Women Business Moguls

By Tanuja Birla, Senior Director, Strategic Optimization and Transitions, Aon plc

Oxford dictionary defines an Entrepreneur as a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable risk and initiative. Entrepreneurship needs ability to take risks, drive success for self, and survive in adversity. It also needs the talent to face failures and criticism. There is a need to prove one’s self.

How is it Different for Women Entrepreneurs?

Is it any different for Women entrepreneurs? The answer is Yes. Because in spite of being her own boss in her business, the above mentioned requirements get loaded with responsibilities of the family, a guilt conscience inside women for being late for her daughter’s birthday or not able to accompany her mother in law to the doctor or unable to cook breakfast for her family because of an early morning meeting. And that I think shows a woman’s extremely high emotional quotient and her ability to multi task. Both these are added advantages for running a business successfully.

Women entrepreneurs are not new in the Indian society. Several agriculture and crafts businesses have women at the helm of affairs. From Sujatha Varadrajan, who runs a successful coconut water brand down South of India, to Urvashi Yadav, who was all over the media about 4 months ago for her “chholey kulchey’ kiosk at Gurgaon, women have exhibited streak for success and appetite for risk.

Does Success come Knocking on Doors?

Personally influenced by Hindu mythology, I like the analogy of five elements – Panchboota – w.r.t. the success of women entrepreneurs. While the five elements of nature are Sky, Fire, Earth, Water, and Air, Panchboota for women is:

Will power increases resistance to failures and increased self-esteem. Historically stereotyped into the roles of home makers/ home keepers, our will power is the road to fulfilment of our aspirations. Opportunity won’t come knocking at our doors. We have to go and seek it.

Material aka Resources and environment are never conducive for anyone’s success. Nothing gets served on a silver platter. Women need to get out of the mode of ‘give me this because I am weak’ to ‘enable and encourage me to do it myself’. Encouragement builds Confidence. It needs acknowledgement and tolerance to failures. No success comes by chance. Network of family, friends, clients, advisors is important for guidance and support. People who know you the best are your best critics. 

Where Do We Start?

Start from removing the biases - The stereotypes exists but these stereotypes are not just in a man’s mind. Women also need to stop thinking of men as bread earners. Many of the corporates and PSUs lack women representation in the Board or even in senior leadership positions. The root cause stems more from the fact that women voluntarily withdraw or refuse to accept these positions to be able to balance their personal lives with professional lives.

Use your passion as your strength - Last week I noticed a facebook page on Home Chefs. Unlike rural areas, though urban women have taken time to recognize the fact that our core skills can be the most potent ammunition in our arsenal, nevertheless now many of us are using the as a foundation stone for successful revenue generating model.

Be aware – Knowledge is important. Knowledge of system, environment, and law is required.

Control over the mind – While emotional quotient cushions logic with empathy for others, it may at times interfere with objectivity.

Stop making comparisons – Men and women can never be compared.

They are like lock and key – complimenting each other. So do not try to pitch yourself against men. Having said that, be aggressive where your space is being violated. The world, including India, is changing fast and they want us to push back on anything and everything that’s not fair.

Fit body is fit mind –Take our time to exercise. Practice yoga. Take breaks from work. Party. Give your mind an outlet. Let your negative energies evaporate through dancing.

Delegate – At homes we have been trained to take control and responsibility of the kitchen and children to the extent that we end of thinking that no one can do this better than us. We need to get rid of these mindset. Get into the habit of getting things done. Delegate, review, coach, if required. Get results delivered.

Is India Heading towards the Right Direction?

Women Entrepreneurs are making news all over – Zivame, Chumbak, Menstrupedia, myDala,Kaaryah, Yatra, etc. symbolize hard work, persistence, and will power.

Are we there yet – the answer is probably no. Are we going there – the answer is a definite YES. But we as women need to support it and pave the path for each other.

With that endorsement from mythology, my message to women is that channelize your energy into successful careers and use your weak moments to take a break and explore your inner self for strength.

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