Sairee Chahal Curated
Founder and CEO, SHEROES
CURATED BY :
What is life beyond work for you?
I am interested in yoga and enjoy it. I don’t timeline my yoga on a daily basis, but I do it daily and skip it when I am neck-deep in Sheroes. As I am growing older, I find other things that interest me like gardening, for instance. I love working with Nature. I love reading sports magazines, too.
What are the observations from your close association with women and their career aspects working on a portal that is focused on the subject?
There are lot of opportunities to custom fit one’s career. However, society has a narrow definition of success and that puts us in a box. I feel every person can custom fit their success. You don’t have to follow a template for success that is a stereotype. So what if you can’t be a Vice President (Marketing), you could be a writer if you have those skills or a yoga teacher. I would say to every woman (who is seeking a career), to do what works out for each of them.
What do you consider as the high point of your entrepreneurial venture?
I started Sheroes in January 2014, with seed money of Rs 50 lakh. We broke even soon enough and was able to raise an angel round of less than a million dollars from seasoned entrepreneurs in August 2015. Our user base has grown by 300 percent – 600,000 users across 6,000 localities in the country. We have grown as a brand and connected with women across the country who are looking for careers, who want to get back to a career after a break, etc.
What is your revenue model?
There are paid services for job coaching and allied specialised services. Organisations have to pay for hiring services, for online brands and marketing projects.
Does SHEROES come from a leftist point of view?
Sheroes was driven to bring together opposite ends of the spectrum of women and business from all over the country for mutual benefit. Therefore, the model is designed in such a way that everyone can use it. It is the freemium model. It was to make available career opportunities for every woman. You don’t have to login to Sheroes as a job seeker. We are here for a shared goal for women and a career she wants to pursue or is pursuing. You could be someone who aspires for mentorship, opportunities, career resources like learning or want to be part of a community of like-minded women.
What was the first challenge you overcame?
I studied in a school that catered to Plus Two studies. However, it had no stream for Humanities. I walked up to the principal and suggested that the school have one. I was only 15 years old then. The principal could not offer to open an entire section for just two students who wanted it. However, besides economics and business management studies, we were offered a language -- Hindi (which they did not offer earlier).
Were you raised in an environment to tackle challenges?
I come from a middle class background from Muzzafarpur district in Bihar. My father was working as a consultant for steel companies and his job took us to the fringes of small cities and towns across the country where steel plants are located. My mother was a home maker who was involved in local chapters of Family Planning wherever my father’s job took us. We had a TV for entertainment, but had rich experiences from having traversed so many small towns and cities. My parents encouraged my younger sister and I to go out and chase whatever we believed in. We were told that we could do whatever we wanted to. That led to a strong sense of self-belief.
What are your views on mental health issues?
What helps you renewing your energy?
What does the term 'Women Empowerment' mean to you?
How does one become shatterproof?
What do you do about criticisms you hear on frequent basis ?
What advice do you have for women entrepreneurs?
What are the traits of a winning entrepreneur?
What’s your one-line thought about entrepreneurship or for entrepreneurs?
Don’t park yourself – for success, failure or perfection – go on!
What are the common mistakes entrepreneurs make?
There is a whole sub text of macho success and chest beating that accompanies entrepreneurial activity these days, almost implying everything is right. Is it? Most entrepreneurs ignore issues of personal growth, organizational skills and corporate governance. Almost all start-ups I know have issues of shareholding, financing, negotiation, fairness and almost all entrepreneurs don’t come with these skills, they are building product and business – but these issues need timely attention. Asking for help – paid or voluntary is a good sign.
What are the three things you would ask aspiring entrepreneurs and startups to focus on?
Personal clarity – who are you and what drives you is important before anything else. Your own response to situations and things that drive you are a foundation you build your business on. In every business the entrepreneur is the biggest asset and the biggest liability. Open and organized at the same time – Being responsive is important but also you can only chase one goal at a time. Figure out which one. Find people – There are people out there who do pretty much everything better than you – find them, align them. Stop being your own bottleneck.
If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
I would start even earlier. And say NO more often!
Describe the challenges and joys of your entrepreneurial journey.
It is too early to really start reminiscing about it but if one has lasted without realizing how time has flown it can only be good. There is a lot of first-degree experience and learning as one goes about doing things. It is also the best way to find out who your real friends are! Personally, the most joyous part of the having done what I have is being able look at perspectives beyond me, connect with ideas, people, experiment – I call it ‘joy of creation’. When one is attempting something beyond themselves, failure is bound to show up often – and no one likes that. One just has to learn from it and move to the next thing.
Tell us something about your background.
