Who are India’s Digital Cinderellas ?

by March 8, 2018 0 comments

Meet 10 inspiring women who not only created a successful brand online, but a new category itself.


  1. Falguni Nayar, Nykaa (Personal Care)

Former investment banker turned entrepreneur created a history when she founded this beauty and personal care portal. Yes we are talking about Falguni Nayar. With limited resources, she was quick to discern that beauty was an untapped market in India, and would explode soon. She drew strength from entrepreneurial giants like Ronnie Screwvala of UTV and Ajay Bijli of PVR Cinemas. Their confidence and ability to turn things in their favour inspired her, and
she soon plunged into uncertain waters. Her gamble paid off. With its headquarters in Mumbai, Nykaa has progressed significantly since its inception. Now, it has around 400 brands and offers around 40,000 products on its website.

The idea of Nykaa came from Nayar’s experience of feeling empowered when she visited multi-brandbeauty stores like Sephora. She recounts that even though she was never a regular consumer of beauty products, she would leave with hundreds of dollars’ worth of products. And this, she maintains, was because
the sales associates showed her the right way to use them. They also recommended the best beauty products for her, without any bias, a practice Nayar feels is not available in single brand stores. It was this that she wanted to bring to India.


2. Suchita Salwan, Little Black Book (Directory Service)

While working as a marketing executive for BBC in New Delhi, Suchita Salwan would spend her weekends exploring the city—a spunky new bar, a cultural hotspot or shops that offered a great bargain. What started in 2012 as a blog on Tumblr, to help her friends discover Delhi anew, now has 1.5 million monthly active users and a loyal Twitter following. Aptly called Little Black Book, the service, which includes a website and an app, currently offers local recommendations and discoveries for food, events, lifestyle and cultural dos across three cities—Delhi, Bengaluru and Mumbai.

Now the company is known for being the millennial generation’s guide to exploring their cities. The company has well-established names like Google’s Rajan Anandan and IDG Ventures as its investors. It has registered a user base of 2 million and is now  looking at expanding to Asia Pacific as well. In an interaction with VCCTV, Salwan talks about the company’s growth plan and other issues.


3. Shubra Chadda, Chumbak (Lifestyle)

Shubhra Chadda, 37, had long been toying with the idea of turning entrepreneur. She even knew the business she wanted to be in but was “never really brave enough to resign from a well-paying corporate job”. It was only in 2008, when she took a break from her job as a marketer at the data storage and management company NetApp, after her daughter’s birth, that she decided that it was “now or never”. Her idea was simple: To cater to the consumer whose need for a good gifting option wasn’t satisfied. “I wanted to create a range of fun souvenirs for India and Indians,” she says.

Chadda spent a year fleshing out the concept, design, suppliers, pricing and retail strategy, and founded Chumbak out of Bengaluru in March 2010 with her husband Vivek Prabhakar, who continued with his full-time job at Sun Microsystems. Their first product range included magnets, keychains and cushion covers.
The couple had to sell their house for Rs 40 lakh to start the company. It was a gamble, she agrees, but one that has paid off well. (They now live in their own 3-BHK in the city.)

Within the first six months, the company broke even. Prabhakar quit his job at Sun Microsystems and joined Chumbak full-time in 2011 as CEO to look after marketing and sales, while Chadda continues to oversee design and product development.


4. Sairee Chahal Sheroes, Women Community Platform

Sairee Chahal, founder of Sheroes.in symbolizes the intelligent idealism that a woman entrepreneur should possess. Sairee Chahal has the quality of empowering women, a trait that seeps through the
fabric of her timeless entrepreneurial career. I had the sensation of deciphering the meaning of Shero- Every woman who makes a choice and makes it work for her is a SHERO. The company was founded in January in the year 2014. Sairee Chahal is determined to nurture a community of working women. She is doing her very best in empowering women by providing various work from home jobs in India. She is in fact working like an accomplished sculptor to help women find all the resources that provide tangible work satisfaction
and a perfect work-life balance. She also happens to be the co-founder of Fleximoms, an indispensable ally to every civically conscious person who is in need of a flexible job.

Her robust initiative has already helped over 10,000 women and interestingly, these women belong to diverse categories- returning professionals, interns, entrepreneurs, corporate employees, work from-home freelancers etc. Apart from offering rewarding jobs, Sheroes.in anchors various other initiatives such as mentoring, tutoring, coaching resources, educational workshops, community meets and job fairs. India produces the highest number of
graduates in the world but the underlying paradox is that very few women work in formal workforce. Sheroes.in addresses the requirements of women and rewards them with formal work roles.


5. Richa Singh, YourDOST (Psychology Consultation)

Hailing from a typical middle class family, Richa Singh grew up in an environment where entrepreneurship is neither practised and have a settled life. After completing graduation in the field of Usability
Engineering, Human Computer Interaction and Interaction Design at IIT Guwahati, Richa has worked with various organisations such as Product Manager at Webfluenz, MuSigma and o9 Solutions.
In late 2014, Richa got together with Puneet Manuja, IIM-B alumnus and Prakhar Verma, a computer science graduate from BMSCE, Bangalore to start YourDOST – a company that revolves around bringing emotional wellness solutions to users who can seek
support from psychologists and other experts while staying completely anonymous.


