The social entrepreneurs

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Social media has become a smart platform for entrepreneurial housewives to showcase and promote their businesses. Surekha Kadapa-Bose profiles a few of these women and tells us how their success stories were scripted.

Riddhika Jesrani, Monya Dhingra, Sheel Mody, Chaitali Patel, Vandana Shah and Deepti Lav are not friends, do not live in the same city, are of different age groups and come from diverse backgrounds, but these women have one thing in common – they are homemakers-turned-business owners, who have expertly leveraged the reach of social media to fulfil their cherished dream of having a productive career. Technology has enabled each one of these ingenious entrepreneurs, who till a few years ago could never have imagined running an enterprise from home and without compromising on their family commitments, to “expand their universe and connect with others faster than ever.” In fact, today, there is a growing number of women who are attempting to set up their own venture because sourcing, delivering and reaching out to people is now just a click away.

Crafting jewellery, baking up a storm
“I use social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Twitter to inform my family, friends and friends of friends about the products I customise and deliver in quick time,” says Riddhika Jesrani, a jewellery designer well-known for her graphic designed pieces. According to smart entrepreneurs like her and others, setting up one’s own work is not as difficult as once imagined. “All you need is a good smart phone and you are good to reach out to the world. Add to that some astute entrepreneurial skills, a little smooth sales talk and a working knowledge of social media platforms like how to upload pictures on Instagram or give regular updates on Facebook and you’re in business. However, you need to have a circle of friends online and offline to get going,” she says.

Monya Dhingra, another career woman who has turned to full-time baking, is glad that technology has enabled her to rescue her professional life

Monya Dhingra, another career woman who has turned to full-time baking, is glad that technology has enabled her to rescue her professional life

Jesrani, who worked as a graphic designer in New York before shifting base to her home city Mumbai, makes personalised as well as designer pieces with glass beads and metal ranging from a modest Rs. 1,000 up to Rs.40,000. She has a very interactive Facebook page and always stays personally connected to her clients in New York, Dubai and cities across India. Besides, she also retails from fashion stores like Electric in Mumbai and Bloom in the national capital.

Her colleagues in the jewellery designing business too rely heavily on the Internet to drum up business for them. Terracotta jewellery designers, Kozhikode-based Ramya, who owns her own brand Prakrithi and Bengaluru-based Deepti Lav, the talent behind Maitre Crafts, use Facebook and WhatsApp to stay in touch with buyers spread all over the world. Likewise, Chaitali Patel and Vandana Shah of Om Creative Creations from Surat, Gujarat, love to upload pictures of their latest works on WhatsApp and clients can place orders through the same channel. Incidentally, Chaitali and Vandana’s creations were an absolute craze among shoppers in the festival season in 2015.

Apart from the jewellery designers, it’s the amateur pastry chefs who have taken the online commerce space by storm. Sheel Mody, 29, a Mumbai-based cosmetologist, had hoped to run a clinic from her home space but when she began working towards setting it up she was informed that it was against the bylaws of the cooperative housing society she was staying in. Although her best laid plans went south, Mody was not disheartened. Instead, she began focusing on her other passion – baking. “I figured that no housing society can stop anyone from cooking! So armed with my dormant passion for baking, a good oven and some good quality ingredients I made a few cakes, photographed them and put them up for sale on my Facebook page,” she reveals.
That maiden batch of absolutely gorgeous looking confections was sold out in no time. And that’s when Frosted Heaven was born. “The instantaneous, positive response I received made me realise that this was a sound business opportunity. And I was right. I am constantly getting inquires and orders for cup cakes, pastries and other kinds of desserts,” she says.

With products ranging between Rs. 800 and Rs.9,000 and a minimum of two to three orders a day, Mody is doing well and makes around `40,000 a month. Naturally, she has to be on her toes as the competition from other home-bakers, professionals and the large bakeries in the city is quite tough. Not only does she continuously innovate in the menu she offers, but she does a fair bit of networking to expand her client base as well.

Sheel Mody has embraced her passion for baking to build a booming business

Sheel Mody has embraced her passion for baking to build a booming business

Like Mody, Monya Dhingra, another career woman who has turned to full-time baking, is glad that technology has enabled her to rescue her professional life. Following marriage Dhingra, 37, moved to Hyderabad from Delhi. Having worked as a corporate sales executive for Hidesign she really didn’t know how to handle all the free time she suddenly had on her hands. Not ready to settle into routine domesticity she decided to revive her baking skills, which were greatly admired by friends and relatives.

Dhingra launched ‘Sweet Buds’ in 2012. In the beginning, Facebook was her avenue to let the world know about the sweet treats she baked with such care and attention to detail. These days, she operates more through WhatsApp and Instagram. “I had never once thought that I would be able to earn a good living by simply baking,” she remarks.

Two reasons drive her success. Firstly, Hyderabad is a tech savvy city where everyone is comfortable accessing the Internet and secondly, the local residents truly believe in marking every occasion in a big way – “No celebration whether its birthdays, weddings, anniversaries or reunions are done on a small scale”. It’s not uncommon for Dhingra to get orders to the tune of 1,000 to 1,200 cup cakes per event. “On one occasion there was a couple that had ordered a 36 kilo cake to celebrate the first birthday of their twins!” she says.

What this artful baker enjoys most about her new-found profession is the kick she gets from personally giving the finishing touches to each and every item that leaves her bakery. “I have help to do the mixing, baking, packing and delivery. But when it comes to decoration, I don’t allow anyone to touch the goods. I do it myself after talking to the client at length about the event and how s/he would want the sweets to look. Showcasing my creativity is my stress buster!” she elaborates.
This probably is why Hindi film producer Vasu Bhagnani had chosen Sweet Buds to supply cakes during the Hyderabad shoot of the Sajid Khan directed and Ajay Devgn starrer Himmatwala. Besides them, several other celebrities from the South Indian film industry love to order her cakes.

No cakewalk this
Of course, it’s not all that simple for these industrious businesswomen. One major problem that the bakers in particular face is related to logistics. Whereas they are able to cater to the demands within their city there are some inherent challenges. They need to have a very good delivery service that can guarantee on time delivery without spoiling their confectionaries. Indeed, many a time, if the cake is very intricate they have to either deliver it themselves or rely on family members to do the job.
For those dealing in jewellery, apparel, furnishings or accessories, the problem of delivery is not so tough. Most use a regular courier service to send stuff within India and can even ship things easily anywhere in the world. Says Jesrani, “Only when the jewellery ordered is very expensive do customers normally request their friends or relatives to carry it with them. The rest of the time I use a standard courier to get things dropped off.”

At a time when India is ready to support the entrepreneurial spirit of its people through schemes like Make in India and Start Up India, there are definite advantages to striking out on one’s own. These social media powered entrepreneurs have shown how it’s done.


(© Women’s Feature Service)

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