I grew up mostly in small town India, in and around steel plants and industrial townships. So it was a regular middle class childhood – as one would have in 80’s – days of a solitary TV channel, no internet, lots of reading, book fairs and Russian books, days of pop music and crappy movies, time spent with family, doing things, exploring, just day-dreaming. College was JNU and studied Russian language and International Relations. Got an M.Phil from JNU and decided to get an executive MBA from IMT Ghaziabad just to undo the effect ;) Started work very early in my career and have dabbled among various things in research, translation, PR, setting up of embassies, writing etc. My first job was at a magazine called A&M and since than have worked in leadership consulting, set up world’s first paper for shippies – Newslink have worked with CII among others.
What are your thoughts on the challenges for women business leader today with intervention of technologies?
What is your advice to women looking at career comebacks?
Here’s some advice to women looking at career comebacks: Build or keep your network Invest in skills and learning liberally – it never goes waste Make a daily habit of your career Take help, and someday, give help Find great mentor
Could you talk about a few of the challenges that women face when getting back into the workforce after a break?
The workplace itself is under stress, and its ability to effectively facilitate career comebacks is not always there. Jobs are shrinking and IT Services – one of the bigger employers of women – as a sector is not growing, thereby, not rehiring its past employees, who went away for a break. At the same time, product economy is growing. I always advise more and more women to look at building products and also to get into business, technology, finance and not just support or softer roles, as traditionally envisaged.
Can you share some statistics/trends about your success in leveraging Digital Marketing at SHEROES?
SHEROES reaches over 65 cities in India, we have community spanning these cities and over 2000 corporate use SHEROES to connect with women professionals. All of that is built online using authentic engagement and community. Over 200k women with over a million touch points from the community. Women find jobs, access mentors, pick up career tips and content besides being part of various special initiatives.
Do you think that digital marketing training can give a kick-start to Women in starting their career?
Given that traditionally a lot of women were in media, PR, marketing, education – digital marketing is a fast growing field, with a lot of flexibility inbuilt into it. Given the shortage of skilled, smart people in digital, this is an opportunity that is big on the horizon, is broad based and allows one to grow.
What are your thoughts on the opportunity of building a career in Digital Marketing for women including returning professionals?
The biggest opportunity for returning professionals is in digital because irrespective of what industry you were a part of – tourism, hospitality, hardware, software, education, fashion, retail – digital is the way to do business and to work with top of the line companies, one needs top of the line digital skills. We have a huge focus on enhancing digital skills and often advise women on soaking in more of the opportunity available. For ones turning entrepreneurial or starting their careers, a digital roadmap is inevitable.
What is your vision behind Sheroes?
SHEROES takes learning from the work at Fleximoms and builds it into a larger mandate serving women professionals all over India. SHEROES offers, jobs to women and helps them navigate work-life fit with mentoring, community and other special projects. Being at SHEROES is an invisible connect to work-life fit and career success for women in India. On the other hand, companies can find great talent and engage with women as partners and collaborators. SHEROES assists women across life stages to find careers that work for them and find greater success irrespective of what they decide to do – be on a corporate fast track, turn entrepreneurial or workflex. SHEROES is built as an ecosystem supporting women in their careers with mentorship, community and opportunities.
What are the women-friendly career/ employment policies you’d like to ideally see in India?
I would surely like to see remote and work-from-home options grow. It would really bring in more women than ever into the financial fold. I would like to see growth of shared parenting, conversations around gender norms, patriarchy and future of work, among other things. As an employer, empowering managers to support individuals, especially women, is a massive way to enhance gender diversity. Investing in childcare and elderly-care options also help companies become more family-friendly. Lastly, women-friendly workplaces are really just people-friendly workplaces – high on empathy and action-ability.
What led you to start your entrepreneurial journey?
I have been an entrepreneur more than once and have also been on the corporate side, with its own trappings of success and career ladder. However, one does realise the need to address what looks like a reducing peer group as you grow into your career. SHEROES was set up with the view of converting the talk about diversity into the action We all know the figures, the data, the gender and women at work debate but how do we bring out solutions. SHEROES.in is a step in that direction. The response has been great and we are very early into this. This can only go one way – towards more and more solution oriented change with respect to women at work.
What has been the most transformational moment for you in your career?
I have been lucky enough to get the exposure needed to grow and acquire different perspective. Being selected for Cartier Women's initiative awards was one of such moments. Recently I was also selected as an Aspen fellow. Being a part of such a league where only a few get selected and are exposed to a whole new world of possibilities has transformed me and my career.
What according to you constitutes sexism at workplace ?
What are the three most essential things to remember while starting your own venture?
What are your views on women entrepreneurs' contribution in helping India become a trillion dollar economy?
Working in women space, do you see any difference in the approach between women from tier 2 , tier 3 cities and urban India?
How is SHEROES helping women to break the stereotype and take charge of their own lives?
Do you think we need special incubation centers catering to women?
Which sectors have most opportunities for women?
What is your advice to women entrepreneurs who are seeking funding?
How does SHEROES use the social media to increase its reach?
How do purpose and profit making work together in the longevity of a brand?
What kind of results have come out of brand engagements?
How can men play a more fulfilling role in life of women?
Tell us about some wonderful ideas that came out of SHEROES.