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Naaree Interviews Swati Bhargava, Co-founder, CashKaro.com

Swati Bhargava is the Co-founder of CashKaro.com, India’s Largest Cashback and Coupons site. CashKaro is backed by the honorable Mr Ratan Tata and by Venture Capital firm, Kalaari Capital.

Along with her husband and Co-founder Rohan Bhargava, Swati has built CashKaro to become India’s largest Cashback site. The couple launched CashKaro.com in April 2013 and pioneered the concept of cashback in India.

Swati is an alumnus of the London School of Economics (LSE) and has worked at Goldman Sachs London within the Investment Banking division and at the Executive Office for 5 years before starting her entrepreneurial journey.

She represented India at the coveted Blackbox Connect – Female Founders Edition 2015 – powered by Google for Entrepreneurs program from April 27 – May 8, 2015 in Silicon Valley, California.

Swati was awarded at the India’s first Digital Women Award for category- Best Service Offering Company in the E-commerce Industry and recognized as one of the top 10 women entrepreneurs by Iamwire.com. She was also honored amongst 4 women trailblazers in Indian ecommerce industry by Economic Times

Swati is an active speaker at many high profile events such Ad:tech, TEDx, TieCON, Economic Times Conferences among others. Along with her husband, Swati has positioned CashKaro as the fastest Cashback site in India with 500% growth over last year.

Naaree.com caught up with Swati to find out the secrets to her success, and her tips to help other women entrepreneurs succeed in their ventures.

What inspired you to become an entrepreneur? Did you always love it or was it something you got into?

My biggest inspiration has been my husband & Co-Founder of CashKaro.com, Rohan. Since I was comfortably working at Goldman Sachs London there were no initial plans to go the entrepreneurial way but I always wanted to do something of my own! There were thoughts turning into ideas and ideas taking the form of functional plans.

Finally, Rohan & I decided to quit our jobs and put all our energy into our Cashback business idea. We conducted thorough research in the field of Cashback as we saw a lot of potential in that area. That is how, with a lot of hard work and a little luck, we started Pouring Pounds in UK in 2011.

While the business was booming in UK, we realized that the E-commerce industry was thriving in India as well. It seemed like the perfect time to introduce the Cashback concept in India. So, in 2013, we decided to enter the Indian market and thus, CashKaro was born!

When do you know that it is no longer just an idea in your mind, and that you can really turn it into a lucrative business?

For a growing E-commerce market like India, the potential for Cashback sites was huge. The biggest take away has been that people are always inclined towards SAVINGS and GREAT BARGAINS.

Over the years, online shoppers have really grown smarter and 80-85% of them typically look for discount coupons & cashback offers before making a purchase. This paradigm shift in consumer behavior gave a kind of an assurance to our business idea.

We were convinced that online shopping, when supplemented with accessibility to products and best deals across categories, will certainly define Indian shopping in the near future.

Lastly, the burgeoning Indian e-commerce industry is projected to reach $100 billion by 2020. It is believed that Affiliate marketing will account for about 20% of these sales, making the market size for CashKaro about $20 billion. More and more E-commerce companies are banking on the affiliate marketing model to lower their cost of customer acquisition.

So, when you see that the numbers are in your favor and people are enthused about the idea of associating with you, you just know that you are setting up for greatness and that it’s not just an idea anymore.

What learning lessons can you share from your startup experience?

Firstly, Perseverance is of the essence. Entrepreneurship is not a walk in the park. You are going to face disappointments.

What matters is that you never give up. You have to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel and just keep going. We may not realize this in the moment, but everything actually does happen for the best.

Secondly, put your heart and soul into hiring. Even if it takes longer than you would have expected, wait for the right people to come along. Hire top notch talent who are expert in their roles and get an unflinchingly strong team together.

Finally, Agility is the key. The digital market is incredibly fast paced and you have to be equally agile in order to keep up with the trade. You have to be on your toes constantly and create a robust and active system.

What are some challenges that you faced initially when you started out? Do you have some examples to share and advice to women entrepreneurs on overcoming them?

Whenever you decide to delve into something novel, especially a new business model, there are bound to be certain challenges, whether you’re a man or a woman. So yes, we did face some challenges initially. Although there were no real deal breakers, these were the main issues we had to overcome:

Hiring the right people. It’s the biggest challenge a startup faces. There is a dire need to find people with the same passion and zeal that you possess. If they lack the drive you have, then they don’t fit into your idea. You need to know how to recognize good talent and then retain it by all means.

Educating our users and retailers about the concept of Cashback and affiliate marketing. People needed to understand why they should put their faith in the company. Again, being a novel idea, there was a lack of knowledge about it in India.

Establishing the fact that as a woman, I could strike a balance between family and work. That could only be proven through sheer persistence and hard work. At the end of the day, it showed in our unit metrics and the challenge became redundant altogether.

The lack of seed funding in India. The investors here will only make a significant investment once your company has started making money. This makes acquiring seed money a hurdle for startups.

What are all the things that a woman entrepreneur needs to keep in mind? i.e. apart from your great idea, what do you need to be armed with?

People have this stereotype embedded in their minds that women lack knowledge when it comes to technology. Consequently, they think women won’t be able to stick it out in a career revolving around technology.

So, we need to arm ourselves with complete technical know how about the area we’re working in and everything related to it. We need to play to our strengths and emerge victorious in the uphill battle that entrepreneurship is.

Do women entrepreneurs find it tougher to get funding for businesses? If yes, why do you think that is?

Honestly, yes they do. This is again related to the fact that investors think a woman won’t be able to balance work and family life. Or, they might not have enough knowledge or perseverance to last in the market.

In these cases, you need to stand your ground and have complete confidence in your idea. Speak out confidently about the idea and people will begin to trust it as much as you do.

Is it beneficial to have a mentor when you’re starting out on your own? What does a mentor bring to the table?

Yes, it is always beneficial to have a mentor by your side especially during the commencement of your business. A mentor plays a huge role in introducing you to the challenges you will face as an entrepreneur.

He can help you connect with the right people that belong to his current network. He can help you learn from his experiences so you can sidestep the mistakes that he made when he started out.

In my case it was Paytm’s co-founder, Vijay Shekhar Sharma. I will always value everything he did for me.

How did you recruit your first team? How difficult was it to get people on board during the initial stages?

As I mentioned before, hiring is one of the biggest challenges a new entrepreneur can face. For almost two years, I did all the interviewing myself as I had to ensure the right people were joining the company.

Only recently did we bring an HR on board. We took the generic routes like portals and agencies to find people but we made sure that each person we hired shared the passion and zeal we had. We couldn’t accept anything less than that.

What would you describe as your biggest moments of success in your business?

As is the journey of any start-up, a lot of small events turn into moments of success.  However, funding from Mr. Ratan Tata has probably been the most heartening moment up until now.

In November 2015, we also raised Rs 25 crore in a Series A funding round led by Kalaari Capital, one of the biggest venture capitalist firms.

So we can see that we’re headed in the right direction and with the same zeal and fervour, will continue to tread on this extremely worthwhile path we’ve created for ourselves.

 

3 Ways to Ensure Women Succeed in the Startup World

The legendary actress, Marilyn Monroe, once said, “Women who seek to be equal to men lack ambition.” Today, women have not only proved they are equal to men but have also excelled in every male-dominated field possible.

It’s no different for the startup world! Women have started businesses, getting a huge payoff and soaring to new heights. In light of this, let us look at three things women entrepreneurs must do well to ensure they succeed in the startup world.

1. Do the Math

Women may have a qualitative outlook on things, which is a good thing, but overlooking of the quantitative details may need improvement. Women must remind themselves that data, numbers and analysis are important in refining and improving business strategies.

Different elements of any business must be tested. It is important to leverage the internal data and translate them into business success. Analysis, facts, and figures (data) bring out a huge wealth of valuable insights which result in tangible outcomes.

Three ways to manage relevant data

  • Compile
  • Analyze
  • Communicate

Women or anyone involved in business must first understand the nature and scope of the business to explore the different areas of that venture. Then, you must make sure to make continuous improvements and innovations in it.

Women must make sure to get their statistics right so they keep can track their growth or regrowth and set the right business expectations.

You must not neglect market-related or customer-related data and statistics. This is important to know where a particular business service or product stands in the market.

Next, you must never overlook data on competition and what they offer. This will help you set prices competitively, create marketing strategies, take advantage of the competitor’s weakness and improve your business performance.

The target audience needs to be targeted based on the customer needs and insights, again bringing to mind the importance of doing the math and studying the stats and making business plans accordingly.

You cannot afford to ignore data. It is important to get the numbers right and concentrate on projections and inferences as this will help to measure growth and give a better focus on your business.

2. Dream Big

In general, women are content with success in little things like doing a home-based job well or setting up a business on a small scale whereas men may seem to conquer the world. As a woman, sometimes you need to just go with your gut. It could mean taking a step with a leap of faith.

