Homepreneur® Deepa Govind is a freelance coach who is helping women freelancers in India find freelancing work and mentoring rural women entrepreneurs in India.
Deepa Govind trained as an Aquatic biologist, who sought to keep herself productively occupied in the Silicon city of India.
She is a self-taught techie, a Zoho enthusiast, and a freelancing coach to women freelancers in India who aspire to follow in her footsteps and become a Homepreneur®.
Starting off as a blogger in 2007 and working entirely from home, Deepa also built custom apps on Zoho creator as a side hustle. Soon, this became her mainstream forte and it was more Zoho along the way.
She is now a Certified Zoho Developer, Zoho Creator Trainer and Zoho Solution Partner. She is also a freelancing coach and mentor to other women who wish to realise their dream of taking up freelancing work in India..
Tell us a little about your background.
I provide my clients with administrative support for an email response, team management, project management, life-science research, biotech, biochemistry, bio-informatics writing, instructional scripts, how-to-do help notes, and other tasks..
Tell us about your freelancing career and freelance business journey and what excited you most about it?
Technology came to my rescue when I discovered Zoho Creator and I built a mini-app to manage my operational challenges and roped in my team. This tryst with Zoho Creator was also my learning curve on the platform.
A year later, after submitting my thesis, the team was dissolved, and we parted ways. But Zoho Creator stayed with me. Since 2008, I have developed apps on Zoho Creator.
Zoho has helped me grow as a Homepreneur in a very literal sense. Today I build apps on Zoho Creator, run implementations for Zoho CRM, Zoho Desk, Zoho Campaigns, Zoho Backstage and integrations between 45+ Zoho suite of products.
I’m also an authorised Zoho Partner, and A Zoho creator certified trainer. What more can a Homepreneur® ask for?
Did you personally have a mentor yourself – how did this experience benefit you?
Mentoring is relatively new. When I set out to make a career as a professional working from home, all I had was ample time and loads and loads of text content as DIY tutorials.
Every niche has a unique master website, which teaches you all about it. For example, if you want to learn in-depth about WordPress, you can’t miss WPBeginner.
If you want to learn about copywriting, diligent Googling will confirm that Problogger and Copyblogger can give you everything you need. The trick is to take time to find those one or two expert blogs, and then, spend some time consuming their content.
The flip side is, the learning curve is rather very steep, and you stand the risk of being overwhelmed. Many quit at this point. Mentoring, on the other hand, can reduce this learning curve so that you can bite off as you chew.
Also, a mentor can intuitively know when you’re going off-course. These are some things that you cannot get on your own, no matter how good you are at DIY.
What are some of the unique initiatives driven by you? It can be a social impact initiative or connected with supporting a specific community.
I mentor a closed FB community for aspiring homepreneurs. These are the minds who “want to work from home”, but need some direction as to what kind of job would suit them.
Can they utilise their past corporate learning and experience a freelance marketable skill? The dos and don’ts of bidding for projects on public platforms, effective communication to not only land clients, but also be polite and firm with one’s own schedule of availability.
After all, a homepreneurs’ time is limited, and you cannot say YES to everyone who comes your way. So, basically, you need to learn how to say NO without burning your bridges.
Some programs I run in my own capacity are:
- Freelancer Skill Discovery and Personalised Upskill Guidance Program – FSD Program
- Zoho Creator Training and Internship
- Zoho CRM Learning Series
- Zoho Social & Campaign workshops
The FSD Program is individual focused and is open all year-round. The rest of them are open for enrolment once or twice a year, and a batch includes 3 to 5 candidates only.
I offer the same set of programs for corporate clients and for the resources or employees who are enlisted via the company.
SHEROES is the largest women-only social network in the world – what kind of role do you see it playing in the women’s internet narrative?
The comfort zone to make mistakes, without the fear of judgment is what makes a world of difference. Most women, rural and otherwise, don’t foray into uncharted waters for the fear of judgment and failure.
The world around hounds them with “there, you are wrong, shame on you.” Whereas, at SHEROES, every woman has made her share of mistakes, and walked past them, correcting them as they move ahead.
SHEROES understands the pains of a new member in the community and her apprehensions and reluctance to ask for help. This understanding translates into volunteering with useful advice and helps a newbie get a grip on things.
Soon she finds the courage to ask, braves to make new mistakes, finds success that matches her calibre, and passing on the goodwill to another new SHEROES member.
How does it feel to be a catalyst in someone’s success? What has been your experience so far?
It is such a wonderful feeling. Closely matching an LKG teacher when she sees her student as an acclaimed person (in the profession and otherwise).
Akin to seeing a tree full of fruits, for which you planted the seed aeons ago, all the memories come flooding back. The feeling is unparalleled!
What are some of the unique challenges faced by the Saathis you are mentoring? Is there anything specifically that took you by surprise?
Saathis seem to face a lot of network issues. So, they themselves cannot be blamed for not attending the sessions on time, or not participating in LIVE sessions. This is something we, as mentors, have to accept and figure a workaround.
Some Saathis use a shared device (mobile) with their spouse and don’t have the freedom or liberty to check out the assignment we are giving them.
Some of these assignments involve installing a couple of apps, trying them out, understanding how the app works, and then preparing their assignment for submission.
