Women standing up in unconventional businesses

Time to woman up. This is what we get to learn from these three women who started up
their own business but in an uncommon industry, where only men are appreciated.

Women in the forefront.

Tables will be turned when working women in India will no more be hidebound by the orthodox rules of our society. A change in the business world came when the Companies Act was amended in 2013. The amendment made it compulsory to have at least one woman on the board of directors (BOD) of every listed company. But even before that, many women started gaining a foothold in a few unconventional businesses.

It is difficult for women to excel in male-dominated industries and occupations since they are vulnerable in practicing hegemonic masculinity. But why does the aspect of gender preference prevail today, when both the genders are moving hand-in-hand?

As per the established stereotypes in India, sewing is a woman’s chore. So, why do many of them rely on a ’master ji’, when it comes to giving an appropriate fitting for their wearables?  Why there are male chefs instead of female chefs in most of the 5-star hotels when cooking is also a woman’s chore in the Indian households? And, why it is considered a taboo if a woman decides to become a taxi driver, or if she wishes to lead in other male-dominated industry like automobile, logistic, and export-import? Why do we openly accept a man delving into a woman’s stereotyped errand and create a hue and cry if a woman does the same?

Defying the prevalent gender bias, founderINDIA got in touch with a few woman entrepreneurs who incorporated businesses that are conventionally believed to be the domain of men.

Walking with pride as a businesswoman

Soon there will be a time when professions will become unisex!  But jokes apart. Choosing a profession and working around it is a matter of choice and interest.

Revathi Roy, founder of Hey DeeDee.

Revathi Roy found her passion out of her interest in driving. She used this and turned it into a big opportunity by initiating two companies, Forsche, and Hey DeeDee.  Forsche was initiated in 2007 and provided a source of earning to a lot of urban poor women, who became a part of first all-women taxi service in Asia. Later in March 2016, she founded an all-women parcel delivery firm, Hey DeeDee.

Roy’s journey started after the sudden demise of her husband.  There was no one to provide and earn for the family. That’s when she realised her dream to become India’s first woman driver. “I was considered a teetotaller by my friends. One fine day, after one of our late night parties, I decided to turn my passion into a paycheck. Today, having run Asia’s first all-women driver company, fills my chest with pride,” exclaimed Roy.

While people found it strange to see a woman driving passengers around, Roy enjoyed her job and felt no shame in driving.

A similar strength was shown by Sangita Desai in 2017 when she co founded RawNature, a grooming essentials firm. RawNature launched their first line of products addressing the concerns for men’s grooming industry.

Sangita Desai, founder of RawNature.

The male grooming industry currently stands at Rs 16,800 crore in India, as mentioned in the latest Assocham report. It also said that the market grew by over 45 per cent in the last five years and increased the per capita income.

Sangita Desai provided some useful insights and said, “It’s about being taken seriously. Whether its manufacturing, branding or even marketing sector, they all are largely the domain of men. I had to fight the subtle nuances of gender bias and make my voice heard and followed, although collaboratively. Also, for some, having a woman boss is a bit intimidating. Hence, I walk this fine balance on a daily basis.”

Choosing a sector, which is operated and driven by men from all walks of life, involves a different level of boldness. While there is a huge projected growth in the category, there is also a glaring gap. The ‘Bridge to luxury” gap, where consumers aspire to reach somewhere near the luxury brands. Thinking on the same line, Desai entered a lucrative market and brought high-end male grooming products like Beardo and The Man Company into the market.

Women are definitely redefining their roles in the business today. They are proving that it’s all about qualification, ability to learn and lead, then the role of a gender.

“Being a part of Freight forwarding Industry for almost 15 years, it was a natural next step for me.  I wanted to jumpstart a new venture within the same industry. Hence setting up FreightCrate, with the amalgamation of experience and knowledge of both the sides i.e. the customer and the service provider side, worked well for me,” remembers Ruchi Dogra, founder of FreightCrate. Dogra’s logistics technology company, with an aim to transform international shipping through innovative and cost-effective tech solutions, was widely acclaimed by industry professionals. Dogra has been a seasoned professional with experience in sales, key account & project management.

Initial hiccups and the way forward

A cake walk is not what entrepreneurship is. Along with passion, it requires patience and tolerance. Leaving a nine-to-five job and venturing into this entrepreneurial world feels exciting, especially when the digital space is filled with so many startup related series and glamorises the startup world by exemplifying the cool quotient attached to it. But once you decide to come out of the online world and observe the scenario offline, it is excruciatingly difficult.

“Being a woman, I did face issues of not being taken seriously by suppliers, as they were accustomed to deal with men. Seeing a woman in charge took them by surprise. Eventually, I had to write to the senior management of certain suppliers to move things along, which a man in my position might not have had to do,” said Desai.  That phase was something which Desai was prepared to deal with and thus, had kept her head high while moving ahead with the business.

Handling the brickbats of the society was a daunting task for Desai. “People always had a strong eye over me and it was difficult to stand their gaze,” reminisce Desai. But with the constant support of her mother-in-law and sister-in-law, she went ahead and formulated a venture where she also paved way for other women like her who could lead an independent life.

Women have been proving themselves for ages now. It’s time we make them believe that “its Ok” to choose and excel in a man’s world. And its high time that we segregate gender from a profession.

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