If a woman wants to succeed in what is predominantly perceived as a man’s world, she needs to raise the stakes and play it big! It is important to take up the leadership role by presenting decisiveness and confidence.

Sometimes the decisions may not be 100 percent effective but it is required to take such risky steps for the business. However, there is a limit to risk-taking.

To name a few types of risks relevant to startups, you have product risks, market risks, calculative risks, team risks and execution of strategy risks. This must not stop you from taking any substantial steps.

If and when disaster strikes, a disciplined way to identify and mitigate the risk will help to meet the odds. This will increase the likelihood of success. Thus, the key is to venture out, evaluating risks involved, and not being afraid to pivot.

3. Be Your Authentic Self

By choosing to be our most authentic and loving self, we leave a trail of magic everywhere we go.”- Emmanuel.

Never forget that women bring unique qualities and strengths to their workplaces and professions. You must never try to emulate men you see as peers or your competition.

Being you, fearlessly, is one of the key elements women need to achieve success.

Women must focus on being a powerful influence and impact to the lives around. You must simply embrace the woman you are – authentic and unique.

There will be times of crisis when you will look inward and question your confidence and your decisions when you will feel inferior (to those around) or insufficient in yourself.

Doubts creeps in. Yet, during these times, you need to remove the mask and be your authentic self and focus on your goals.

In a world that is changing but still is male dominated at many levels, women must focus on utilizing their strengths, especially in those areas where women in general have an advantage over men – negotiation skills, communication, presentation skills and so on.

Six techniques to be you:

  • Remove the expectation mask which is put on to impress people around.
  • Be fearless, converting your fears into areas of growth.
  • Follow your intuition and listen to your inner voice.
  • Avoid imitation and create your own ideas.
  • Pay attention and observe every moment.
  • Express every move with confidence.

Women must not follow others but create their own path.

Every person is born different and so, each one has his or her own story. Women must be courageous enough to make their own story.

A woman’s perseverance and unique talents can make her a force to reckon with in the world of business.

So, the message to every woman out there is this: Dream Big, set out to achieve your dream, believe in yourself, be yourself, play it big, play it right and never give up!

Author Bio:

Being a writer at Topaussie review, Alice Clarke has an experience in a startup world. You may find her on Facebook.     

Why You Should Say ‘No’ At Work

Sometimes saying yes to every tough assignment may seem like the best thing to do.

You work an 18-hour day job, you say yes to that new project that means yes to that promotion, and yes to more responsibilities. Not to mention that the fear of losing the job prevents you from saying no to new projects and more work.

But what is the outcome? More stress related illnesses, exhaustion, and depression. Remember your manager will not change but you are.

Sometimes you may not have a choice, but if you do, how do you say no to the opportunity in a polite way such that it doesn’t sound offensive to the person offering it?

The question of where to say “No” at work should be a serious matter and you must consider it carefully. Much depends on the line of work.

But when that time comes, how do you avoid being regarded as “difficult to work with?” Here are some reasons to say no to work in a polite way and how it will be helpful to you.

When Is It Ok To Say ‘No’ At Work

  • When it hinders you from pursuing your interests

We all have something that we would want to pursue in future. But to accomplish this, some may opt to stick to a job first until they are ready to move to the next stage.

If you fall in this category, there are times you need to say ‘no’ to work when your boss assigns a task that does not fall under your job description. You can delegate the task to another person who is more qualified.

This earns you more respect. If you are not being compensated fully for the task and you feel that the task will take away time from pursuing what you want, a polite ‘no’ will show that you are committed and value your time.

  • When it hinders your ability to accomplish short-term and long-term goals

To achieve success, you need to prioritize and pay more attention to tasks that need more attention and yield much more. Keeping a list of short-term and long-term priorities and trying to fit all your tasks in each one of them.

If a task does not fit in any one of them, reject it and be straight that you cannot work on that project. Give a brief explanation that the task doesn’t match your current priorities and sometimes you can suggest an alternative. At the end, be focused and accomplish what you have set.

  • When it doesn’t propel you towards your goal

You can say no to a job or project that does not propel you to accomplish your key goals.

The reason why people do any job they come across and put all their effort in it is the thought that one day they will land that promotion, partnership or a huge cross-functional project.

At the end, you have limited time and resources, and you need to make the best out of this project. At that same time, you receive a new proposal that may be a distraction. What do you do?

The best thing to do is to go through it then politely explain that you are currently working on another, so you might not give the required attention to this one. Being honest will show you are committed to what you are working on.

  • When you are not happy with the decision

If you find yourself questioning why you are making time for a certain project, you should rethink your decision and evaluate if you are in for it for the love of it or for the sake of being there. You should push on or raise your opinion on processes that you disagree with.

You don’t have to agree with every decision that is made if it is not satisfactory, always get the courage to question your choices and seek clarification when something is not clear.

Having the right answers will allow you to make a decision before accepting the project and realize the amount of time and effort needed to complete the task.

How Saying ‘No’ is Helpful to You

  • Allows you to live up to your commitments

If you cannot compose yourself to say no, you have little time to devote to greater activities.

Some of us believe that they are efficient with time but the reality is that you need to focus your time and effort on your commitments to achieve maximum results.

You will find more comfort and satisfaction in your commitments if you are able to devote enough time to fewer tasks that grow you as a person.

  • Enables you to pursue other opportunities that arise

It requires a lot of gumption to turn down a task or job. In the beginning, it may be hard since you don’t know if you will land another project or client to close another deal. But every one of us at some point may say no to different tasks.

Some can do this by sending signals of being committed to something else or overstretched in a certain assignment. But having the ability to say no allows you to open up to new opportunities and enable you to exercise what you know fully.

  • Allows you to be the best at what you do

If you learn to say no to things that do not match your interest and yes to tasks that you have a true passion, you will have great drive and motivation to perform the roles you really love doing.

The more effort and time you dedicated to what you are passionate about, the more you become innovative, productive and successful in your endeavors. At the end of the day, it’s about making knowing when to say yes and no to a job or project.

  • Enables you to choose clients selectively

Sometimes you can get a client who is difficult to deal with especially they hail all sort of complaints on different things. It can be a distraction to you and you end up not delivering your best on the project.

Difficult clients are a nightmare and sometimes they may push you so hard to your limit such that you become emotionally drained. They take much time, energy and resources.

When you first meet a client, look for red flags. If you sense that they may be difficult to handle or the nature of the project may be beyond what you can handle, don’t be afraid to say no and recommend the client to someone else. This will save you time and resources.

  • You live a healthier and more satisfactory life

Doing a lot of work can make you depressed and can lead to stress-related illnesses.

Having the ability to say no when you don’t agree with a certain project will give you the freedom to say yes to opportunities that are within your passion, strength, and talent.

People who realize this have a greater satisfaction and more time to exercise and live a healthier and more satisfactory life.

Saying no at work is a hard decision to make, but sometimes you need to develop the skill to say no politely. You want to sound good at it so practice earlier.

Remember you don’t want to be seen as “not a team player” or being described as difficult or lazy. These tips will help you get through the process of saying ‘no’ and reap the benefits of making such a decision. Try them out.

Author bio:

Eva Wislow is a blogger and career coach at CareersBooster resume writing services. She is on a mission to help people find their true calling. Eva finds her inspiration in writing and peace of mind through yoga.

10 Franchises You Can Afford On A Budget

If you’re looking for a good opportunity to be a franchise owner, you need to read this post. Our friends at FindMyWorkspace came up with a list of the most affordable franchise names you can consider.

Starting a business normally entails huge costs and a whole lot of planning especially if you are thinking of building your own brand.

For most working Indian women who have the resources, but not much time to plan and carve a brand from the ground up, franchising an already successful brand is a good recourse.

Franchising is the giving of license or authorization to individuals who want to do business using a certain established company or brand. The franchise is given with a fee, and it could be costly if it is a well-known brand.

However for those who are still starting out, there are a number of franchises that can be obtained with a tight budget but still guarantee a great chance of earning high revenues.

  1. Tree House Play School

Franchise Fee: 5,00,000 to 10,00,000 INR

Tree House Play School is a playgroup and preschool education service known for its good standard of excellence. They provide a fun and conducive environment for kids to learn and play.

This is an excellent franchise for most married women who opt to stay at home, focus on the kids, while earning at the same time. This is also perfect for those who have the passion for teaching and are also great with kids.

Tree House Play School however requires their franchisees to have an area of at least 1,000 sq. ft. and preferably with an outdoor playground. The area could be a rented space or the franchisee’s own property.

As a franchisee, it is your responsibility to decorate and set-up the play school’s interior, but the staff from Tree House will assist you with the materials, decorations, and ideas or concepts for the design.

  1. BrainCarve EduCare

Franchise Fee: 1,50,000 INR

BrainCarve EduCare provides a supplemental learning program that helps kids ages 4 to 16 enhance their concentration and memory skills, and develop the ability to use both parts of the brain.