In November 2015, her company raised Rs.2.5 Crore in an angel funding round, a sum that she and her co-founders are investing
in marketing and expansion initiatives.


6. Pranshu Bhandari, Hello English (Learning English)

Pranshu Bhandari Patni who is trying to change the way India learns and speaks the English language. Pranshu is a Co-Founder of CultureAlley, which has developed Hello English, an interactive, mobilebased application that allows speakers of 16 different
vernacular languages to learn English right on their phones. The idea which was developed out of Jaipur, went on to become the No. 1 English learning and speaking app on the Google Play store in India, within eight months of its launch. Apart from India, Hello English is the number one education app in Nepal, Bangladesh, and many countries in the Middle East. Launched in October 2014, it already has a subscriber base of 1.2 crores and has received an overwhelmingly positive response with an average rating of 4.5/5 with over 1.6 lakh reviews. The app uses gamification and speech recognition to enable highly engaging learning models. Bite-sized

lessons are clubbed with interactive games, with rewards at every pit stop. It also uses contextualization, wherein users can keep up with their English while reading daily news and watching videos. The beauty of the app is that majority of the features even work
offline.  After her and her partner’s app, CultureAlley that focussed on teaching languages like Spanish and Mandarin, Pranshu quickly realized that there was a bigger market at home for English. But the quality of tutors and content was sub par. It was then that Hello English came into being. Hello English mixes context and gamification to teach adults the language in the real world to make it
interesting. Users can also be on Twitter or Facebook, reading the news in English and translate selected text in native languages so they understand it better. The platform continues to support people from across the country in their creative endeavours and show Indians that talent lies beyond Bollywood and Tollywood.


7. Richa Kar, Zivame (Lingerie)

Richa Kar is the founder and CEO of Indian lingerie e-retailer Zivame. A native of Jamshedpur, India, she completed her undergraduate work in engineering at BITS Pilani in 2002. After a few years working in IT, she proceeded to the Narsee Monji
Institute of Management Studies, completing her masters in 2007.
After completing her graduate work, Kar worked for Spencers and SAP retail consulting, gaining valuable retail experience that would carry her into the start-up world. During her time at SAP, she found
herself working with the Limited, which owns lingerie company Victoria’s Secret. While she was studying the Indian lingerie market, she realized that the social discomfort surrounding lingerie shopping was causing myriad issues for both shoppers and retailers. To

remedy this, she created Zivame, named from the Hebrew word for “radiance,” to help women understand their lingerie needs and browse and purchase styles without embarrassment. With co-founder Kapil Karekar (who left the company in 2012), Kar borrowed Rs 30 lakh from friends and family to finance her new endeavor. They launched from a small office space on August 25th,
2011, receiving their first order 5 hours later. As the business grew, the company sought funding, raising $9 million in two rounds from investors including IDG Ventures, Kalaari Capital and Unilazer Ventures. Within three years of its launch, Zivame had grown from a
small operation to a team of more than 200 members. It is now India’s leading online lingerie store, offering more than 5,000 styles, 50 brands and 100 sizes.


8. Neetu Bhatia KyaZoonga (Sports Ticket)

Neetu Bhatia is the co-founder, chairman and CEO of Kyazoonga. This national level cricketer created India’s first entertainment and sports ticketing company. While visiting family in India, she realized
that there was no way of knowing about or getting tickets to the events she was interested in going to. And so she set out to create Kyazoonga.

Kyazoonga is India’s first and largest online ticketing company established in 2007. It is also the only ticketing company from the Indian subcontinent to have qualified as a finalist for an Olympics ticketing bid. It is also the only ticketing company in the subcontinent to have ticketed a major international event – the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011, all forms of international cricket (ODI, Tests, T20s), several domestic cricket leagues and matches and Olympic style multiple sporting events and venues. It is also one of
the official ticketing partners for Kings XIPunjab in the eighth season of Indian Premiere League. Launched in 2007, it is headquartered in Mumbai, Maharashtra. It also has offices in New Delhi and Pune.


9. Kanika Tekriwal, JetSetGo (Personal Aviation)

JetSetGo is sometimes called the Uber of the Indian skies, a plane and helicopter chartering operation that can make inroads in a region that has lagged in using aviation for personal transportation.  It was founded in 2014 by Kanika Tekriwal, who is still running the outfit, throttle back, at age 28. (She made Forbes’ initial Asia Under 30 list last year.) The Bhopal native, who collected an M.B.A. abroad to go with a precocious aero-interest, aims to make private flying in India more transparent, economical and efficient. She caters to clients ranging from business execs visiting factories in the hinterlands to politicians making five pit-stops a day during elections to tourists who want to land at quaint spots off the commercial
airline grid.

JetSetGo also offers management services for aircraft owners–taking care of in-flight and onground services including safety and maintenance checks. Revenues at the Delhi company have grown from $64,200 in fiscal 2015 to $3.2 million in fiscal 2016 to a projected $17 million for the year that ended in March. Profits, the company maintains, are at 10% of revenues.


10. Vineeta Singh, Fab Bag (Beauty Subscription)

Vineeta Singh is the co-founder of Fab Bag, India’s largest beauty subscription service. At 23, she was featured on the cover of the WEEK for being the first and youngest B-school graduate to decline an INR 1 Crore placement offer from a global investment bank to start up her own HR services company.

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