New Indian platforms are teaching women the most difficult thing – how to network

   2023-05-06 08:05

New Delhi: At 38, Stuti did not consider herself a “working professional”. She had already been a freelance fashion writer, designer, and soft skills trainer for nearly a decade. But none of them fit into the conventional shoes of a doctor or a lawyer.

That’s when she found out about a new-age community that mentors women and transforms how they work and network in India. It takes a village of learners, after all. She joined and Kool Kanya, start-up platforms that help professional women advance their careers.

From Faye D’Souza, Indra Nooyi, and Adwaita Nayar to top executives from Google, Spotify, and Bumble,  Stuti has been in the front row of several intimate conversations organised by these platforms that touch upon mentorship, networking, imposter syndrome, and being a woman in business. helped her navigate her networking anxieties and find working opportunities, and Kool Kanya hand-held her through the complex world of money management to become financially literate.

These platforms are building an exclusive hybrid community for women across demographics, age groups, and fields to network, upskill and find jobs.

It is no longer just about shattering the glass ceiling. In the new economy, growth depends on how robust your network is.

Companies like Kool Kanya, Sheroes, and are helping women find the ‘right’ people to climb their way up to the top.

“Women traverse through expectations from everyone around them, be it parents, in-laws, or children’s teachers. When the stakes are so high, it becomes easier to tackle a situation when someone gives you a hack,” said journalist Faye D’Souza during a hybrid session with members in Mumbai.

Also Read: Not just brother vs brother. Bharat Forge to Hinduja, women are fighting for family business

Speed date your way to the next job

Three months after Rukmini, a Delhi-based illustrator, and marketer, received a membership as a surprise gift from her partner, she was called in for a virtual huddle with the new members.

The stage was set. A group of twenty-odd women, from across the country, popped up in small windows. They were soon segregated into groups of four to five. Within minutes, her group comprising a lawyer from Mumbai, an environmentalist from Bengaluru and a baker from Indore was buzzing with conversations.

“I was shocked to see how easy it was to connect with this group of strangers. We could relate to each other despite being at different stages of our careers,” Rukmini said.

Besides the online huddle sessions for the newbies, it is the offline events like leap (af)fair that members most look forward to. They take place in metro cities like Delhi, Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Hyderabad.

Stuti attended her first leap (af)fair in December 2022. Over 500 women occupied the large expanse of DLF Promenade in Delhi; conversations and laughter flowed. In one corner was a curated flea market comprising member-owned brands selling art supplies, gold-plated jewellery, versatile sustainable clothing, bags, and hair products tailored for curly hair. On the other end, there were painting boards encouraging women to express themselves and get ‘vegan’ condoms by the brand Salad in return.

In another corner, women had gathered to listen to top executives from Adidas and consulting firm Bain & Company in a dialogue on ‘bridging the confidence gap’. “If you want to get things done, you need to be okay with not being nice” — was the one big takeaway from the talk.

But what Stuti enjoyed the most was the speed networking session – a bit like speed dating, but aimed at boosting the confidence to network.

160 women, ten minutes, and three rounds with complete strangers.  Stuti, who had worked remotely for most of her professional life, said it was a brilliant tailor-made opportunity for her to meet new people.

“You automatically feel at ease when there is a woman on the other end,” she said, recalling her experience of being part of a club, prior to

Within seconds of being paired with each other, a solid rapport formed.. Questions, often prompted, like ‘What is something you realised about yourself within the last year’, ‘What is the hardest thing you had to face in your career’, and ‘What do you think you are amazing at’, kickstarted the conversations.

Besides networking and leads on jobs, these opportunities often result in solid friendships.

“Just as the networking event ended, I heard a girl, who I had not interacted with yet, crack a joke. We instantly vibed. It is so much easier to connect with like-minded women,” said Nitsimar, a 27-year-old Gurugram-based lawyer who has been a member since June 2022.

