The ninth edition of the Digital Women Awards hosted by SheThePeople brought out stories of women using the power of digital to make a footing in India’s entrepreneurial landscape. This year’s DWA gala was held in Hyderabad’s T-Hub on November 18 and saw an influential mix of women entrepreneurs from across the world connecting and collaborating to transpire innovation and growth in the technology and AI sector.
The purpose of the DWA is not only to laud women’s remarkable contributions but to also create a space for them to recognise their own limitless talent and self-worth. One of the most sought-after events of the day was the I’m Worth It panel, aimed at helping women know their self-worth and find their inner pioneer-- unstoppable and indomitable.
Meet the Panellists
The I’m Worth It symposium was fortunate to host a diverse set of esteemed women.
Pavani Lolla is one of the Digital Women Award winners in the Impact category. She is the visionary behind Vapra Composting Solutions by Future Step, an enterprise which helps simplify the process of waste composting at our very homes, thus equipping a sustainable future.
Aria Krishnamurti is a fashion stylist and brand strategist. Aparna Thyagarajan, another DWA winner, is the co-founder and Chief Product Officer at Shobhitam, an organisation which collaborates with local weavers and artisans to deliver carefully curated Indian ethnic fashion to the world.
Pravallika Bommareddy is the mastermind behind L’Oréal Paris’ marketing in India. As the Assistant General Manager at L’Oréal, Bommareddy has spread her prowess in the beauty industry across South Asia and the Middle East.
I’m Worth It panel at DWA
The I’m Worth It panel was moderated by SheThePeople’s Ruchi Chopra Makkad.
The conversation kickstarted with Pravallika Bommareddy sharing a pivotal moment in her life that made her realise her self-worth and pushed her to join L’Oréal. Bommareddy expressed that she grew up with her grandmother who never made her realise what societal beauty standards mean.
It was only when she grew up and became a marketing professional for a pharma company that she realised that consumers have a certain expectation of what a beautiful woman should look like. This is what the consumers had to say about "beauty"--
“She needs to be tall, she needs to be fair, she needs to have straight hair, she needs to be skinny…."
Bommareddy expressed, "And that's when I felt like, okay, this is not how I was raised and this is not how people should be thinking either.”
Bommareddy recalled her grandmother and mother inculcating self-love from a young age. She joined L’Oréal seven years ago to impart some of her upbringing to society, by becoming a marketing professional in the beauty industry.
“I want to make that difference because I want to pass on what I learned from my ammama (grandmother), and amma (mother), and all of them,” she said.
Talking about being in the beauty industry while advocating for inner beauty and self-worth, Bommareddy clarified that today's world knows not to differentiate between outward appearance and inner beauty, as they in fact go hand-in-hand. "It's not either, or. It's both... external beauty and internal worth," she noted.
The floor was then open to Pavani Lolla, who shared the importance of belief in one's own mission and self-worth. Lolla, who was passionate about sustainability from a young age, shared how she started her venture as a 21-year-old student who had little knowledge about entrepreneurship. She expressed how many people doubted her and thought her venture was only a temporary hobby.
"But I'm still here even after five years," she proudly expressed. Lolla credited this to her unwavering determination to grow her business.
"There is a strong zeal in me that I just want to do it in any way. Even if something is not possible, I just want to try, try, and try," she said.
Lolla also parted a few words of wisdom to budding entrepreneurs, urging them to "strongly believe." She said "I strongly believe that nobody can define your self-worth other than you. So my advice would be that you please believe in yourself. When somebody says that you can't do it, it's that it's their opinion, not yours."
Aparna Thyagarajan was the next speaker, who discussed how she shifted from a fulfilling IT job in Seattle, USA, to venturing into the Indian handlooms and crafts space.
"This is a very different space when you compare it with technology, right? It's so fragmented. There were a lot of unknowns in this field, but that desire to do it, you know, it just became stronger by the day," she expressed, adding
"There was this thing of trying to make a difference in the lives of people at the grassroots level. And this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, I thought, where I could use my technical background to make a difference. So it was basically marrying my tech background with my passion for fashion."
She also talked about how outward appearance does not define one's self-worth. She drew a thought-provoking comparison of human individuality with heritage handlooms.
"I very strongly believe that what the weighing scale shows or what your measurements are or your skin tone should not define our self worth at all.... Our handlooms, our rich heritage, weaves, and art forms that we have across India are as varied as our individual personalities." she said.
She added, "That is also the reason we recently onboarded Vidya Balan as our Global Grand Ambassador. Because she not only supports self love and acceptance, but also supports the cause of weavers and, uh, people who are really the backbone of our industry."
Next up to take the mic was Aria Krishnamurti, who shared how she managed to convert moments of self-doubt into self-affirmations. As a content creator who started off six years ago, when she had little knowledge of social media, Krishnamurti began trying and testing different ways to use her love for fashion in a profitable way.
Talking about the occupational hazards of her industry, Krishnamurti said, "[Social media] is a platform definitely where there's so much that you can take away from, but it's saturated. I mean to the point that so many of us are self-doubting ourselves every single day."
Adding to that thought, Krishnamurti recalled what Janice Sequeira said in her 'Slaying It Like Her' panel at the DWA, saying, "There are negative terms to it [social media], but I think that if you know how to take yourself away from the situation and you use you know the limits of social media and you know how much you want to use it, that is a very healthy boundary."
The I'm Worth It panel was an impactful conversation with women embracing their vulnerability, sharing moments of self-doubt, but ultimately emerging as a winner. With all the negativity that women entrepreneurs have to endure in their journey, the Digital Women Awards 2023 gave them a safe space to be free from judgement and have their self-worth recognised.
Suggested Reading: SheThePeople Announces Winners Of Digital Women Awards 2023