They offer six programs namely Magic Fingers, Vedic Math, Memory Technique, Thinking Techniques, Abacus and Win in 60 Seconds.

Their franchise is however limited in the Karnataka area, but they provide training for those who are interested to obtain the franchise. This business is also a great way to earn from home and on a part-time basis.

  1. Jawed Habib’s HairXpreso

Franchise Fee: 10,00,000 INR

If you’re interested in earning from the beauty industry, then you might want to open a salon under Jawed Habib’s name. Jawed Habib’s HairXpreso is a fast-growing business since 2009 and has currently 344 outlets around India.

HairXpreso enjoys popularity among the young because of its affordable haircut services. So the chance of earning good profits from this brand is really high.

The franchise fee also includes training and support for you in order to run the business well. Staff recruitment, marketing, and salon designing are also taken care of by the company.

Franchisees are however required to have an area of at least 100 sq. ft. and a minimum of 3 styling chairs to get started.

  1. AutozSpa

Franchise Fee: 8,00,000 INR

If you are into cars and automobiles, then you might want to consider opening a car wash and repair shop like AutozSpa.

AutozSpa already have numerous branches in and outside India, and carries a reputable expertise in the car care industry.

They provide professional cleaning and car detailing services, promising to maintain a car’s classy, brand new showroom shine.

The company will provide financing assistance, staff support, training, business planning, and the machinery and chemicals to help franchisees get started.

  1. Wings Bags

Franchise Fee: 10,00,000 INR

If you’d like to venture into the retail business, then you may want to consider Wings Bags.

Wings is a manufacturer of quality school bags, travel bags and laptop bags. Each bag goes through a tedious quality-check process to ensure that the product passes international standards.

Wings Bags offer two different types of franchise. For those who have the extra space, you can apply as a showroom partner wherein the bags can be displayed and sold.

The company also accepts distribution partners from many areas in India except Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Bihar, Bangalore and Jharkhand.

The company will provide advertising and marketing support for franchisees to help jumpstart sales for the product.

  1. Cafe Desire

Franchise Fee: 2,00,000 INR

If you want to earn without the hassle of managing a full-blown business, then you might like considering getting a vending machine business as a means to get passive income.

Cafe Desire is a fast-growing tea and coffee vending machine business that is open for franchisees, even at a home-based basis.

The vending machine can also be installed in shops, small or big offices, schools, and any other public place. As a franchisee, you just need to install and refill the beverage mixes regularly as needed.

  1. Cafe Frespresso

Franchise Fee: 5,00,000 INR

If you really want to own a coffee shop, you can still get one at a minimum cost. Cafe Frespresso is a good business that provides food, great coffee and a nice ambiance for coffee lovers.

Cafe Frespresso already have several branches in India, Malaysia and Singapore. The company will provide training, business strategy planning, and numerous tools to help franchisees grow the business.

  1. Felicita Foods

Franchise Fee: 9,00,000

Another franchise option from the food industry is Felicita Foods, a European-inspired restaurant that serves great European food such as Dutch Pancakes and Italian cuisine.

Franchisees have two options with Felicita Foods. One is a Kiosk franchise which needs an area of at least 80 to 150 sq. ft. The Kiosk will only serve a limited number of items, chosen from the most popular line of Felicita Foods.

The second option is the Concept Cafe Franchise which needs an area of at least 500 sq. ft. This Concept Cafe can offer customers with the full menu plus a good restaurant ambiance.

The company provides on-site support, planning and marketing assistance for franchisees as well.

  1. Monginis Cake Shop

Franchise Fee: 10,00,000 INR

If you’re more into desserts, then Monginis Cake Shop is a good franchise to consider. This Mumbai-based cake shop had been around since the 1960s and is still a strong bakery brand in India.

There’s a high chance of earning good profits from this brand as they are popularly known for its delicious cakes and pastries.

The products are however baked from Monginis own headquarters, and it will only be shipped to different franchisees and distributors around India.

  1. InXpress

Franchise Fee: 2,50,000 INR

InXpress is an authorized partner of DHL, an international courier service provider. The company aims to provide personalized customer service and reliable shipping solutions for clients all over India.

Being a franchisee of InXpress will give you access to its integrated logistics system of worldwide parcel delivery and express transportation services. Franchisees don’t need to have a warehouse or inventory to get started, the company can provide for that along with training and support.

The success of a franchise business does not solely depend on the current brand power of the partner company, but it would also depend on the proper planning, location and overall management of the business.

Franchisees are also required to be at least enthusiastic about the chosen industry, and preferably good with customer relations and service in order to gain good business traction.

Author Bio:

Gemma Reeves is a seasoned writer who enjoys creating helpful articles and interesting stories. She has worked with several clients across different industries such as advertising, online marketing, technology, healthcare, family matters, and more. She is also an aspiring entrepreneur who is engaged in assisting other aspiring entrepreneurs in finding the best office space for their business.  Check out her company at FindMyWorkspace.

Transcendental Meditation And It’s Benefits For Women

Imagine that a mind in unrest is like a stormy sea. The raging waves are like the thoughts which throw your mind out of gear.

These seemingly ensnaring thoughts are however just on the surface of the mind; just like the turbulent waves are just on the rim of the sea. After all beneath the choppy waves lies a boundless ocean of calm.

Similarly, below the turbulent mind, lies the greater mind, which is a repertoire of serenity. All you need to do to achieve inner peace is to find the anchor to the abode of tranquillity, which lies below the turmoiled mind.

Transcendental Meditation helps you to transcend disrupting thoughts, to quieter realms of thought, to reach the peacefulness and inner silence which is found within you.

In this article, Pallavi Bhattacharya delves into the origins and effects of Transcendental Meditation, especially with respect to its benefits for women.

Origin Of Transcendental Meditation

Transcendental Meditation dates back to several thousand years, to age old Vedic tradition. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, is the official founder of Transcendental Meditation.

In the 1970s, he founded a university to teach Transcendental Meditation, consequently helping it to gain global popularity.

Transcendental Meditation Technique

Transcendental Meditation is to be practised for 20 minutes, twice a day. One needs to sit comfortably and close one’s eyes. The practitioner is to chant a mantra, which is given by one’s teacher.

It needs to be a non-word, so that it carries no meaning. The chanting needs to be non-verbal, while experiencing the thought of that sound, we start minimising that thought to experience the finer state of the thought, till the source is discovered and the conscious mind approaches the transcendental state of being.

This kind of meditation cannot be learned through reading printed or googled material on it. You need to learn it from a qualified teacher of Transcendental Meditation, who is permitted to teach the same.

Transcendental Meditation As A Stress Buster

Modern life is stressful, Transcendental Meditation dissolves stress.

Aditi Shrivastava, a certified teacher of Transcendental Meditation, elaborates, “The key to perfect health is keeping our body well rested and free of stresses. When we practice Transcendental Meditation, the mind and body experience a very deep level of rest, which is measured to be twice as deeper as the deepest point in sleep and we are able to get rid of not only fatigue or tiredness but also deep-rooted stresses, which even sleep is not able to remove.”

She adds that daily practising Transcendental Meditation is excellent in helping to ameliorate health conditions like: insomnia, anxiety, heart stroke, blood pressure, chronic headaches, ADHD, autism etc. It helps to de-addict oneself from alcohol and cigarette dependency.

Transcendental Meditation Improves Heart Health

Dr. Akshay Mehta, a cardiologist who practises in Mumbai points out that cardiac journals have published the benefits of Transcendental Meditation on cardiac health.

He states that, “Transcendental Meditation slows down heart rate, lowers blood pressure, betters sleep and strengthens the immune system.”

He refers to a study published in a U.S. cardiovascular journal on a group of people which found that this meditation done for 20 minutes, twice a day, reduced death due to heart attack and brain stroke; as well as the need for hospitalisation.

He adds, “Transcendental Meditation helps the mind to slow down, choose and control thoughts and control negative emotions.”

It has been statistically documented that 40% of deaths in women is because of coronary heart disease. In fact more women are known to die of heart disease than men.

After menopause, the risk of heart disease increases in women. Transcendental Meditation is a medicine-free way of improving the cardiac health of women.

How Transcendental Meditation Is Beneficial To Women

Worldwide, women are stressed as they have to manage housework as well as household chores. This leads to less and disturbed sleep at night.

Stress is also the root cause of an array of psychosomatic diseases. Though they may not be able to overcome the stress triggers in their lives, they can modify their responses towards stress by practising Transcendental Meditation daily. It makes them better at multi-tasking.

Transcendental Meditation helps to improve a woman’s work experience in an office environment. Women are often unduly low on confidence after returning to work after having taken a break to take care of her small children.

Ascending the career ladder once again after this break may feel intimidating to women. This meditation will boost the confidence levels of women. It improves communication, leadership skills and job satisfaction.

Transcendental Meditation has been found to yield extremely positive results in the nursing profession. This job area with night shifts and constant emergencies to attend is an extremely stressful one, in which burnout is common.

