Entrepreneurship 101: Women leading the way share their insights

The Ladies Who Lead Engage Conference 2019 co-curated by ASCENT opened on a brutally honest note with four women entrepreneurs talking about their journeys without any sugar coating.

The panel discussion on Entrepreneurship—Drivers of the New Economy, featured Neha Motwani (Founder and CEO Fitternity.com), Sneha Choudhry (Co-founder and CBO Zolo), Adwaita Nayar (CEO-Fashion, Nykaa) and Preeta Sukhtankar (Founder The Label Life). Moderated by Aabha Bakaya, the discussion opened with the women sharing their stories of building and scaling up a business and as affordable co-living spaces Zolo’s co-founder, Sneha, rightly shared, “Gender has nothing to do with building a business. It’s got to do with a business model.” It was interesting to see how most of the panel had rocky starts with fitness start-up Fitternity’s founder Neha going so far as to state that being an entrepreneur is not for everyone and given a chance to re-do it all, she might not choose the same path. Adwaita may have wanted to join her mother in growing beauty giant Nykaa, but the bumps on the entrepreneur journey had her hitting the pause button to rethink her decision. Business school cleared her doubts and armed with valuable lessons her second innings in the industry made her diversify the brand into fashion. 

When it comes to the topic of scaling up the business, the conversation naturally includes investors. Did you know that there are but a handful of women investors and men investors have rarely seen a product personally when it comes to lifestyle retail brands and don’t ask questions about bestselling products? An insight shared by Preeta who’s business model for The Label Life is build on constantly interacting with her customers be it personally or on social media. “ We are building products for her and we believe that we are co-creating with women.”  This clearly seems to be working with the brand scaling to open six retail spaces across India and is also developing an app and loyalty programme. For Zolo, the business model is constantly evolving to reach higher customer satisfaction rates. In fact having no business model didn’t hamper them from getting their first round of funding in an unheard of 20 days! Sneha credits a great founding team and a huge market for this phenomena and reveals that the money was wired to a personal account since they didn’t even have a business account in place that early!

Naturally since two of the panelist represented online brands that have footprints offline the buzzword seemed to be Omni-channel. Adwaita was happy to share the three objectives that Nykaa’s physical beauty stores had to meet: Scale (the beauty giant has a target of 150 stores), speed and profitability (the store has to break even on capital in 2 years), objectives laid out in stone by her mother to ensure the brands overall profitability. There were a lot of insights shared by the women during the discussion ranging from spreading the initial funding to make it last, how to cope with technological changes and success stories on how technology had increased efficiency in various segments across the businesses.

The insightful session ended in a round of questions from the audience and set the tone for an inspiring day of workshops and panel discussions.

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