Meet The SHEROES: Bhavprita Harshawardhan
Monito, a Child Safety Product, is Parents’ new found Hope
Q) Bhavprita, please tell us about yourself? What have you been building?
A) I am based in Bangalore. I have 12 years of work experience in management consulting and Retail Industry. I turned entrepreneur 2 years back and founded Taqua Digital and launched our product Monito– a child safety product which keeps children safe and connected with parents. Monito keeps families safe and connected. Monito comes with a safety device for use of children and Tracking web portal for parents.
Monito is many devices rolled into one. Monito is a
1. GPS Tracker– Know where your child is.
2. Controlled Phone– Only for you & your child.
3. SOS Alert System– SOS call and SMS alerts
As a professional, I have always sought new and challenging opportunities which also reflects in my professional journey from Industry to Consulting to Entrepreneurship. Throughout my professional journey, entrepreneurship was the challenge I wanted to take up for some time.
Finally in 2014, I decided to take the plunge and began my research on starting my own venture. Having worked in retail Industry and consulting, most obvious path was something on similar lines, but I wanted to do something different and most importantly wanted to make a difference to somebody's life through my product or service.
Children and women issues have always been close to my heart and during that time a horrific incident of sexual assault on a 6-year old girl happened in a school in Bangalore. I could relate to the pain and the problem of a parent as a mother of a 6-year-old and I decided to solve this problem through our solution - Monito. The Monito is a child safety product to make children safe and better connected with parents through use of GPS enabled safety tracker.
After a lot of research and introspection, I founded my venture. Considering the fact that I was in a settled role in a big organization, this was a very risky plunge full of unknowns. However, my own conviction in the idea, self-belief and support of family made my decision making process easier.
Q) What was your childhood ambition, and how did you share it with family and friends?
A) My childhood ambition was to become a journalist as I was interested in reading, writing and current affairs. My parents wanted me to become a doctor. I played many roles in those childhood role play games. Whatever roles I played, I used to lead those games.
Q) Your schooling, college: was it targeted towards what you hoped to be? Did you become what you 'studied' to be, or did you change course and chart a different path?
A) As I said earlier, I would call my career journey more of journey where I explored and discovered my interest areas rather than something which was pre-decided. I graduated in pure science but decided to not pursue science as a career. I did my post-graduation in Retail Management Studies and started my career with Retail Industry in an operation role. I worked with leading retailers in India and USA. After few years, I came across an opportunity to change career track and I decided to explore management consulting. I stayed on for most of my later career for 8 years in management consulting working on business transformation consulting projects for Global Retailers such as Gap, Tesco, and Target etc.
Then I wanted to try something new and turned entrepreneur 2 years back.
So, I did change my course and chart a different path many times in my career. It is important to keep exploring and gaining new perspectives by not being bound by your past experiences.
Q) How did family and friends react when you started as an entrepreneur? What were the personal hurdles you had to cross?
A) At the start I would like to say that support of family is a critical factor in a woman’s career journey. You cannot do it alone. Even if you don’t need practical support of family, you need the moral support and encouragement.
I have been lucky to have very supportive and encouraging parents. My parents always encouraged me to pursue my dreams and fulfil my aspirations. My luck continued with having a husband who is not only supportive of my aspirations but also proud of my achievements.
I was doing very well in my last job as a management consultant and entrepreneurship was a big risk. Though my parents were little apprehensive coming from a generation which valued job security highly, my husband was very supportive and encouraging.
There were many personal hurdles with the first one being looking after my 2 children, managing home and supporting my husband who has a very demanding and hectic job. Work life balance was very important and a key factor as work hours never end for entrepreneurs and there is no fixed schedule like in a regular corporate job. It was tough but at the same time exciting and full of learning.
Q) How did your peers react to you? As a young educated woman, were you at an advantage, or disadvantage? How did you overcome hurdles at work?