That also leads to missing work and poor quality of patient care. After meditating, nurses have experienced a very deep sense of rest and calm. It has improved their stamina levels and energy.

This meditation technique has also proved to be extremely beneficial to inmates of women’s prisons. It acted as a process of holistic rehabilitation and freedom behind the bars.

It decreased criminal thinking, infractions in jail, psychological distress, mental trauma and pessimism. Substance abuse and violence in jail consequently went down.

Transcendental Meditation Improves Clarity Of Mind

It’s been medically established that we use only a limited part of the brain when stressed. A practitioner of Transcendental Meditation can apply more of the brain to everyday tasks effectively.

This technique boosts the creativity and intuitive prowess of the brain. It kindles the subtle mind which is clouded under stress which in turn hampers with our ability to make the correct decisions.

The inability to cope with stress accelerates the process of ageing. Regularly practising Transcendental Meditation wards off stress, thereby slowing down the process of ageing.

It reduces the biological age in women, and improves the quality of skin and hair. The ageing of the internal organs is also decelerated.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi said, “Transcendental Meditation brings about transcendental consciousness, which is self-referral consciousness, the source of all intelligence.” It is indeed an enlightening experience.

Log on to the Official Transcendental Meditation Website India to know more about Transcendental Meditation and find a qualified teacher who can teach you. Free introductory lectures are available.

4 Ways Fast Fashion Affects The Environment And What To Do About It

Fashion conformity seems to be a requirement of the world since time immemorial. It is no longer a concern common among women, but for almost every individual trying to make a statement of themselves as a sign of their individuality.

With the advent of the internet, it became easier for people, even in marginal areas, to achieve fashion conformity and to take part in global fashion awareness.  However, this global fashion “awakening” has resulted to a rather desperate measure to some people to be able to catch up.

Also, as many people try to conform to the global fashion trend, there had been a rising need to create more clothes, that gave opportunities for some manufacturing industries to grow as well.

However, since not everyone can afford expensive branded clothes and some just choose cheap imitations for whatever reason, the demand for low-quality, environmentally harmful clothes have grown. Not that we are labelling branded clothes safe, in fact they are equally harmful to the environment.

Technically, fabric doesn’t really decay in hundred or thousand years being non biodegradable, and that alone should stand as a reason why there is a need to control fabric manufacturing. There were already numerous movements done to promote green clothing manufacturing, including that of Emma Watson’s organic clothing line.

Despite that, the number of people buying fast clothing is growing, and there is a need to educate people better. Here are four reasons why buying fast fashion harms the environment:

  1. Fast Fashion Is Synthetic

Almost everything nowadays is synthetic. Food and medicine have long been artificial and so is fashion and everything else genius scientists and crazy engineers can make. And in the name of protecting the wildlife, people are now choosing to buy synthetic.

However, buying synthetic also has its own banes. Some low-grade synthetic manufacturers, do not follow government enforced rules about environmental protection. This means that they compromise the quality of the materials used to make their products cheap.

For example, factory dyeing sends an enormous amount of pollutants that are being drained away to the ocean. Residual dye that isn’t fixed on clothes are washed out during laundry, ends up in sewers, which is further drained to the rivers, and eventually ends up in the oceans.

Harmful solvents are also being used by some big shoe manufacturers especially for the use of gluing leather together. These also send harmful and toxic materials that are either evaporated through the air or drained to oceans or rivers.

  1. Fast Fashion Manufacturers Emit Greenhouse Gases

Fast fashion manufacturers also emit greenhouse gasses that can further worsen the global warming. As you can very well tell, global warming endangers the lives of many animals in the Arctic and the Antarctic due to loss of habitat.

Cheap synthetic fibers emit gas that is more harmful than carbon dioxide. Also, millions of trees are being cut worldwide to be turned into fabrics. All of the residues shed off worn human clothing are also adding up to the amount of synthetic products thrown to sea.

  1. Fast Fashion Consumes More Energy

Since fast clothing and fabric are, most of the time, synthetically made, there is a tendency for them to consume more time and energy during manufacturing.

Since it requires more time for manufacturing, it further increases its adverse environmental and human health effects.

More energy consumption means more water, gasoline, fuel, chemicals, electricity, and human labor is being used to keep it running.

  1. Fast Fashion Harms Factory Workers

Since the quality of materials in making clothes are being compromised, the health of the factory workers is greatly affected.

In fact, organophosphates are used in wools and are being blamed by factory workers for headaches, disturbed sleep, poor concentration, and even suicidal thoughts as BBC explained the study done by a UK anti-pesticide group.

On the other hand, cotton which is considered to be one of the most in demand fabric is reported to be the world’s most pesticide-intensive crop that injures and kills people all over the world.

Herbicides and other chemicals are also used in harvesting cotton that is released throughout its lifetime. Some synthetic or genetically modified cotton are also said to have adverse effects on human health and the environment.

The Alternative: Environment Friendly Fashion

People are now encouraged to favor expensive, naturally made fabric rather than those which are fast and synthetic. One example of “clean,” all-natural clothes is Linen.

Saving animals doesn’t mean you are going to support cheap synthetically made fabric. There is a way for us not to compromise animals and plants that are already endangered. There is also a way for us to have a sustainable fashion industry without compromising the health of factory workers.

Linen is made out of certain plant stalks that are easy to grow, harness and make without the use of any unnecessary harmful and toxic chemicals.

The fashion industry is filled with women wearing Victoria Secrets, Versace, and whatnot, but more than how fashionable you look or not, it should not compromise the health of the factory workers and the environment.

Although we must consider the fact that animals are slowly dying because of poaching and garment or fabric creations, we should not compromise the value of having clean clothes that will not harm the environment.

If there is a global awareness about how bad the fashion industry is for the environment, then there will be a great shift from fast, synthetically made fabric to clean and natural. The fashion industry manufacturers will then be forced to do as the market demands.

Author Bio:

Jenny Park is a professional fashion designer and writer at the same time. She passionately writes and blogs about how fashion can change a woman’s perspective life and to herself. She is an active advocate of naturally made clothing and encourages them through her blog. Her love for fashion brought her to French Connection, a high fashion online clothing company based in Australia.

Coping With Divorce: 10 Tips For Indian Women

We marry with the hope that it will last till death do part. But, not all married couples go on to live happily ever after.

Earlier, more couples chose on to live in dysfunctional marriages, as they followed traditional norms to stay trapped in an unhappy marriage. Nowadays, when a marriage doesn’t work despite repeated trials, couples part their ways in the divorce court to start life anew.

Though divorce liberates a woman from a hopeless marriage, it is an unpleaseant experience for most. Some resort to self-destructive ways to grapple with it. Others have a mature way of coming to terms with it.

Having trouble coping with divorce? Pallavi Bhattacharya outlines ten tips for Indian women to deal with everything, from difficult ex-husbands to coping with divorce financially.

  1. Dealing with your grief

If it is a divorce in which the husband has left his wife for another woman, it is but natural that the wife will feel angry, hurt and betrayed. A broken heart may be detrimental to health.

The woman may unduly feel low on confidence, thinking that she fell short and is less desirable than the woman her husband deserted her for.

Kakoli Banerjee (name changed), would mournfully confide in people, “I do know that my husband had an affair with another woman, because he was very angry with me for a reason which is yet not known to me. One day, out of the blue, my husband showed me the door and told me that I couldn’t use his surname anymore. Had I known how I had peeved him, maybe there would be some consolation, though I’d never get him back.”

In scenarios like this women need to know, that they’re neither undesirable nor at fault. Their husbands didn’t stay true to the wedding vow they took to be faithful to their wives.

Keeping tabs on the new love life of your husband will do more harm than good. Nor will having affairs or rushing into relationships with the sole purpose of showing your ex-husband that you’ve moved on help.

Melissa John (name changed) was resentful that her husband had chosen a much younger woman over her. She splurged her alimony on treatment at salons and pursued men of her son’s age. Most of them played with her feelings and hurt her emotionally.

Women who have initiated the divorce, as they were dissatisfied with the marriage for a very long time, may feel less sad that it had to end. They may embrace their newfound freedom.

The best way to deal with sorrow, post divorce, is to acknowledge it as a natural phase. Resorting to alcoholism, chain smoking and drugs thinking that it will numb your pain will simply bring about your ruin.

You may seek counselling if it’s too hard for you to handle. Some find solace in spiritual practices. Take the help of family and friends, who may lend you an empathetic ear and provide you a shoulder to cry on. Venting your anguish on social media is a bad idea.

  1. Dealing with a difficult ex-husband

Whereas some husbands take the divorce maturely and gradually move on, some exes simply cannot come to terms with the fact that the marriage is over. They may end up stalking you.

