The pandemic has prompted many to make the most of the lockdown period to rediscover long-forgotten hobbies and delve deep into their areas of interest. With people spending more time than ever at home, the side hustle has emerged not only as a new stream of daily motivation but also as a way to secure finances. While many businesses have taken a dip during COVID-19, new ones have found their place in the market.
Here are five women who have grown their enterprises during the pandemic.
Sahej Marwah, 24, Mumbai
I’m a writer and I needed something to do physically which is why I enjoy baking. This time last year, I wanted to take my passion forward and started my baking business ‘Crumbs! By Sahej’ because you know what they say, “If you’re good at something, don’t do it for free”. Since I’d never done this professionally, I didn’t know a lot of the dos and don’ts but, you learn with experience.
Now, on average, I have about 20 unique customers a month who will usually order two-three items. Having specific menus especially during festival seasons when people rely on sweet things has really worked for me.
After a few trial runs, I also realized that I could ship brownies and cookies out of the state and that has really opened up the gates for a lot of things. It’s hectic to build a business and work all day, so I’ve now tried to mould my business model around those.
Anantika Mehra, 27, Mumbai
In 2019, while applying for my PhD, I started teaching Mandarin privately while also working at a part-time job. I learned Mandarin while doing my undergraduate studies in Hong Kong. But, because I come from an academic family, it was always assumed that I would get my PhD and become a teacher, not really venture into entrepreneurship.
It was in April last year when I decided to switch to an online format, I thought let me just start with introduction sessions. Now I’ve been able to establish ‘Mandarin With Anantika’ and have taught over 200 people, while other batches are still in progress.
Although I would love to return to China to finish a higher diploma in Mandarin in the future, I’m currently focused on expanding this initiative. Entrepreneurship has worked out well for me because now I’m able to set my own schedule and boundaries.
Tarang Sinha, 41, Delhi
I am a bilingual writer, novelist, and translator. A few years ago, I suddenly developed a keen interest in watercolour painting so much so that I bought the art materials and decided to try it. It was surprising, as I was never interested in painting or drawing in school or college. I switched to acrylics last year and I'm thoroughly enjoying this medium.
As I started getting better, I mustered the courage to put the tag 'for sale' on my painting. My first commissioned painting boosted my confidence. But, to be honest, selling paintings online is not a cakewalk.
I have just started this journey and I have a long way to go. Having sold a couple of paintings, I now feel confident enough to teach and have successfully conducted six workshops so far. I have also just started my YouTube channel, ‘Paint With Tarang’ on which I want to work dedicatedly.
I feel that managing my time is a bit of a challenge as I am a writer, homemaker and mother of a super active kid. So, it's a bit difficult to get uninterrupted time to paint, try different techniques and experiment. But you seldom get time, you have to make time. Down the line, I'd like to create my own brand of acrylic colours and art materials.
Neethu Sreedhar, 32, Kerala-UK
Before buying our house in 2019, I spent around a year and a half just going to look at show homes because I had a keen interest in seeing how they were set up and made functional.
After purchasing our home, I was in the process of buying furniture and it was taking forever. When I ran a poll on Instagram, most people said that it took over three months to finalize one piece of furniture. That’s how my husband and I landed on this idea of building a tool to facilitate furniture discovery.
With Kasera, we have over 100 retailers on our platform so that buyers don’t have to go to each individual website. Comparing all the items and selection becomes much easier. As a lawyer, interior design was a tough nut to crack as I didn’t have much experience. But now I’m doing a course to understand better.
Right now we’re a small team of four, but we’re looking to expand in Europe and the USA. I’m a new mom which meant that all my sleepless nights were also utilized to respond to customer service requests.
Sakshi Sharma, 25, Madhya Pradesh
I am currently a Gwalior-based clinical psychologist, but I have been making art since I was a child. Even after long days of studying and working, I would make time to pick up my colors and make art. I loved it so much that I would do requested artworks for people in my circle. It was in 2017 when I received my first order for a pencil sketch. After that, I began doing commissioned works for clients on the side. I am also currently working on a concept-based series of portraits from the past two years for a solo exhibition. From pencil sketches to large paintings to wearable art including accessories like shoes and earrings, I work on a variety of projects.
Art is all about feelings, expressing, and understanding and I want to pursue it full-time someday. But as of now, I am focused on my work as a clinical psychologist and would like to contribute to my field of work while also creating art and beautifying spaces on the side.
Eventually, I see myself doing solo exhibitions all over India and around the world to showcase my art form.
(Edited by Amrita Ghosh)