Kavea R Chavali, entrepreneur, award-winning anchor, Game Changer, has been both mentor and mentee. In this interview, she shares her mentoring activities and experience in the Internet Saathi programme.
An electrical engineer turned award-winning anchor, Kavea R Chavali has always enjoyed being part of the thriving Live Events industry. She is a renowned and dynamic name and one of the most sought after voices across the shows.
The one word associated with her work is Game Changer. She has constantly innovated her style of hosting the shows by introducing Broadway-style hosting in her corporate functions and proactively surprising her audience with her multi-talented abilities.
She was the sutradhaar of some of the most loved brands and has had the honour of working with brands such as Audi, HSBC, Femina, ICICI, Hyundai, HDFC, Kotak, Pfizer, Mahindra, ITC, Microsoft, Google, IBM, Economic Times, and American Express.
Kavea is also the most preferred Anchor for the shows of the Govt of India, Govt of Telangana, and Govt of Andhra Pradesh.
As a proud recipient of the Rashtriya Sanman Award as the Best Anchor and was also conferred with the Voice of Asia for her outstanding contribution to the Live Events fraternity.
The entrepreneur in her has made her conceptualize the handloom brand Kalaneca promoting the weaves of India and changing the narrative of the handloom industry.
Getting to the grassroots of the Indian heritage and textiles, Kavea, along with her homegrown brand, Kalaneca, is celebrating Indian sarees and their weaves with great pride. She feels that the joy of receiving accolades is motivating but the joy in giving is actually more satisfying.
Tell us a little about your background and personal growth journey – where you grew up and studied.
Being a Navy kid, I was brought up around the coastal tides of India. My schooling was across many cities until my father decided to settle in a small town, Kakinada.
I graduated from the prestigious NIT Warangal (formerly known as REC Warangal) with a B. Tech in Electrical & Electronics Engineering.
After my graduation examination, I was with HCL Technologies as a Senior Executive creating training modules for Behavioural skills for the leadership team. I was their youngest trainer.
I then moved to join TV9’s English channel, NEWS9, in Bangalore as their PrimeTime Anchor and Reporter and produced a celebrity fitness show.
Following that, I decided to move to Mumbai and become a full-fledged presenter in the live events industry. I have hosted more than 1400 shows across 15 countries for more than 800 brands.
Tell us a little about your career and business journey. What has excited you most about it?
My career as an Anchor allowed me to sow seeds as a solopreneur, which in turn navigated its way to making me an entrepreneur with the brand, Kalaneca, that I co-founded along with my mother and my twin sister.
What really excited me was the possibility of showcasing the pride and craftsmanship of Indian weavers. We often wait for the west to appreciate what we have. The treasure of weaves that we have is unmatchable and yet splendid.
Wearing hand-woven sarees for my shows allowed me to match my design aesthetics and we as a team decided to start locally with UPPADA, next to our hometown to get the world to explore six yards of endeavour and beauty.
That feeling of happiness in the weaver’s smile became an addictive source of inspiration.
Did you personally have a mentor yourself – how did this experience benefit you?
I have been trying to find a mentor for years, but it was in November 2019 that I found a Purpose Coach and Mentor for myself and it’s been magical in conquering the horizons of my thinking and capabilities.
My mentor allows me to expand my mind and also helps in creating strategies and opportunities for my growth. I believe the concept of having a coach is still Western thinking or a fad for some.
On my part, I can easily say that a good mentor can create magic and add wings, both to your dreams and work.
What are some of the unique initiatives driven by you? It can be a social impact initiative or connected to support a specific community.
One of the consistent initiatives I indulge in is providing sports kits to underprivileged children. Participating in sports has made me stronger and helped me focus on possibilities, rather than impossibilities. I want these kids to believe that they can also create a brighter future.
SHEROES is the largest women-only social network in the world. What sort of role do you see it playing in the women’s internet narrative?