Dimpi, an astrologer who currently lives in Delhi says, “I was earning very well as an astrologer, whereas my husband was a clerk at a bank. He would steal my jewels and cash. He’d beat me to get cheques signed so that he could acquire money. To him I was and still is a hen who can lay golden eggs. I had to pay him alimony, and am still paying him.”

She says that it was her husband who had wanted a divorce so that he could remarry. She narrates how insecure he was and even after divorce he would send paranoid messages to her professional clients, that she was physically interested in the men she did astrological predictions for.

She informs that her husband didn’t maturely part ways with her, “Post divorce, he would continue to forcefully stay over at her house.” She therefore changed houses a lot. She narrates, “I even shifted to a new city and set up a professional base out there. I purchased a land in this new place. He hunted me down in this new city.”

She goes on to narrate how perilous his stayovers are to her safety, “Family members request that he stay with me, especially when he is ill. On visits like these he beats me, breaks things and misbehaves with domestic helpers.” She says that the police was of no help to her.

She has blocked her husband’s number. She claims to have saved all the abusive messages that her ex-husband sent her. She says that he still comes over to her home and reigns havoc.

As the police is often apathetic towards domestic violence and stalking in India, though they are duty bound to register these cases, it’s better to visit the police station along with women’s rights activists of an NGO.

There are non-profit organisations which help victims of domestic violence and fight court cases for them.

  1. Getting a good divorce lawyer

When children and sharing property are involved, and it’s a non-amicable divorce, it’s essential to hire a good divorce lawyer.

You may ask others who have gone through divorce for recommendations for efficient divorce lawyers. You may test the lawyers knowledge on divorce proceedings before hiring her/ him.

There are NGOs which can help you hire divorce lawyers at nominal costs. Poor women who don’t have these skills often end up in a separation that neither involves a proper divorce nor alimony.

Radharani Ghosh, who works as a household cook, narrates the ordeal she underwent, “As a legal divorce didn’t come through, I got no alimony. Nevertheless, my husband ‘remarried’.”

  1. Warding off inquisitive queries and nasty comments

In India, when you are dealing with a personal issue, whether it is a death in your family or divorce, your phone will go on ringing relentlessly and so-called well wishers will troop in at your home unannounced with annoying questions.

No divorcee I interviewed has been immune to nasty jibes. This is indeed unfortunate as during this time a woman hopes that she’s given respite from intrusive inquiries and harsh comments. One would rather prefer empathy and compassion.

Dimpi says, “After my divorce, people often quizzed me as to how I had got a divorce despite being an astrologer. I found their so-called accusation totally baseless. It’s like expecting that a doctor can never fall ill.”

In a myopic Indian society which thinks that a woman is powerless without a man, she was irked with questions as to how she was managing everything all by herself, instead of people appreciating the fact that she was a strong and independent woman.

She elaborates, “Some would ask me as to how I was living on in Hindu society without a husband. Pandits would ask me as to how I was carrying out rituals without a man’s presence. Some would express surprise as to how I was applying a bindi despite being a divorced lady.”

Riya Chakraborty (name changed) was naturally peeved by the way her inquisitive colleagues reacted to her divorce. She says, “Though it should have been none of their business, they would discuss my divorce amongst them. They despite being educated and financially independent, had a regressive mindset when it came to accepting a divorced woman. They would pass comments like I was the person who was unable to adjust in a marriage, and as a result was incapable of enjoying a happy married life with kids.”

Fed up of the environment at work, she changed jobs. Though the work environment in the new school she teaches at is better, there is still an undercurrent of gossiping about her divorce.

She says, “There are women in my peer group who are divorced or separated. Yet, they backbite about me. They say that at least they have a child, but I am without one.”

  1. Making new friends

Especially in a scenario where your old friends are more likely to hinder than help, you may need to make new friends. Visit places where you may meet people of common interests.

You may also be able to make friends at parties and professional networking events. Matchmaking apps like Truly Madly, Ok Cupid, Woo, Coffee Meets Bagel and Tinder are certain forums where you can make new friends and maybe even find a partner.

Making friends via apps, however, need to be approached with precaution. You may have to meet many weird people in the process, but may also make really nice friends. Take time to chat online before deciding to meet someone in person, and never divulge your address or personal details until you know someone well.

  1. Developing new hobbies

Post-divorce, you have the chance to discover the talents within you. Indian women are often forced to suppress their talents while married. We hear countless stories of women being forced to give up careers or their hobbies after marriage.

If you’re a talented dancer who hasn’t been able to hit the stage ever since you got married, or an actor who has been compelled to stifle her acting skills, this is the time to nurture your talents again.

You can develop new hobbies as well. You could search Google to access the wide range of hobbies people around the world follow. If it’s a hobby which needs training, you can join a hobby training class near your residence.

Riya says, “Ever since I got separated, I started reading books and going on trips with my widowed mother. I never ever felt bored because I was single.”

You could also take up a cause close to your heart, if finances aren’t an issue. Kakoli’s son and daughter-in-law who earned very well were already providing for her. However, she made the wise decision to move out of her son’s home where her former husband also lived. In fact she changed cities.

A talented doctor, she started practising medicine again. She chose to relocate to a remote village of India where she could help patients who wouldn’t be able to avail of a good doctor. She charges them very nominally and states that she has found peace of mind since then.

  1. Coping with divorce financially

Post-divorce, many women are financially free and already have savings. Divorce doesn’t throw them into financial crisis. Then there are women who have to get a job and earn for themselves as well as their children.

Radharani’s three daughters were merely toddlers when she and her husband parted ways.  She says, “My husband who was unemployed, didn’t financially help us after our family split. My mother said that I’d rather adjust and return to my matrimonial home. My parental family didn’t even spend a rupee on our wellbeing.”

Radharani took up professions which men are conventionally known to pursue in an attempt to become financially independent. She says, “I observed carpenters at work and picked up carpentry from them. I also started working as a building painter. In 2000, I relocated to Mumbai, as the pay scale here was higher compared to West Bengal.” She started working as a cook in households.

Depending on your expertise, you may find jobs which are financially rewarding, especially if you need to provide for your children as well. Not all jobs come with a high pay package though. In cases like these, you may take professional and academic training to upgrade yourself to a job which pays better.

Chalking out a monthly budget, helps one to allocate finances for various purposes and set aside funds for saving as well. The reason why most people cannot save is that they try to save after spending, instead of saving before making expenditures.

One can invest in shares provided one has expert knowledge of the share market, else one may run into serious losses. Avoid chit funds. Invest with reliable organisations instead. Get life insurance and opt for a good Mediclaim plan.

  1. Handling the responsibility of being a single mother

Many women execute the duties of a single woman even while married. Others may be new to managing children single-handedly after a divorce.

Some ex-husbands are dutiful towards their children and send adequate money so that the kids can have a good upbringing and happy childhood. Not all husbands provide child support. Some may have zero or a negative influence in their children’s lives.

If your ex-husband is a threat to your kids’ saftety, with the help of a women’s organisation, you may issue a court order against him so that he maintains a distance from them.

Some women are in a situation wherein they get no family support in child raising. Whereas privileged women can afford crèches, underprivileged women may be in dire straits.

Radharani says, “I got no family support to raise my children. My landlady was the one who took care of my daughters when I was away at work. They have now grown up and are all married.”

  1. Getting into a new relationship again

It is common knowledge that rebounds can bring immense harm to you. It’s best to take some time off relationships before exploring new relationship possibilities.

The most natural way of meeting a man is through parties, social gatherings and through work. Dating apps are a platform to find liberal men, though there are many traditional men there as well who will unmatch you immediately after getting to know that you are a divorcee.

Matrimonial websites are also channels to find a spouse. These websites are however losing out on popularity to the matchmaking apps, as open minded men who earn well, and wish to explore friendship before ascertaining marriage possibilities prefer apps.

You’ve  heard of the saying, “Once Bitten, Twice Shy.” The worst mistake that you can make is once again letting your heart take the lead over your brain in choosing a partner.

Radharani narrates how she was duped by her lover, “While in Mumbai, I’d get regular calls from a wrong number. We soon started talking regularly and I fell in love with him. He was separated from his wife. We started living together. One day I discovered that he had absconed with all my gold jewellery and Rs 2 lakhs in cash which I had kept at home. The police refused to register my complaint. I had a nervous breakdown and started taking medicines for anxiety. I once again had to start saving from scratch.”

  1. Lack of physical intimacy

The transition from the double bed to a single bed is not an easy one. Some women don’t miss physical intimacy all that much. Others may feel sad and lonely that they can’t hug, kiss or make love.

Some women may be able to overcome the lacunae of physical intimacy by self stimulation and the use of sex toys. Others may opt for friends with benefits arrangements. When in an intimate relationship with a new man, always use protection (condoms) so that you are safe from STDs and unwanted pregnancy.

If you need help coping with divorce in India, we hope that the tips above will give you a guide to coping with divorce and enjoying life again.

