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Arunima Maharshi

IWB Blogger

SheThePeople’s Founder Shaili Chopra Talks On What To Expect In ‘Digital Women Awards 2019’

  • IWB Post
  •  November 20, 2019

In the last decade, India’s Startup landscape has seen tremendous growth, and digitalisation of business models holds a significant contribution. According to the sixth economic census released by Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, 35% of the startups in India are directed by women, and who come not just from established business families but from all walks of life, and from all parts of the country.

To celebrate this spirit of Women Entrepreneurship and give more strength to the Women Startup Ecosystem, SheThePeople.TV launched the prestigious Digital Women Awards in 2015. This year marks the fifth edition of the summit that aims to celebrate talent, entrepreneurship, innovation, and creation, by and among women who are building businesses using the internet.

Senior business journalist and an accomplished author, Shaili Chopra is a prominent name in the digital realm, and an inspiration for aspiring journalists and women entrepreneurs. In 2015, she founded SheThePeople.TV with a vision to inspire women with stories of role models and strike a conversation on women empowerment, and alongside came into existence the awards.

As the official Media Partner this year, Indian Women Blog interacted with Shaili ahead of the summit, “when we began five years ago, we didn’t realise it would become a movement. Today SheThePeople receives thousands of applications from across India – Salem, Siliguri, Nashik, Calicut  because really in these cities, women are creating new businesses. Flower jewellery, baby clothes, Internet of Things, Crypto Currency, and more.”

Broadly divided in six categories, ‘Content, Marketing, Disruption, Impact, E-commerce and Leadership’, there will be five awardees in each; from award categories and this year’s layout, to hold of women in E-leadership and gender disparities in the digital world, our conversation took many turns. Excerpts below:

Shaili Chopra - Digital Women Awards

How can the digital space aid women in coming to the forefront in the field of business?

Digital is the biggest plank for women since the suffragette movement for rights. It spells an opportunity to speak up, share perspective, explore new work, find a new network, have a presence and do business. To be able to create and take an idea into reality – that has become possible through the internet. It’s no longer about hoardings, marketing is about telling stories and taking a business from no where to somewhere using the vehicle of digital.

Based on your personal experience, how do gender rules – the existent disparities – interrupt the generation of revenues in the digital space? 

I believe the digital world and the real world are yet quite similar when it comes to gender disparities. However, this is changing. The power of digital has led women to find a collective voice and recognise that they together are a huge market and a source of business and revenues. Internet trends and women – India made the biggest leap in the world in closing the mobile internet gender gap.

Societies with greater gender equality not only offer better socioeconomic opportunities for women, but also tend to grow faster and more equitably. As a connector to this women are becoming savvy and looking at the following:

  • Focusing on bigger value chain work
  • Hiring more women and promoting more women
  • That the entrepreneurial ecosystem can be male dominated, hence new networks are emerging.

At SheThePeople we have featured over 150,000 stories. Of these about 50,000 are of women entrepreneurs.

Talk a little about your selection process for the ‘Impact’ category. With so many worthy digital platforms, what is that one qualifying aspect that every application must possess?

The parameters that our judges look at include the following – creativity, innovation, revenue possibilities, growth potential, impact, filling the gap in the market, outcome driven, etc. What we don’t focus to consider are whether or not the platform has raised funds previously or what their GMV (Gross Merchandising Volume) is. These two factors are not critical as jury selects the winners because ideas and the founder’s vision and problem-solving approach, are far more important for long term success. Our jury in the last five years has included Amitabh Kant, Mohandas Pai, Ankhi Das, Akila Urankar, Shivya Nath, Devita Saraf, Elsamarie DSilva, and many more.

Drawing context from the ‘Disruption’ category, how would you encourage women to own the title of ‘Disruptor’?

Disruptors take a chance on themselves. Risk, new ideas and out of the box thinking underscore any disruption. People trying to disrupt, break status quo and don’t play the same game in the market. I consider myself a disruptor because it takes guts to stand up in a digital content market and create India’s first platform for women to empower, engage and elevate and go beyond their vanity needs.

Shaili Chopra - Digital Women Awards

How strong is the hold of women in E-Leadership in your opinion?

I believe it’s a growing space. Women founders continue to overcome challenges to come out shining. Today India’s internet is 29% female. This will grow to at least 50% in the new few years.  It’s important for Digital India to succeed without recognising that women are not just a big market, but also a huge driver of the internet and the economy. I am convinced if our women in the workforce numbers are dismal at 27% as a nation, then the internet is where the correction can come from.

Startups continue being attractive for investors, despite that women-led startups are not funded enough, and are often overlooked. How can the direction of wind be changed in this regard?

One recent stat I read said that just 2.2 percent of venture capital went to women-led businesses in 2018 in the United States, and for women of color, that number is even smaller. I am guessing the ratios will be similar in India. This needs to change, but it won’t overnight, since it does take a different mindset for investors/ VCs to recognise that women are often no different or just as prolific as their male counterparts. More and more women are acquiring tech skills, and then there are those who believe people with skills can be acquired to fill the gaps. We do need more investors and funds looking to fulfill the gap of investment flow into women run and women oriented businesses.

In what ways can events like ‘Digital Women Awards’ contribute to strengthen the women startup ecosystem?

I believe our most rewarding effort has been consolidating the community together. Women from across India apply for this. There is a sisterhood of women entrepreneurs and we have this group for them to join and share their needs/ experiences etc. We also invite many alumni. For example, Pooja Dhingra was a winner in 2015 and she is back to reflect on her journey in 2019. We have Tracy DSouza of Girliapa, Rashi Sanon of HUFT, Ruchi Makkad of ASAP, Rajvi Sanghi of Hobb Nobb, all coming to the event to meet, network and support.

And lastly, what would be your advise in matters of self-promotion skills for women belonging to underrepresented groups?

  • Be searchable, put yourself out there
  • Make it but don’t fake it
  • Use social media, and ‘be’ social. Don’t just ‘do’ social
  • Have an opinion, speak publicly, take a stance
  • Your career is your business
  • Your voice will impact your business, know it.

Indian Women Blog has come together with SheThePeople in honouring the power-women. The new entrepreneurial energy can indeed take India to the next level and put women at the forefront. 

The Digital Women Awards are to be held on 23rd November, at the Crowne Plaza, In Gurgaon. Are you ready to be a part of this journey? 

#DigitalWomenAwards #WomenEntrepreneurs

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