These things take time from start to finish. Should the spouse get a call or decide not to share, she is left in the lurch, without the knowledge and know-how.
Though we as a collective group, never judge or shame anyone for not submitting their assignment, when we send repeated reminders to their name, they tell us about such deep personal problems, and there is a sense of incompetence that builds in their psyche.
This is not good. And there is no way for us, mentors and buddies to know unless the Saathi is forthcoming with this information.
Profiling the Saathis before starting the training program can help collect such details and build their personality so that we can be more compassionate towards them.
Any interesting anecdotes you can share from your engagement with Saathis?
We had a session about generating content for business promos. We touched upon generating text content and video content, without having to spend an extra dime, nor did we have to depend on another tech-savvy family member.
We had some hilarious content shared as drafts by the Saathis. We had a good laugh and passed on the feedback. The final promo content was excellent.
One Saathi, who runs a saree house, recorded a video of a client modelling her wares at the shop. Later she shared that she and the client worked together to script the words spoken in the video, and it was good to share after a couple of takes.
One Saathi who runs a beauty parlour, put a collage of photographs, along with aptly-placed contact details that get shared as her digital business card.
What inspired you to agree to be a mentor for the Internet Saathi programme?
I had a steep learning curve in my journey as a Homepreneur. My share of follies includes teaming up with the wrong people, not knowing the red flags and losing time, effort, money, and copyright to the work that I had painstakingly done.
Those were stressful times. It was by accident that I discovered when I guided a fellow wannabe through these obstacles, and my bitterness began to fade away little by little. I started to get back to my happy self.
A happy me is a confident me. A confident me is a better professional at work. A professional at work is respected and treated with dignity.
The SHEROES mentoring program allows me to pass on this respect and dignity to those who cannot find it themselves.
A woman cannot and should not “ask” or “crave” respect. It is something that she exudes in her personality as she gets her priorities right and marches towards her goal.
This is the first online accelerator for rural micro-entrepreneurs. Are there any unique experiments you have worked with to get them excited about leveraging digital tools?
Coordinating all of them to be available for “regular” sessions was a serious challenge at the start of the program. There was not much engagement too in the group.
Mentor and buddy were posting content, but very few Saathis were taking notes and engaging with us. Then we changed our strategy and regular “class” sessions were uploaded as YouTube videos.
Saathis began to ask their doubts as voice messages over WhatsApp. We responded with voice messages or YouTube tutorials for their clarifications. This model has resulted in good engagement.
We are still facing issues with “mindset” and psyche. But then, it is something that gets better over time, and cannot be rushed.
We need to give Saathis the space to gather their thoughts and see how the learning of this mentoring program fits their ground reality.
You have aced the Homepreneur® life at work. Can you share about this journey and how it works?
Time is limited, so be predictable. This is how it has worked out for me. I am available to XYZ at the time we mutually agree upon. This means I have to get the rest of my day in order, beginning right from my morning coffee to the chores at home.
My family support has been immense. It took a couple of years for the family to understand and react to our routine. Without their support, Homepreneur® wouldn’t have been possible.
How do you support aspiring Homepreneurs?
Aspiring homepreneurs are welcome to join our private Facebook group. Here we discuss action items that help identify one’s skill and personality to suit the freelance marketplace. The advice and recommendations on this FB group are free for all.
The members just need to have the courage to ask. Those seeking personalised guidance can sign up for the FSD-Program where communication and recommendations are private and one-on-one.
The Zoho programs help upskilling aspiring homepreneurs to become product experts in their niche.
You speak so many languages. How many do you know and how does it help you in work and life?
I am a polyglot by opportunity. I speak 5 languages – Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Hindi, Telugu (to some extent), Gujarati and Marathi (to some extent).
Marathi is a recent addition because a few of our Saathis are comfortable in this language, and my buddy, Priyanka, helps me understand the little details.
My father’s Banking job demanded that we relocate every three years, Pan-India, across rural and urban townships alike. So, it was the need of the hour for us as a family to get a handle on the local language, for us to assimilate into society.
Not to mention, changing schools and colleges brought its own challenges as well. So, language was a survival need. When I look back, it was nature’s way of upskilling me for the future.
As I ventured into homepreneur-ship, clients tell me when they learn that I understand and speak their language, the communication in vernacular language break the corporate monotone and the discussions get more interactive, which is very important to understand client needs and seal the deal.
What, according to you, are the pros and cons of being a homepreneur? What must aspirants know about this life choice?
Strangely, the pros and cons are the same:
Your routine is known to clients, and they know and begin to act on “your available hours”, not otherwise. It is heartbreaking to skip an impromptu picnic or movie or me time with family and friends.
Planning gets your work in order. It could be a new project or deliverable of an ongoing project. We may have to plan family time too with a similar approach, and get labelled as “bossy” and “unrelenting.”
When all is said and done, there’s a sense of satisfaction knowing you don’t have to compromise on your priorities for the sake of others. Any compromises happen because you decide to make it happen that way.
It could be refusing a big client project so that you can go on a family vacation, or passing on a lead to a fellow Homepreneur® because she is better skilled than you in handling the job.
Your ability to make decisions without having to be apologetic is the biggest perk of being a Homepreneur®.
The Google Internet Saathi Programme is a mentorship program where female mentors train and educate rural women on the benefits of the Internet in their day-to-day life.