Naaree Interviews Aakanksha Bhargava, CEO And President of PM Relocations

Aakanksha Bhargava was born in Kolkata, India into a business family. When she was just 7 years old, her family relocated to Delhi where she graduated from the illustrious Hindu College.

At the Hindu college, she held 3 prestigious positions – President of Placement society, President of Choreography society and the Cultural Head for the College fest Mecca.

Moving ahead to gain deeper knowledge on managing a business, Aakanksha pursued and successfully completed her MBA from the world-renowned SP Jain School of Management (Singapore and Dubai). From here began her impressive journey to become one of India’s most successful women CEOs.

Aakanksha joined PM Relocations Pvt. Ltd. (PMR) when she was 21 years old. She always believed in making her own place and commanding respect because of her own achievements. She was the boss’s daughter hence the urge to prove herself was strong.

She began quickly changing things around and working towards scalability. She went on to handle PMR’s corporate sales, marketing and operations, among other departments. She travelled and lived in different parts of the country to understand the culture and pulse of the city establishing a good team and work process.

PMR is a Small-Medium Enterprise, a one stop solution for mobility needs, with respect to anybody relocating within India or overseas. It offers a complete solution for end to end relocation is available on a systematic online platform using technology.

Naaree interviewed Aakanksha Bhargava to understand her entrepreneurial aspirations, successes and challenges.

What inspired to become an entrepreneur? Did you always love it or was it something you got into?

Inspiration comes from the ability to be as creative as you want and as I grew up seeing my father working in this industry, I always knew what I wanted to become.

I wanted to make my career on my own, that’s why an entrepreneur. I have always believed that one should have confidence in themselves and show people something they potentially have never seen before.

If you are working for someone else, you help them with their vision. If you work towards your own defined vision and belief, you make your employees & colleagues breathe your vision and together work hard to make it a successful reality.

Right from childhood, I was always fascinated by my father’s professional commitment. He used to take me on the surveys scheduled on weekends. Hence, I was always curious to know how things are going to be handled and how passionately my father made sure that our customers are happy and stress-free while they moved with us.

I guess, that was the beginning of my interest in this industry. When I joined PMR in 2007 (then PM PACKERS), I realized that this was the place where my heart lies. I have always loved my place of working, I feel lucky to be a part of an industry that touches so many lives everyday.

I am grateful for the position I am at today which enables me to directly contribute to the lives of almost 550 employees and over 2 lakh customers who have moved with us till date.

When do you know that it is no longer just an idea in your mind, and that you can really turn it into a lucrative business?

Right from my childhood I knew I wanted to join my father in business. After completing my schooling from Tagore International School (Vasant Vihar), The Hindu College embraced me into their family and gave me the opportunity to complete my B.Com (H) with them.

Soon, I saw myself graduating and joining SP Jain School of Management, Singapore and Dubai to complete my management studies, ready to face the challenging world of service industry.

I worked as an International Sales Manager for a couple in years in PM Relocations and then worked in Corporate Sales and marketing. By the time I was getting involved in different sections of the company, I realized there is a broader way out to things.

When you work within a space your work might get restricted but when you work in different areas, you get too many ideas. I realized that this business has more potential than one can think and that was the day of success for the company.

The space we are in needs an in-depth introduction to anyone we meet hence I feel the need to tell people that moving can be made simpler with the right solutions and PMR can disrupt the space.

I think for me, Intent is important.

When I started, there were hardly any women in this industry. It was a male-dominated environment. I had to face a lot of criticism too.  The only thing I believed in was the Intent to do a good job and give my best to the right cause.

It is just about the strength of one’s mind and having faith in the intent of your heart that makes you achieve higher in life I can bet when you really do decide for something your courage will kick-ass you fear!! Take the plunge and you will see the miracles of life.

What lessons can you share from your startup experience?

I always believed in doing things on my own. I knew I wanted to do something different than others and that’s what made me work in this industry. This was unconventional, unexplored and unknown hence the zeal.

A lot of people don’t take you seriously in the beginning. since I was very young by the time I joined the company, people didn’t took me that seriously, and this thing never demoralized me but gave me motivation to show what I can do and how well.  Believe your vision and lead by example at each step.

Dealing with employees, partners and clients was difficult initially. One of the biggest challenges was to source people since we were stagnant for all those years, not many from the industry wanted to join us and fresh blood didn’t know about this industry.

Over this period, I had to lead by example at all levels right from selling to building the brand, to keep upgrading the processes and systems with increasing work and manpower, setting up a professional culture and most importantly all of this had to be done in budget since we have not been funded by anyone.

The business demands a lot of working capital whereas we work on credit; hence balancing the same was a challenge. It was difficult to work in the industry but as long as you have the courage and are ready to take up the challenges, you can get it all done!

What are some challenges that you faced initially when you started out? Do you have some examples to share and advice to women entrepreneurs on overcoming them?

Working in the male dominant, packing and moving industry was really a tough job. It was actually very difficult to deal with the employees, clients and partners in the initial years.

However as the time passed, I learnt how to handle tricky situations and deal with everyone around. I strongly believe that working in this industry needs a lot of determination, potential and most importantly patience. Have strength and you can conquer it all!

It was not really easy starting my career in the relocation industry, particularly when it comes to an industry that has dominance towards men. There were times when it was considered to be a ‘Man’s Job’ but the time changes and things got changed too.

The advice I have for ladies would be follow your heart, be true to your work, don’t let criticism weaken you and the rest will make you successful in everything you do. As long as you have faith and determination, Entrepreneurship is happy to welcome you all!

What are all the things that a woman entrepreneur needs to keep in mind? Apart from your great idea, what do you need to be armed with?

The most important thing for a woman entrepreneur is to have critics in her life. I strongly feel that “If you have no critics, you’ll likely have no success”.

One needs to have a high level of commitment and patience to breathe your vision into your employees. Also, I am thankful that I am blessed to have an extremely supportive family. Most women don’t have supportive families because of which they fail to realize their dreams.

Indian women also tend to downplay their own potential. I feel women should do what is best for them. Even if that means, entering a male-dominated industry like ours.

Times have changed, although the challenges are still there, but you need to keep the spirit alive. It is important to learn from past mistakes and move on.

Do women entrepreneurs find it tougher to get funding for businesses? If yes, why do you think that is?

I agree it becomes difficult sometimes.  Many people in the country think that women cannot work and handle the business and that’s the only reason and more importantly once you get married, how would the work life balance happen. Unfortunately, these questions are never put across to men.

Is it beneficial to have a mentor when you’re starting out on your own? What does a mentor bring to the table?

It is very important to have strong mentors in life. They give you a strong inspiration to set goals and then direction and understanding to achieve the goals. I have grown up seeing my father (Mr. Rajeev Bhargava, MD) working and he has been my greatest mentor till date.

He keeps encouraging me to keep raising the bar. His faith and belief in my vision has kept me going. And most importantly, the belief of your team (PMR Family) in you is the biggest strength.

Apart from him, from our industry, I also admire the work and life of Mr. Eric Lim the head of Asian Tigers Mobility. He has groomed, mentored and guided me all these years.

How did you recruit your first team? How difficult was it to get people on board during the initial stages?

I was keen to take people on my time who were passionate about their career. When you are taking an interview, you can really know it in the first go, who is taking the job for working and who is passionate towards it. I did the same. That is the only reason that most of my team members have been associated with PMR from many years.

Also, it is essential to breathe one’s vision in their employees to help them stay focused and visualize the same dream as yours. It was difficult to bring together people initially but with strong leadership and understanding in inculcated in each of your employee’s DNA’s then people tend to join hands and work with you to grow the company.

What are 3 key things that you have learned as an entrepreneur?

This is something I have always believed in, is that its important to have goals, desires and ambitions, however challenging they seem to be …. And you have got to enjoy the ride to these.

Sometimes on that learning curve we explore ourselves and what we can achieve. It is important to dream and keep yourself always engaged into something that you enjoy and feel passionate about.

There is no formula and no set route to success …just listen to the heart …Sometimes the right ways and answers are found there.

Another major learning for me is that when you really ride on something your courage will eventually kick start your fear. Take the plunge… and you will see the miracles of life.

Also, the most difficult thing is to manage people especially when one is in a service industry. Here we deal with a niche service which is ’emotions’. Hence, we need to be very careful while working with people.

Be it our clients or our employees. Another key take away is that “No success is possible without sacrifices and beliefs, sometimes not yours, but that of the people around you.”

What would you describe as your biggest moments of success in your business?

Every moment was a success to me in my business. Whether it was my failures, it also made me learn new things and is constantly helping me in building up my company.

There have been many moments I felt proud of; pointing out one would be little unfair to the rest of them.

© Naaree.com

Pink Autos: Women Driven Auto Rickshaw Services In India

The growing trend of pink autos – women driven auto rickshaw services in India – is facing both misogyny and support from men and women around the country. Pallavi Bhattacharya reports. 

It’s late at night. You’re returning home from work. The streets are almost empty. You hail the only auto rickshaw that you see on the streets.

