Indian women entrepreneurs continue to face deep challenges during the pandemic. From revenue to innovation, things have slowed down. The suddenly shift for many companies to ‘just digital’ also has forced many companies to rethink. Women, reports have now confirmed, take the bigger brunt of the economic impact of the pandemic.
By one calculation done by consulting firm McKinsey, women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable to this crisis than men’s jobs. Women make up 39 percent of global employment but account for 54 percent of overall job losses.
Many women are exploring a self-started business and those already running startups are pivoting quickly. SheThePeople spoke with three entrepreneurs about the shifts they are exploring.
Madhuri Balodi, Kavi Project
Madhuri Balodi, who quit her four-year old day job to experiment with crafts, started The Kavi Project with three other partners. It is focussed on recycling products to create quirky home decor items. “This is what I love. So, you can say this is my hobby that turned in to a full-time profession. We believe, if you can’t recycle it, reuse it.”
Kavi Project combines verse with social messages for its products. They began with homemade creations and later realised this ‘hobby’ was turning out to be a full business. “We were received with open arms by environmentally conscious consumers, connoisseurs and creators of active cultural groups. Our studio expanded to a bigger warehouse-cum-workshop from a small garage and now we have a 3000 square feet workshop in Noida Industrial Area.“
They have now, during the pandemic, set up their own e-commerce website and tied up with all major portals for selling their artwork and products. In addition, they are in talks with various resellers or international shopping sites for overseas sales.
The growth story, Balodi says, needed more investment in tools that help online businesses scale up. “Google ads, Youtube can be good for promotions as well as help in increasing the sales if you use these medium to grow your business. We have a third party tie up who looks after Google ads and ad words for us.”
Anjalee Das, Cookiee and Craft
“Things were difficult and a lot challenging during the lockdown not only with respect to health but also with respect to the business. As the economy of the country came to an halt, craft supplies were not available, people were not ready to buy something which is non essential. I invested that time to learn new skills and upgrade my business technically,” says Anjalee Das, founder of Cookiee and Craft, which makes bespoke paper craft and sells via digital channels.
“We deal with handmade products like vintage photo frame art, handcrafted vintage envelopes, junk journals, gift hampers and many more things. Very soon we are planning to launch our website and also few more product varieties.”
From passion to a profession, the journey was complete with fun and challenges. “Doing something you love is happiness, but getting paid for something you love doing is a blessing.” Once Das started displaying her art on the internet, she received a very good response. “That’s when my hobby turned into my profession, which lead me to the world of entrepreneurship.”
The lockdown was a big bump in the road she admits. “As the economy of the country came to an halt, craft supplies were not available, people were not ready to buy something which is non essential. I invested that time to learn new skills and upgrade my business technically.” But lockdown had a bright side too, as people became more available on digital media like YouTube and Instagram, they started noticing her work.
Das pivoted her business by streamlining her operations to keep costs at bay. “Majorly I used Google business to gain more audience, Google forms to get an organised client response for customisation, and the list is never ending. The best thing about Google is that there is an app for everything that you can think of for first time entrepreneurs.”
Harini Sivakumar, Earth Rhythm
For Harini Sivakumar, the woman behind Earth Rhythm, 2015 was a watershed. This mama to a five- time–old son born with Down Syndrome was looking out for products that were extremely gentle for her son but there was just nothing available on shopping shelves. For children, most people look for products that are not fragrant and are gentle on the skin. Harini would be forced to buy special items for her child from global websites as India offered practically nothing. That is when she got on to YouTube and started making small batches of soaps that are gentle for children. The more Harini made, the most interest was in the products from family and friends and that’s when it struck her this could be a business.
Shortly after her son’s birthday, Harini, an ex-banker, started learning about soaps and the making process. “Around 2016, the bug caught me more seriously and I decided to learn skincare formulation formally and studied some courses that would equip me to formulate skincare. From 2017 onwards, I started selling simple handmade skincare products under the label Soapworks India and was registered under MSME.”
Making the Pivot: She started using Google ad words recently to make sales happen when the world moved online. These features, she believes, resonate with her brand ethos as well and helped sales during the pandemic.
Realising his daughter was serious about doing business, Harini’s dad joined her in 2018 and they together applied for a manufacturing license. “We started our own factory that made simple, clean and clinically pure skincare products,” Harini Sivakumar tells SheThePeople. It was around this time that they rebranded Soapworks as Earth Rhythm and have recently reworked the logo as well.
This series is in partnership with Google