Startup eSeries: The Rise of The Diva - Common Sense Living Newsletter
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Startup eSeries: The Rise of The Diva

Mar 05, 2015

Startup eSeries: The Rise of The Diva 

The Startup eSeries began with a woman entrepreneur. I have since had a difficult time alternating the women entrepreneurs with the men. Not because there aren't many women entrepreneurs, but because there are too many.

As a woman and an entrepreneur, this development is heartening... It's a sign of the times... it's the age of the triumphant Shakti... and it's a time, like The Representation Project says, to #AskHerMore!

As the number of women in business, professions and entrepreneurship increases, the need for them to find support systems also increases. Keeping this in mind, our featured entrepreneur Priyanka Awasthy co-founded Altavis Consulting and Biz Divas Foundation, both ventures that focus on the adequate representation of women in business and in the workforce.

Priyanka Awasthy

Priyanka's educational and career experience include studying in eleven towns and working with diverse corporate teams in India and abroad. Through all her experiences, she realised that there are common thought patterns and motivators among women across sectors.

Her insights into organisational culture and her commitment to the empowerment and participation of women in the economy became the foundation for both her ventures. Here, Priyanka gives us her views on the role of women in the economy, the evolving woman entrepreneur and the need for women to celebrate themselves. Read below the story in her words...

Focussing on the potential of women

Five years ago, my partners - Sarika Bhattacharya, Ranjana Deopa - and I quit our jobs to follow our dreams. We set up Altavis Consulting, a holistic talent management firm with a focus on inclusion. While setting up this venture, we realised the effort that goes into running a business. In the corporate world, you are provided infrastructure from day zero. You take so much for granted, like efficient systems and latest technology. On the other hand, in a start-up, you have to wear many hats. And thus we saw a need for a support system to connect young businesswomen and professionals with established women leaders and entrepreneurs.

This idea led to the birth of our non-profit Biz Divas Foundation, a CSR initiative that connects extraordinary women in business, the corporate world and public leadership to learn from and support each other.

A service that aids women

We identify, invest in, bring visibility to and connect enterprising women. Our Biz Divas Mentoring leadership program connects talented, emerging professional women from the corporate world, business and social sector to senior leaders from different organisations for a six month-long mentoring program. 

We also provide advocacy and research on gender issues and inclusive culture and its impact on India Inc. We organise an annual inclusive leadership event ‘I-Inspire' where over two hundred participants come together to learn and inspire. Our consulting firm Altavis Consulting, helps organisations develop and implement strategies to build inclusive and diverse workplaces. We also organize quarterly round table discussions across Asia to discuss best practices and strategies in this space.

Women have natural entrepreneurial traits

I believe women have all the attributes that make a successful entrepreneur. Women learn to multi-task and manage the budget of the family unit. They connect with people from all walks of life and deal with different generations on a day-to-day basis. They may have tiny enterprises like home-baked cakes or large garment manufacturing units. They may be highly-qualified, ex-working women venturing into business. They may belong to an established business family and branch out in a different field. Or they may be part of a husband-wife team.

They may be from any sector: like design, garments, services, gifting, art and decor, education, media, F&B etc. I would also caution against thinking of urban, educated women only. The women of poorer sections have long been small entrepreneurs in their own right and remain in the workforce much longer, though in the unorganised sector.

Don't hold yourself back

One challenge for women is the incapacity or reluctance to set aside funds and take significant risks for a new venture or for expansion. This also explains why tiny enterprises may fail to expand into SMEs. A self-limiting attitude can be an impediment for any entrepreneur, man or woman. You have to be an optimist and you have to keep in mind that there will be a gestation period.

Support and get supported

I know for a fact that established women leaders are always willing to help and give back. We need more networking forums and young women need to realise the significance of participating in these forums.

Biz Divas conducts an annual Mentoring Walk in four cities where senior women leaders as mentors interact with enterprising young women professionals and entrepreneurs to share their insights and knowledge. The knowledge partner for this event is Vital Voices. We are also organising this walk in Dhaka this year and in Singapore next year.

It only gets better for women from here

This is a time of great opportunity for women. Never before has corporate India been more welcoming to women in all sectors. I know of companies who give women-led manufacturing units precedence in awarding supplier contracts. There are special initiatives for providing funds to women-led SMEs by banks. There are special drives to hire and retain women across industries. The ecosystem for setting up a business is fairly neutral but operating a business in the current social framework and infrastructure needs much more work. There are still too few women in the organised sector.

Use the web to gain more flexibility

The World Wide Web is a wonderful enabler for women. The flexibility it affords is exactly what women need to manage their work and life. Like most enterprises, we also started out with a virtual office. The kind of technology available today is mind-boggling. You can manage your data, projects, research, organisational and networking needs entirely from your laptop. However this requires planning and discipline.

It all begins and ends at good work

I think once you make it clear that you are here for business and you are good at your work, it should not matter if you are a man or a woman. But some issues do arise as we operate in this patriarchal social milieu. Therefore there is a need to appear confident and be assertive when required. But let your work talk for you, there is really no substitute for hard work.

Good ideas, partnerships make a good business

It all begins with a good idea. And the idea will work if you have relevant work experience. Else, you can get a partner who has domain knowledge. In fact, it's always better to have partners - to divide the risk and multiply the effort. Then test your idea with friends and family. Be ready to innovate... For women, especially, I'd urge, please don't waste your talent and education. Believe you can make a difference.

It's about celebrating womanhood

For me celebrating Women's Day signifies two things - One, we women are special, we are important and we have a voice. Secondly, we support each other. So it would be a good idea to reach out to the women at work, in your family, your friends, teachers and thank them for their invaluable contribution that makes life better for everyone.


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3 Responses to "Startup eSeries: The Rise of The Diva"


08 Mar, 2015

If the women power is unleashed another 50% accelerated Industrial growth can be achieved! I have 2/3 ideas for upliftment. Pl contact.


07 Mar, 2015

Great. She deliver very sense, logic & practical. Unity between positive women make empower the society. This unity start from family, friends.....then make empower the society. Every human born for transform towards to positive society, before need to accept positive & negative with smile face. This is really very truthful, self experience from Priyanka ji. Keep on move further to transformation & empower.

Ananda Rao

06 Mar, 2015

The sentence "I think once you make it clear that you are here for business and you are good at your work, it should not matter if you are a man or a woman" is not only true but also correct (satyam). I recollect in 1970 s Ms Kiran Bedi took the spot of 1st IPS officer and since then it is noticed there is no restriction whether it is combat army, risky police duties or complex administration it is both men or women are taking positions. Mary Kom, Karanam Malleswari brought fame in Boxing and weight lifting and both come from conservative places Hence there is no need to recollect personalities such as Rani of Jahansi or Rani Ahalya Bai Holkar, Unfortunately, education has developed but not the educated. Section of Society still thinks women belong to weaker section forgetting the ugly reported episodes include men but villains are more robust and mute public are copying like cinema scripts where in computer aided graphics show a lone hero smashes army (not group) of villains. In view of multifaceted entrepreneurs, bureaucrats, political leaders the FilmJagat should come out with heroine oriented movies such as hunterwali not Mother India and BCCI should promote more sports for women (that has already been initiated). Thankfully, this year PM desired Nari Shakti as main theme for Republic Day Parade.


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