The auto rickshaw driver slyly shifts his rear view mirror towards you. Despite, you requesting him not to smoke, he refuses to throw away his cigarette.

His breath smells of alcohol when he enquires in a rough voice, “Madam, what do you mean by coming home so late at night, or are you off to another party from here? Were you at a disc drinking? How do your husband and in-laws allow this? Or are you divorced? Did your parents not teach you any values? What kind of clothes are you wearing anyway?”

The regressive-minded and lecherous auto rickshaw driver, may be driving precariously through the streets and as there is no other transport in sight, you may be anxious as to whether you’ll be reaching home safely. He may be refusing to pull over.

If you’ve ever been in a situation like this, you must have wished that you could have been driven home by a woman driver. There are many male drivers who behave cordially with women passengers and always ferry them to safety, however there are also abusive drivers who may also put your safety at risk.

Auto rickshaws driven by women are already plying in Indore, Ranchi, Bhubaneswar, Delhi, Noida and Gurgaon.

In 2016, an announcement was made that women driven auto rickshaws would be introduced in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, the Thane District, the Palgarh District, Kalyan, Pune, Nashik, Nagpur and Aurangabad.

548 auto rickshaw permits were issued for women drivers in Maharashtra, which included 465 from Mumbai. Five percent of auto permits in Maharashtra has been reserved for women.

Enduring Misogyny Towards Women Autorickshaw Drivers

Women drivers have had to face misogyny, and female auto drivers across the country have had to combat chauvinism. On asking what they thought about women driving autos, I met a handful of men and women, who passed snide remarks.

A woman whose thought process is laced with internalized misogyny commented, “How can women drive autos? Isn’t it after all a man’s job? Women aren’t good drivers. More so, driving in the sun will tan their skin.”

A woman who echoed her erroneous views remarked, “It seems a bit strange that women will drive auto rickshaws. Men, I believe, are endowed with more physical prowess and perhaps are more naturally equipped to take upon themselves such rough jobs such as bus and auto driving.”

A man, who seemed to feel insecure that women are taking up a profession which traditional India thought was only for men, said, “If women are passionately wanting to take up a man’s role, let men wear sarees like them and live at home, whereas women can roam about in shirt and trousers the whole night.”

A man who was similarly against women being on par with women on the professional front said, “Women joining the workforce is causing unhappiness in families. Working women are the causes of the rising divorce rate, more so if they take up unconventional careers like auto driving, which are meant for men.”

Another chauvinistic man with poor logical reasoning said, “Women are responsible for their own personal safety. They are to blame if they get attacked. So, this women’s driven auto system isn’t going to reduce crimes against women in any way.”

A man with a similar logical fallacy said, “I am vehemently against women auto rickshaw drivers being given safety alarms and self defense equipment during night shifts, as it’ll add fuel to fire to the misconception that no man can be trusted.”

Eshita Mandal, a psychologist from Mumbai, speaking on the bias women auto rickshaw drivers face says, “The moment people see a lady driver out there on the road, they invariably think that the traffic jam or an accident is because of her. When a woman is driving a plane, they wonder if it’ll reach the destination safely. Hats off to women auto rickshaw drivers who have all the courage to step into what was considered a man’s world before.”

Support For Women Autorickshaw Drivers

Most people I talked to, were happy that women would be seen behind the wheels in auto rickshaws.

Apala Bhattacharya, a writer in Mumbai says, “The introduction of auto service with women drivers will take care of two main issues: it’ll be conducive towards ensuring the safety of women commuters and will serve as a livelihood option for women who don’t have high level of education or a college degree. Often these women are engaged in manual labour which involves long and arduous hours of work with low pay. Driving an auto rickshaw will serve as a higher source of income and also flexible hours of work which will be helpful for them to take care of their families as well. This will also open a new avenue of work in a currently male dominated category of work and broaden the choices of women towards a means of livelihood.”

Puripriya Kundu, Guest Lecturer in a university in Kolkata, is yet to avail of this service in her city. Nevertheless she is excited about seeing women earning a living by driving auto rickshaws.

She says, “All genders- men, women and the transgender have the right to drive auto rickshaws. It’s patriarchal to prevent women from driving an auto rickshaw. Driving an auto rickshaw makes a woman her own boss, which is far better than bearing the servitude of many blue collared jobs that women who don’t have higher levels of education have to do. For instance rather than work as a domestic helper in homes, many women may feel that driving an auto rickshaw is a far empowering job.”

She feels that the quota for women drivers may help at the teething phase. Puripriya reasons, “Reservations may be good in the initial stage wherein women are trying to get a foothold in an otherwise male dominated profession.”

Whereas she feels that availing of an auto rickshaw driven by a woman will make travelling at night safe for women passengers, she is also concerned about the safety of the women drivers who ply vehicles at night.

She reasons, “It’s tough for women to restrict themselves to an early evening curfew as they may be having professional and personal commitments. If women have the opportunity to avail of auto rickshaws driven by women at night, then their lives will be less restricted. However the question here is, will women drivers who drive late at night be safe? I feel that women auto rickshaw drivers should form their own union, so that their problems are addressed through it.”

Anil Merani, a journalist and PR from Mumbai says regarding issues of safety of women driving auto rickshaws at night, “I quite welcome this service as I feel that women deserve equal opportunities in livelihood. Why deprive them in this regard? My only concern is whether women auto rickshaw drivers will be safe during late night shifts. Women drivers need to be provided means and mechanisms ensuring their safety if they decide to drive at night. Maybe, the Regional Transport Office (RTO) could test for two weeks if women auto rickshaw drivers are safe at night and make it into a norm if it’s found to be successful.”

Anil feels that women may be cautious while driving, “Thoughts that women cannot drive well were there in the past in India but things are changing now. I’ve often seen women drivers drive more safely than men.”

Many male auto rickshaw drivers I spoke to hailed the fact that more women will drive auto rickshaws. Bansidar Dube, an autowallah in Vasai, feels that women will make excellent auto rickshaw drivers.

He says, “Women have excelled as astronauts and pilots, auto driving is a piece of cake in comparison. Ladies have zoomed vehicles through the sky and space, so shouldn’t they be able to operate an automobile which runs on the ground well?”

He however expresses concern over the possibility that some women may not drive their own vehicles, “I’m very glad that women are being handed auto rickshaw permits. However I’ll be saddened if they rent out their vehicle to a male driver as it’ll completely defeat the purpose of this mission.”

Nitai Naskar, an auto rickshaw driver in Kolkata, is also in support of women earning a living through auto rickshaw driving. He says, “I think it’s a very good idea that auto rickshaws driven by women are being introduced in Mumbai. I’d be glad if the same is done in Kolkata as well. Women have just as much right to earn their living through auto rickshaw driving just as much as men do. I will not be upset if seats are reserved for women auto rickshaw drivers as they have the right to financial independence. I will never restrict any woman in the family from driving an auto rickshaw if they wish to.”

He is however worried about the problems that women drivers in a male dominated work sphere like this usually face. He observes, “I am however concerned about the fact that women auto rickshaw drivers may be eve teased, which is a chauvinistic means of trying to dissuade women from driving auto rickshaws. More male auto rickshaw drivers should come out in support of women driving auto rickshaws.”

An auto rickshaw driver who drives his vehicle in the outskirts of Mumbai, says on the request of anonymity, “Because of safety issues, a woman auto rickshaw driver was unable to continue drives to long distance destinations at night and now just plies her vehicle locally.”

Prospective Lady Auto Rickshaw Drivers Speak Up

Rupali Sutar, whose father drives an auto rickshaw, would also like to drive one. She, who has studied till Class 10, is now is a receptionist in a garment store in a mall. She has previously worked as a beautician in a beauty parlour and in the housekeeping department of a call centre.

She knows that driving an auto rickshaw is more earning than any of these professions, and people she knows are making Rs 1000 per day by driving an auto rickshaw. She is separated from her husband and has a small son. Her husband, according to her, doesn’t provide adequately for both of them. She wishes to earn well to ensure good education and a comfortable bringing up for her child.

She says, “To keep myself safe while driving at night, I plan to carry self defense equipment. I wish to work late at night as I want to help women who are travelling alone. My father owns two auto rickshaws, he drives one himself and has rented out another vehicle to someone else. I will drive the auto rickshaw which is now being rented out and thereby also be able to save the family expenditure which goes into paying the driver. My family is encouraging me greatly in this venture.”

One Woman Auto Rickshaw Driver’s Personal Experience

Anita Kudtarkar, the first woman auto rickshaw driver from Mumbai, interestingly hails from an orthodox village in Karnataka. Her father had a hotel and her mother was a homemaker. In her village school, there were classes for girls only till Class 10. The village’s norm was not to send their daughters out of the village for higher education as it was considered unsafe.

Anita was married off a year after she completed school. The family she married into wasn’t so well off. Her husband was engaged in fitting appliances. She would do various kinds of jobs including tailoring. Ultimately, she decided to drive an auto rickshaw.

