When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Undoubtedly, COVID-19 has been the biggest unforeseen disaster to strike the global economy in almost 100 years. The stock market has suffered, businesses — both big and small — have taken a hit, and thousands have lost their jobs in what can only be called the worst crisis of the century.
And yet, a few strong-willed ones refuse to succumb to the situation, including entrepreneurs at the helm of startups, small businesses, and even established enterprises. Their businesses too faced the brunt of the pandemic-induced hitches, including unprecedented shutdown, broken distribution and logistics chain, and a loss of market share due to the lockdown and consequent digitisation of most services.
But instead of shutting shop – a grim reality for the majority of India’s 30,000 odd startups – a few businesses have pivoted, diversified their offerings to tap on the bankable sectors, and managed to keep their head above the water.
Here is a look at five such businesses that are led by women.
Journey Weavers, founded by Shalini Raj
In 2015, Shalini Raj who was working as a marketing professional with Coca-Cola decided to take a sabbatical and look after her family. It was a critical time for her as it not only allowed her to focus on what she wants to do next but also spawned the idea of her travel startup Journey Weavers.
A one-stop destination for all travel solutions, the startup customised and offered experiential trips for families, employee incentive plan, and corporate offsite training.
Shalini’s next big moment unfolded this year. Faced with a growing number of challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic and the resultant travel restrictions, the entrepreneur had to make some changes. She decided to pivot and reinvent Journey Weavers as a wedding-focussed startup.
The idea is to do small and personalised weddings and make at least 50 percent of the Rs 2 crore business the startup reported last year.
BoxEngage, co-founded by Shivaarti Bajaj
Before the nationwide lockdown came into effect on March 24, Gurugram-based startup GoParties used to operate in the offline events segment. It functioned as an event discovery and ticketing platform, providing users with real-time data on nearby events. And the business was doing quite well, clocking an annual revenue of Rs 1.5 crore.
It was only in the wake of the new social distancing norms that Shivaarti Bajaj and her co-founders at GoParties saw the need to revisit their brand and business strategy. From an entertainment-tech model, they pivoted to provide virtual entertainment under the new moniker BoxEngage in March.
Today, the platform serves as a TikTok alternative and is already home to over 30 content creators and influencers.
Glimpse Analytics, co-founded by Darshika Joshi
The new order brought about by the pandemic mandates rigorous norms of social distancing. At least until vaccines and cures are ready and available for the mass market, this is our only weapon in fighting this virus. And helping people with a tech-driven solution in this mission is Pune-based Glimpse Analytics.
The startup, founded in 2018 by Darshika Joshi, along with Kedar Pataki and Kakshil Shah, uses AI-based analytics device to send alerts to stores or offices in cases of incidents violating social distancing and occupancy limit norms. It also rolls in a mechanism to make use of the CCTV cameras installed in brick-and-mortar stores and offices to offer customer analytics and data on customers, employees etc.
In case there are people without masks or violating social distancing rules, their hardware device, which has been repurposed for the COVID-19 times, can also send alerts through email, SMS and WhatsApp, etc.
Saral Designs, co-founded by Suhani Mohan
IIT Bombay alumnus Suhani Mohan co-founded Saral Designs in 2015 to solve the problem of menstrual hygiene for women. Aware of the status of menstrual awareness in India, the entrepreneur wanted to decentralise the production of sanitary napkins. So, along with her co-founder Kartik Mehta, an IIT Madras alumnus, she came up with the technology to build semi-automatic and automatic machines, called SWACHH.
This was around five years back. Little did Suhani know at the time that in a matter of a few years, her team would be completely repurposing their machine to meet the high demand for face masks.
Today, SWACHH 7.0 has the capacity to produce 40 masks per minute, helping India narrow the gap in the healthcare infrastructure amid a global pandemic.
Abiti Bella Enterprises, founded by Rakhi Khera
Masks, PPEs, and any kind of covering that provides shield against exposure to the coronavirus is the need of the hour. Rakhi Khera, Founder of Abiti Bella Enterprises, understood this when her online business went into a complete shutdown – what she calls, zero business – after the announcement of a nationwide lockdown in March. She realised that the only way she could tide through the times was by readapting and changing her business strategy.
Thus, Enklose was born. A reusable, washable overall, Enklose acts as a covering and can be worn in large housing societies, beauty salons, and hotel chains. Since pivoting, the entrepreneur has managed to sell around 1,000 pieces in 20 housing societies in Gurugram. While her kits and overalls are not a substitute for PPEs, they are convenient for service providers in low-risk zones.
(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)