Journey of a thousand miles starts with one small step; as did the journeys of these inspiring women we bring to you today.
Nina Lekhi began her journey armed with only a burning desire to succeed despite all odds. Launched in 1990, her venture Baggit has now become one of the most popular women handbag brands in the country, with the company having 44 exclusive stores across the country, and numerous online channels. Lekhi started her business from a scratch after failing her first year exams in the Arts course. She was devastated but soon overcame that heartbreak with her parent’s support. Instead of wallowing in self pity, she decided to use her time productively by attending part-time classes for screen printing and interior decoration. This was also the time when she started working as a salesgirl. The experience matured her and helped her later on in her life. She realized that there was a dearth of funky and contemporary bags made in India. Even though there was a lot of merchandise in the market that were both creative and quirky, like T-shirts with slogans, most of the handbags available in the market were purely utilitarian in purpose. All the fancy ones, if at all available, were imported. Lekhi wanted to change this dynamic, which led her to create her first set of tote bags which were sold in a few retail stores in Mumbai. The collection was well-received by consumers which urged her to experiment with various other materials. Today the brand is known for its light weight, easy to use, reusable, recyclable, and environment friendly products making it an instant hit. In spite of the success of Baggit, Lekhi has never strayed far from her roots; she continues to be an ardent practitioner of Siddha Samadhi yoga and closely follows the philosophy of cruelty-free beauty. This has brought the brand international recognition from various animal-rights activist groups that see it as a company with a soul. Her success in the field of women entrepreneurship was acknowledged and felicitated by the State of Maharashtra with the prestigious Business Karmayogini Award. She was also conferred with the Women Entrepreneur of the Year Award at the Entrepreneur India Awards 2015. Her achievements have led her to feature in the Fortune India’s Most Powerful Women List.
Ankita Sheth launched her entrepreneurial venture, Vista Rooms, in 2015 along with Pranav Maheshwari and Amit Damani. A former executive of OYO Rooms, she was inspired to start her very own venture with the intent to standardize budget hotels. Travel forms an integral part of her life as she is not only an avid traveler, but also had to travel a lot as part of her job. During her various stints with corporate houses, who usually housed their employees in budget hotels, Ankita got a sense of the fragmentary nature of these hotels. She was disappointed by the below par services, but was quick to see the potential that the venture held with a bit of a revamp. Vista Rooms began as a small pilot project in Mumbai and Pune and has slowly and steadily expanded over time to over 500 hotels in 60 cities. The brand is well- trusted with clientele boasting of both Indian and international travelers. Vista Rooms has arisen as one of the fastest growing accommodations aggregator in India, with the brand giving stiff competition to other companies like Zip Rooms, OYO Rooms, Zo Rooms and others, creating a niche for themselves in a fast growing market. Ankita’s success in this field is truly ground-breaking for she is the first woman to be a part of the budget hotel segment.
Shradha Sharma, the founder of Yourstory.com launched the online news portal back in 2008 which has now become one of India’s leading online platforms for first generation Indian entrepreneurs. The portal is the official online partner of CNBC TV18 Young Turks. Born and raised in Bihar, Shradha came to Delhi after she bagged an admission in St.Stephens, Delhi University. Prior to starting Yourstory, Shradha was one of the youngest Assistant Vice Presidents at CNBC TV18, and also a Brand Adviser at The Times of India. It was during this time that Shradha returned to her old passion of writing stories that she could share with the world. She started blogging, where she wrote about various Indian start-up companies. Her motive behind covering these start-ups was to give them a voice, for even though they were doing great things they hardly received any attention from people. The blog soon transformed into a website when people started taking notice of it due to its strong and unique content. The success that she has achieved could be clearly seen with the way the website has flourished over the years. Today her eight year old venture is backed by corporate bigwigs like Ratan Tata, Vani Kola, Mohandas Pai, and others. She has managed to create a one of its kind platform that has original business and entrepreneurship stories in 12 different languages. Her efforts in building an inclusive startup community was acknowledged in 2010, when she won the NASSCOM Ecosystem Evangelist Award. She also won the Villgro Journalist of the Year Award the same year, for covering over 2000 startups in a short span of one and a half years.
Suchi Mukherjee, founder of Limeroad.com, had always envisioned building a business that focused on simple consumer products, a dream that she successfully brought to life with her online lifestyle products portal. Completing her Bachelors in Arts specializing in Maths and Economics from the University of Cambridge, she went on to pursue her Master’s Degree in Finance and Economics from the London School of Economics. Suchi started her professional journey soon after her Masters, as the new Senior Associate for Lehman Brothers Inc in July 1998. She later went on to work for companies like Virgin Media, eBay, Skype, and Gumtree. However, even after all her professional achievements Suchi felt that she wasn’t giving a proper outlet to her ambitions. Her desire to do something by herself gave rise to the idea of Limeroad, a social-commerce platform that targeted mostly the woman audience with the aim of making it fun and exciting to discover, share, and shop from their vast list of products. Started with co-founder Ankush Mehra in 2012, the company has strengthened overtime. The site has a unique concept of creating 100% user generated content, which is exclusive to the site itself. All the products that are seen on the site are manufactured by the users of the site itself called the – scrapbooking community. This innovative idea gives people the opportunity to choose from a range of products to create a unique look that they can share with their friends, and can also sell. The platform’s current popularity could be gauged by the fact that Limeroad has now become the country’s premier crowd sourcing forum for creating the biggest online discovery platform.
Ishita Khanna founded Ecosphere, a joint social enterprise that works on the sustainable development of the cold desert mountain Spiti valley in the Trans-Himalayas of India, by focusing on economic empowerment, environmental conservation, and community development. The enterprise was first created as a combination of three non-governmental organizations- Muse, Spiti Trans-Himalayan Action Group (STAG), and Spiti Seabuckthorn Society (SSS), in 2010. However it soon turned into an internationally recognized and multiple award winning collaborative effort between the local community of Spiti and professionals from diverse backgrounds. Ecosphere has attempted to combine the traditional Buddhist systems of healing and health with modern science. Ishita uses Ecosphere’s department of travel as a way to offer an insight into the culture, nature, history, ecology, and legends of these valleys, while ensuring that visits to these pristine locales benefit their economy, conservation and development. The trips that are organized by Ecosphere offer glimpses of Tibetan Buddhism and culture, while staying in authentic homes, mountain biking, treks and hikes, mountaineering expeditions and rafting, bird watching, as well as floral and wildlife expeditions. It also offers attractive educational and volunteering tours, as well as culinary, special interest, and signature tours. Her efforts to protect the valley has been felicitated by various prestigious awards like the Wild Asia Responsible Award in 2008, the coveted Ashden Award-Global Energy Award for being a collaborator in the consortium of NGOs from Spiti and Ladakh, and others.
We wish these ‘incredible’ women entrepreneurs the very best for their future. May their tribe increase!