Anita says, “Women can operate any type of vehicle. I decided that I’ll do something that no woman has done before in Mumbai, so I became an auto rickshaw driver.” An auto rickshaw cost Rs 85,000 in 2002. Anita didn’t have the money. Her friend who was a retired school principal lent her Rs 25,000. She took a bank loan of Rs 60,000.

Initially there was reluctance to teach her driving, as a misogynistic belief prevailed that women can’t drive well. Once Anita found a trainer she learned driving an auto rickshaw in just eight days. She however practiced on her own for another month before she started taking customers, as she was being cautious.

Male drivers raised eyebrows on seeing a lady with an auto rickshaw. A chauvinistic auto rickshaw driver threw her a challenge, “Women should cook and take care of their homes. Driving isn’t for women. Just ride your auto rickshaw up to 25 meters in front of me. If you can do so then I’ll give up my license.”

Anita not only completed that with élan but went on to drive for many kilometers. Anita told him, “Just look at how many miles I’ve really covered.” Forced to eat the humble pie, he sheepishly said, “Well, I was simply joking.” Anita retorted, “Please don’t joke about women in this manner ever again in your life time.”

When Anita started driving an auto rickshaw professionally, she faced further prejudice. “Initially some people were hesitant to board my vehicle as they had never seen a woman driving an auto rickshaw ever in their lifetime. They wondered if she had a valid license.” Gradually both genders boarded her automobile without inhibitions.

Anita noticed that women were especially comfortable to ride in her vehicle. She however imposed on herself a 7 pm curfew of driving an auto rickshaw. The reason was two-fold. She had to prepare supper for her family and attend to household chores. Second, she felt that it would be unsafe to drive at night as she wasn’t sure at to what kind of passengers would hike a ride.

Anita refutes those who claim that driving auto rickshaw is a rough sport for women saying, “Driving it may seem rough when you’re a novice but once you know how to drive the vehicle, it’s a lovely and smooth run.”

Anita brings to our notice that before the 5% reservation norm, women were hesitant of coming forward to drive an auto rickshaw. This was because as they didn’t see women drive one, they thought that it was just a man’s job or women weren’t permitted to drive one.

She further draws our attention to the fact that despite the fact that 50 women were previously given free training to drive an auto by the Mahanagar Palika in the Vasai – Virar region, not one of those women drove an auto rickshaw.

She’s happy regarding this reservation. Simultaneously she brings to our notice that this reservation is yet to fill up as many women are still not ready to do this job. She feels that the reservation quota may be expanded only after this reservation is completely filled up.

Women commuters across India are happy with this auto rickshaw service but are upset that there are just a few of them. We hope that the supply of women driven auto rickshaws is increased, to meet the increasing demand of the same.

Whereas women driven auto rickshaws are painted pink in other cities, they are to be painted orange in Maharashtra. Women auto rickshaw drivers in Maharashtra however are against their vehicles being painted in a colour which distinguishes their automobiles from those being driven by men.

An auto rickshaw driver said that the orange colour may incite stalkers to follow their vehicles at night, which will put both the driver and passengers in jeopardy. We can only hope that women come forward in large numbers to procure licenses to drive auto rickshaws; and that men make their work environment more comfortable.

Image source: Shashank Anand

Watch the video from MTV Sunsilk Angels of Rock featuring women auto drivers.

10 Legal Tips For Startups In India

roma-priyaRoma Priya is Legal Advisor and Founding Partner at Burgeon Bizsupport LLP, and provides legal assistance in investments for early and growth stage startups and ensures they understand the intricacies of the agreements.

The company is a venture-focused boutique practice that provides cost-effective, experienced and reliable legal advice as well as customized business solutions.

Roma’s objective for Burgeon is to create a ‘one-stop support system’ of services for entrepreneurs and investors. In this article, she offers 10 legal tips that Indian founders should consider when creating their startup.

  1. Choose the right legal structure for your startup

Choosing an appropriate legal structure is one of the most crucial decisions for any startup.

The decision should be taken based on individual circumstances and a host of factors, such as:

  • nature/sector of business operation
  • business trajectory
  • regulatory and tax considerations
  • costs of formation and ongoing administration
  • external capital requirement and type of funding sought
  • extent of legal liability protection required
  • number of stakeholders
  • balance required between ownership and management
  • proposed mechanism for profit sharing or distribution amongst stakeholders etc.

The preferred entity structures for startups in India are limited liability partnership and private limited company.

  1. Registrations and Business Licenses

Post incorporation of a business entity in India, some necessary registrations are required and mandated by law.

Some examples are Permanent Account Number (PAN), Tax Deduction and Collection Account Number (TAN), VAT Registration, Service Tax Registration etc.

Business licenses are permits issued by a government authority that allows startups to start/conduct/continue to operate a particular business within its territorial jurisdiction lawfully.

The nature of business activity determines most license requirements. Other determining factors may include the number of employees, location of business and the form of business ownership.

Some examples are Food safety license, Health/Trade license, Shops & Establishment License etc.

  1. Intellectual Property Protection

Intellectual Property Rights are a very important asset class for a startup. Developing and protecting intellectual property with proper registration can help startups gain competitive advantage.

It is essential to obtain trademark registration for the business name/trade name under the Trademarks Act. Registration of a company or business in India does not by itself give protection against others who might commence using identical or similar marks.

A trademark search should be conducted before deciding on these business name/ trade names to prevent any issues in future including potential infringement.

All Intellectual Property (including trademark, copyright, design, trade secrets, inventions, patents, etc.) should be registered in the name of the entity and not in the name of the promoters/founders of the startup.

  1. Founder Equity – Split and Vesting

Founder equity should be split amongst founders based on the nature of role played by each founder along with their time, effort and capital contribution to the startup.

Splitting founder equity equally by default without a thorough discussion on expectations and contribution generally leads to tension and unhappiness amongst founding teams as the startup matures. Founder Shares should be always subject to vesting schedule – typically over a period of three to four years.

When vesting is imposed on a founder equity, the unvested shares held by the founder become subject to a contractual right to repurchase/transfer often at a nominal value, if one of the founders is terminated or voluntarily leaves the startup. This is very important to ensure future viability of the business.

  1. Founder Agreements

The Founders Agreement is the most valuable tool to establish the relationship between the founders of a startup. The agreement should represent a clear understanding between the founders on all key issues related to the startup.

Founder agreements should clearly mention the roles and responsibilities of the founders and have clauses detailing the decision making and operating structure of the startup, founder equity split with vesting (explained above), assignment of all intellectual property in favour of the startup, termination of a promoter and exit process etc.

  1. Employment Contracts

Startups must ensure to enter into clear employment contracts detailing terms and conditions of employment with their employees.

While employment contracts are certainly valuable to the employees as it details terms regarding description of job profile, compensation and other associated benefits, a number of clauses may be inserted to safeguard and protect the interest of the startup, such as:

  • stopping employees from setting up competing entities (non- compete clause)
  • poaching other employees/clients/customer (non-solicitation clause)
  • preventing employees from claiming any intellectual property right on the work done/developed during the course of employment (assignment of intellectual property rights).
  1. Employee Stock Option Pool (ESOP)

ESOP’s are incentives given to employees/directors of a company to attract talent and retain employees by rewarding them. ESOPs create a sense of ownership amongst employees.

It is important to note that ESOPs are not shares. They are structured in a way that they are option to buy shares at a discounted price and can be exercised only after a certain vesting period which is decided by the company granting the ESOPs.

In India, we typically see a pool of 10% to 15% allocation towards an ESOP Pool.

  1. Third Party Agreements

Prior to entering into a third-party agreement and while negotiating the terms, it is advisable to execute a non-disclosure agreement.

If creation or development of intellectual property is a component of such a third party agreement, it must clearly state that all rights to the intellectual property rights shall vest and be owned by the startup and the third-party shall not stake any claim on the same and will do all acts to ensure the protection of the intellectual property.

Clauses related to breach, termination and dispute resolution should be well negotiated and captured in all third-party agreements.

  1. Investment Structuring

One of the most challenging and time consuming aspects of operating a startup is to raise capital for working capital requirement and growth.

In India, Investors (HNIs/Angels/Funds) invest in early and growth stage companies in different structures and on varied terms.

It is imperative for startups to seek proper legal advice while negotiating the deal terms for investment and the rights of the investors.

Typically, as a process an intention document detailing the structure of the transaction called the Term sheet is executed followed by due diligence of the startup and execution of investment related definitive agreements.

  1. Compliance Management

Compliance and its importance is often overlooked by many startups.  There are multiple laws applicable to specific entity structures under which separate event based and annual compliance is mandated.

It is extremely critical for the sustainable growth of any business that the startup is in compliance with legal, secretarial, accounting, taxation, employee related and other associated compliances.

The consequences of non-compliance can be levy of punitive fines on the startup.