Also Read: What reports on Indian women’s falling participation in labour force don’t tell you

Career challenges, networking anxieties

After working at an advertising company for four years, Rukmini switched fields to fintech in 2021. But something was missing.

She realised that the job was great on paper, but it didn’t provide an enabling environment for mentorship. That’s also when she was hit by imposter syndrome.

“I became unsure of my achievements and was losing confidence in my work. I was going through an imposter syndrome of sorts,” she recalled. It impacted her professional life severely.

But now, Rukmini says, she has a thriving community of women at her fingertips to bank upon.

“We must learn from men. They have no imposter syndrome” — a quote by Faye D’Souza from a recent event is an indicator that Rukmini is not alone.

The app, which can only be accessed by members, has a feed similar to LinkedIn. It allows members to post anything from a note of gratitude to a financial query or comment to help others. Another section allows users to connect with others depending on their needs. A separate section is dedicated to ongoing or upcoming events, both paid and free. These range from a ‘Dialogue on mentorship with Faye D’Souza’ to a session on ‘The relationship between diet and lifestyle’. A curated list of podcasts and videos by founders and executives of Colgate-Palmolive, Sleepy Owl, Maven, Jigsaw Thinking, and others await in another category. Yet another popular and buzzing section is devoted to clubhouses —  ‘readers club’, ‘the founders’ forum’, ‘all about parenting’, ‘city clubs’, ‘mental health’, ‘the workplace roundtable’, ‘binge or cringe’ and over a dozen others. A member can also avail additional benefits like consulting career and wellness coaches.

A section on jobs, a new addition to the app, is’s primary focus at the moment.

“After three years of understanding what women want, now we are building new verticals. Our first product beyond networking is jobs. We launched it in the last two months. We are connecting top companies to the top 1 per cent of talent we have,” Ragini Das, the co-founder said.

Jobs postings include solutions engineer, data scientist, finance manager, technology specialist, business head and graphic designer from companies like Uber, Zomato, Plum, Wow Skin Science, Boston Consulting Group, Tata 1mg, and Paytm Insider.

At its inception, the assumption was that the platform is best suited for women with eight-15 years of work experience as that is the period when they require coaching, networking, and access to opportunities.

“We realised that it could be relevant for someone with 30 years of experience as well as for a woman with three years of experience,” said Das, while sitting in her Gurugram office.

Also Read: India’s women entrepreneurs look to survive the pandemic by remodeling their business

‘Be your own hero’

Stuti was stuck in a rut when she came across an art therapy session by Members were asked to visualise themselves as an object and then create it using clay. Stuti made a cat and wrote ‘Be your own hero’ underneath it.

It was a simple task but it forced her to think out of the box and helped her refocus her attention.

Stuti’s newfound passion for exploring her potential and upskilling led her to Kool Kanya’s course on finance. “Explain finance to me like I am 6” — reads the description of the course known as ‘Finance Pass’.  It is priced at Rs 4,999 for 12 sessions of 1.5 hours each. The platform also has courses on mutual funds & SIPs, stock markets, and one called ‘how to make money with loans’.

They also have courses that aid content creation, building a personal brand and marketing.

But not all these platforms are geared towards English-speaking big-city women. Sheroes, founded by Sairee Chahal caters to women from small towns too.

Reetika Madaan, a management consultant with one of the ‘big four’ companies, has anchored many events for Sheroes in Ludhiana and has been a ‘champion’ (mentor) for two years.

“There are women in small towns or tier-3 cities who have the drive and passion but not the knowledge about how to proceed. From helping them understand how to kickstart a homegrown business to making them aware of the schemes they can avail as businesswomen are key to their sessions at Sheroes,” she said.

Gone are the days when a ‘mentor’, almost always a man, was required to climb the ladder. Rukmini says the cohort of women she’s found has been much more beneficial, professionally and personally.

(Edited by Theres Sudeep)

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