I honestly believe that SHEROES is a Game Changer. What women need is a community that helps them to grow and evolve, togetherness to share, and experiences to scale. SHEROES includes all of these and fosters it so beautifully.
I won’t be surprised if the next set of women politicians will campaign on SHEROES, and entrepreneurs will host startup talks because this platform will coach the fierce minds in tier-2 and tier-3 cities to have an ambition and to participate in the tech story of India.
How does it feel to be a catalyst in someone’s success? What has been your experience so far as an Internet Saathi mentor?
There is no joy greater than being of help to others. I take such opportunities up with great responsibility. I have mentored more than eight individuals including anchors and even given them opportunities to scale up in the Events Industry.
The kind of opportunities we created in Kalaneca for our weavers, to monetise profits, enabled them to open new shops in the city. We also have interns and employees from different colleges to work with us and derive maximum learning and benefit. It has indeed been a very special experience.
What are some of the unique challenges faced by the Internet Saathis you are mentoring? Was there anything in specific that took you by surprise?
The challenge would definitely be in convincing the Internet Saathis to spend time on video calls. They treat everything with a basic doubt – “Will I make money by doing this?”
So the challenge lies in attacking this prevailing old mindset and helping them to open up to newer ways of doing business. Also, internet connectivity has been a huge issue in my group with participants joining and going off, reappearing and so on.
What I enjoyed most was their vivaciousness and their outlook towards me, for example, there was this girl with purple hair who speaks in Telugu and she was so keen and loving.
Most of their innocent expressions are unfiltered and some of the best that I have witnessed so far. The mentoring programs allow them to see and believe that women can be different, can hold opinions, and do whatever they want in life.
Are there any interesting anecdotes you would like to share from your mentoring activities with the Internet Saathis?
Oh yes, one of the Internet Saathis, Dara Lakshmi, is so active that she joins solely with the only intention to learn. Even if the discussion is about the tailors or the Xerox shop, she sits through the session and listens.
What inspired you to agree to be a mentor for the Internet Saathi programme?
The word, Mentor, has such an impact that it prompts me to create that impact in my own way. An opportunity to partner with the visionary team of SHEROES only allows me to go back to grassroots and give back my learnings.
Also, the team is so vibrant with a well-structured plan, it was truly very easy to agree to be a part of the larger framework of this vision.
The Internet Saathi Programme is the first online accelerator for rural micro-entrepreneurs. Tell us about any unique experiments that you have tried to get them excited about leveraging digital tools during this startup mentorship program.
We have got three of our Internet Saathis to create masks using our Kalaneca saree. For this, we are also using GPay as the payment tool that they have been acquainted with, Google and WhatsApp for design references.
You have always been passionate about being an anchor and presenter. What was it that attracted you to this field?
The power of voice needn’t only be restricted to the stage and applause. The voice becomes more powerful when it can reach women who are born to make an impact but are looking for the right guidance.
The Internet Saathi programme provided me with the perfect way to harness the power of words to connect and grow mutually.
What were those challenges and lessons for the Internet Saathis?
One lesson for sure was to ignore the judgmental remarks from family when I asked them to change their WhatsApp DP, to become more camera-friendly and to learn the tactics of doing basic PR for their business.
You and your sister run your own business together. What has your entrepreneurial journey been like?
It’s been a journey of translating a hobby to a purpose. It was only two years ago that we decided to function in top gear. The journey wasn’t rosy, especially during COVID, but we learnt the most during these times.
We started with just one loom, one weaver and ten sarees and today we have with us 60 weavers across 180 looms in eight villages with countless sarees reaching women from across the globe.
Our narrative #wearyourpower has become synonymous with our brand, Kalaneca, as people are now exploring both power and finesse in our weaves.
Going to tiny villages and working with weavers, exploring the logistics and creating inventory in different cities for the benefit of our customers, creating bridal trousseau and bulk orders, designing our online portal Kalaneca.com – it has all has been a journey of immense hard work mixed with intense passion.
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.