of esteemed women entrepreneurs who shared their journeys – the barriers they crossed, their secrets to success, as well as some words of wisdom to aspiring entrepreneurs.
One such guest who swayed the audience with her inspiring grit and charm was Hyderabad’s very own, Sangita Reddy, the Joint Managing Director of Apollo Hospitals. Speaking to Shaili Chopra, the founder of SheThePeople and Gytree, Reddy gave an insightful peek into her success story, turning struggle into strength, and dealing with trials and trepidations.
Fireside Chat With Sangita Reddy And Shaili Chopra
Sangita Reddy led the conversation with the story behind her journey with Apollo Hospitals as a woman in business.
“I had just finished college, and my dad was trying to put Apollo Hospitals together. And he just said, ‘I assume you're coming to work tomorrow. Right?’ So that's the way many people in the family take the work of girls or women, they assume we're going to do it… whereas, you know, the boy in the house will be requested to do so," Reddy noted.
But Reddy was hungry to be a part of the team credited for Apollo Hospitals' success. "But the power and the passion and the excitement of what we're doing made me very glad to be there. So, my first very important message for all of you is please love what you do. Find what you love and love what you do.”
Reddy and Shaili Chopra then delved into the multiple roles that women take on in their professional life and personal lives. Chopra was intrigued about how Reddy struck a balance between the two.
"There is a balance [to strike]... But how do we make the struggle into our strength?... The fact that you can do multiple things at the same time is a strength, use it and play to those strengths."
Reddy then touched on the importance of a strong support system, explaining how women should not shy away from asking for help. "I was blessed with a super supportive mother-in-law. But I also made sure that I had someone who was very well trained, who knew the protocols, who made sure that you know, homework was done and food was given. So she was an oversight and not the primary caregiver," Reddy said.
When you have open conversations around roles and expectations and have gratitude, then it sets a pattern; there is no need to feel shy about asking for help. So, it's not a crisis, it was an expected escalation. Because if it's a crisis, then you feel guilty. If it's an expected escalation, then you plan for it, which is good for your mental health.
She also added that the same ecosystem, where asking for help or a second opinion, should apply even at the workspace, especially for fresh entrepreneurs.
On embracing failures
Shaili Chopra then asked Reddy, "Failure, they say, is the best teacher. How have you dealt with embracing it? Because entrepreneurship can come in big and small ways in a fairly regular fashion. I mean, it's like a friend, you need to sort of have time and again, because it also kind of helps you recourse your path."
Reddy joked, "Shaili is very mature and very professional to call it a friend," adding, "At the moment that you're facing the failure, it is anything but a friend. It's a constant, you know, kind of a weight on you." She then talked about overcoming failure and shared some moments of failure in her life and how she picked herself up after them.
"Let failure take its time. Not too much time, but let it sink in first. And once that's happened... internalise it and change it, not into some gyaan (wisdom) sitting on a shelf, but your behavioural pattern which changes."
Reddy then recalled her health-tech venture, Apollo Health Street, which she launched in 2000, "I wanted to be in every home, I wanted to advise people about their health. We did this beautiful website, we had a fantastic team, we raised a bunch of money, and then the internet bubble burst. And we didn't know what to do," she said sportively.
"I could have gone back and returned three-fourths of the money and said the environment has changed. But we said no, we'll find a way. So we actually looked at the whole concept of business process outsourcing and built a business. I've been to CEOs or vice presidents in America, waiting outside their office, we sold contracts to them, and we set up the business over here. And actually in a period of four or five years, we built India's largest healthcare-focussed business process outsourcing company," Reddy expressed.
Reddy then revealed that the company, which was a separate venture from the Apollo Hospitals, was later sold based on the advice of a major consulting firm. "But we should not have sold it because what was then a 200 million dollar company could have been a $2 billion company... we made some money, but I knew it was the wrong thing... And next time, I'm not going to be so easily convinced by a consulting company.... we would go back and argue our case. And the ability to argue your case comes from a space of confidence, so I want to spend a little bit of time on confidence because that is the behaviour that you need to build to stay with you" she expressed, adding that she gained lots of memorable learnings from this ordeal and that she now knows to follow her gut instinct.
She then advised the audience to have confidence in their strengths, "Grow confidence with little successes each time. Don't feel shy to celebrate," adding that spending time in mentorship and passing down our learnings is also a way of learning more ourselves.
Advice for women entrepreneurs
Chopra then asked Reddy about her experience being a part of the board at We-Hub and T-Hub, which is a Telangana Government initiative which creates a facilitative ecosystem for entrepreneurs. She also asked about how budding entrepreneurs could reach out to partners like Reddy to leverage their journey.
Reddy urged budding entrepreneurs to make use of Tech Equity and shared, "The essence of the T-Hub environment is that you are not alone. So please don't feel alone in your journey. There is enough awareness, that is enough support system, there is enough belief... Knowledge is available... And understand how you make digital, not your weakness where you hire someone to help you, but your strength that you are empowered to handle. And I think all of you are here for the Digital Women Awards. So you must be very, very savvy on this one. Just you know, it is an essential tool for the future."
Reddy further shared her appreciation for the power of digital. "I think that we're living in a fantastic time in the world. Despite the fact that you know we do have wars that should not be happening, there are so many positives to celebrate... Look at the power of science and digital and technology.... I believe that we are a point of time we can dream that no woman dies during childbirth... there is science coming into play to change the way we absorb protein and nutrients, or access them. So there's so much excitement and so much possibility."
Sangita Reddy ended the chat by urging women to stay aware of their health. "First take care of yourselves. Your health is important. If you're over 35 and you haven't had your first mammogram please do so. If you feel tired consistently, please check your haemoglobin and figure out whether it's your d3 or your anaemia. You're not supposed to be tired. Give yourself the time and the energy to live up to your full potential. It is important and it can be very, very transformational or supportive in your journey."
The Digital Women Awards is a commemoration of women's journeys of pushing through adversities and manipulating their struggles to emerge successful in their careers and personal lives. With events like the fireside chat between Sangita Reddy and Shaili Chopra, the ceremony is a testament to the immense capabilities that women can possess.