I am not the one to let go of opportunities, hence I guess, I qualify to be deemed an entrepreneur. So quickly I re-visited my personal journey in entrepreneurship. It was exposure and networking in my college life that opened to me a whole new world of Entrepreneurship, way beyond being just a “factor of production” along with land, labour and capital, as I can remember from old Economics text books. I used to be a lone female in many such forums, or if there were more women folk among students, we almost always noticed that the female representation among Mentors was almost zero, always!! I did not want to deprive these girls, and decided to be an inspiration.
Velammal Engineering College, Chennai had conducted a 3 day orientation program for their female students from the Entrepreneurship cell, calling out different people or “experts” to come and share 2 hours of wisdom and inspire the youth. March being the “women’s month” saw more focus on the female lot I believe, but I was not very sure if all of Chennai had completely dried up off entrepreneurs or if they were all being busy being felicitated with various “women awards”. Not joking, I find it sad that all “women achievers” are having to run from pillar to post giving talks and receiving awards in March, and then forgotten to be represented for events for an entire year!!
So, as a person who has had zero background on entrepreneurship from my family background and friendships, I had never once till my college days in my wildest dreams seen myself as anything remotely close to being an entrepreneur. Hence my doubts and discomfort with them calling me to inspire young college girls into the surreal world of Entrepreneurship.
After 8 years, 2 failed start-ups of my own, being one of the initial employee at a fairly successful international start-up, co-dreamer of a decently running Indian start-up and co-founding non-profit start-ups, I now place myself as a Serial Socio-preneur. What best than to share my own journey, and let them decide if they got an inspiration or a warning!! Either ways, it would be a genuine lesson.
My aversion to hearing my own voice non-stop for more than 2 minutes and my slot being in the afternoon, right after lunch were the 2 important deciding factors to reduce my content to exactly 8 slides, each containing less than 10 words on average. But thinking back, I used to wonder why a lot of speakers end up repeating the same content that we read about them on internet or while the program host is introducing them. So, I guess, it was clever to not go with long stories.
The session had a workshop format, wherein a lot independant and group activities were designed. Some of them involved writing and speaking too. Their response was a stronger guide than my own presentation deck in delivering the content. But their feedback has been really powerful for me and exceptionally thought provoking. So much that it took me 2 full weeks to process and revel in it before sharing my experience with the rest of the world.
Sharing some of the key feedback from the students and my take away from those –
- It was good to know about women entrepreneurs apart from Indira Nooyi and Chanda Kochhar, especially younger women
- Connecting dreams and business was a smart and innovative strategy
- Interactive sessions are a boon, as we got confident on interacting with the speaker and realizing that we all have some things in common
- Deep and sensitive session with real life struggles especially faced only by women. These are so much part of our daily lives that we rarely get to see it separate and thereby find solutions
- The importance of taking care of our health, and your special knowledge on menstrual health and work-life balance is such a gem. It also helped us to think boldly about our needs and express them. We could never imagine this topic being presented, and explained really well
- So different from other entrepreneurs, we love that you are a Serial Socio-preneur
- Even though I am a member of the E-cell, till today I was here for resume points, but from now on I have a goal
- Handling societal expectations with dignity and power, we now feel empowered to have these obstacles in our lives
- Learned something new and special today – “Ecofeminist”
- For the first time in my life I stood up courageously and voiced my opinions, I will never forget this day
- I visualized myself in your position, demeanor and speech. I will be there soon. Happy to see so less slides and more practical insights
- You were frank, honest and brave. I always wanted to meet such a woman
- I love routine, but always feel that there is something missing in me, today I got it
- My periods used to make me feel inferior to men, and even some women, but your concepts and demonstrations has given me courage to continue dreaming and working
- Your courage to share your failures has given us more than what you think
- I used to think that broad-minded people were fake, but now I have the courage to let my mind free to choose its destiny
- Stage fright has gone completely, this is so important for me
- Understanding our parents role – strengths and weaknesses, was powerful and insightful
It was a closed group of 22 girls, and we had a safe space to interact. All the above feedback are strong and demands much higher levels of responsibility from me. It was easier to keep these in hiding. I am ready to take up on bigger and better challenges now, and I promise to keep upgrading myself. Owning up this, and sharing this on a public platform has been a very difficult task, but I am doing it nevertheless. I was also expecting some criticisms, but I guess that there was so much hope and aspiration at this session. Looking forward to some more challenging sessions!
Hoping for more meaningful engagements in future.