A) Most of my peers were in corporate jobs and were surprised at my decision. There has been a positive change in attitude towards entrepreneurship in the last 5 years or so and most of whom were encouraging.
I would say as a woman entrepreneur, it was a mixed bag in terms of advantages and disadvantages, like anything else in life. I had significant work experience on my side, operational and consulting roles gave me the depth and breadth of experience of handling a company. Still, nothing compares to the experience of founding your company, developing your product and running the operations on a day-to-day basis. I had the advantage of my past work experience, network I built over a decade.
It is tough to be an entrepreneur and it is even tougher to be a woman entrepreneur. Biggest disadvantage is to break through the stereotype and subtle gender bias existing in workplace and larger society. I would say securing funding and recruiting the top quality team were the biggest challenges as a woman entrepreneur. It is tough to convince people to put trust in your capability and vision. Thankfully, eventually, I was able to do it but it was not easy.
Q) Do women make better entrepreneurs due to higher empathy?
A) I would say yes. Women have natural empathy towards everything. Women understand problems and have an intent to solve those problems. Identifying a problem, you care about and trying to solve it through your product or service is the core of any entrepreneurial venture and women are natural at it. Women are also great team players. Women have a working style which works more on consensus building rather than confrontational.
Q) What do you see changing for women professionals in India? How would you encourage young women to consider your profession? Please share your top 5 tips.
It is much better time for woman professionals now, than say may be 2 decades back. I would list following as positive changes for women professionals in today's time:
1. Many more opportunities for women across Industries and functions.
2. There has been emphasis in the last 2 decades or so on girls’ education resulting in many more women able to complete higher education and enter workforce.
3. The corporates, educational institutes are much more inclusive and gender diversity is increasingly an important metric.
4. Companies are making women-friendly HR policies to increase and retain women employees.
5. There are many good quality child care services available nowadays, in at least metropolitans, making it possible for women professionals to continue working.
6. There has been a positive change in society’s attitude especially younger generation men’s approach towards women's career. Increasingly men are supportive of their wives’ careers.
My advice on career for women in consulting or entrepreneurship would be:
1. Consulting is an exciting career. You gain valuable skills such as problem solving, critical thinking and analytical skills. These skills are not only valuable in professional life but apply to personal life as well.
2. Learning is the biggest outcome of your consulting career. You would get to work with largest companies in any Industry. You would get new exposure and build knowledge with each new project.
3. Be open to exploring new ideas and new paths. Entrepreneurship helps you do that. Entrepreneurship would give you an invaluable experience of converting an idea into a tangible product or service. As somebody at the helm of your organisation, being an entrepreneur also gives you a big picture view of how things work, something you don’t get in a corporate job unless you reach senior management roles.
4. You should have worked for few years in some leadership role before turning an entrepreneur as in entrepreneurship you would be leading your organisation, your team and you would need real problem solving and decision making skills which a good work experience will help you build.
5. Last, whichever career path you may follow, as a woman professional you need to believe in yourself, dare to dream and work hard to make those dreams come true. The life of a woman professional is not easy but it is worth trying hard to fulfil your aspirations and realize your potential. Never give up on your dreams.
Q) What inspires you, as an educated urban woman, what is your long term goal?
A) Education is the biggest catalyst to bring any change in society, economy and everything else. I consider myself fortunate to have gotten a good education and raised by progressive parents who taught me to be independent, financially and intellectually. As an educated urban woman, I am aware of the world around me. I am aware of issues we face and I intend to do my bit to bring a positive change. I care deeply about few issues such as safety of women and children, women empowerment and issues working women face in pursuing their careers.
Currently outside of my work I support many charities which champion these causes. I also mentor many young women professionals. I guide and counsel school girls on choosing their career paths after school.
I frequently write on gender equality and advancement of women at work on my personal blog.
My long term goal is to work full time with a profit or Not for profit organization which works on women economic empowerment. My long term vision for women in our country is that every woman should be financially independent. I plan to do my bit to help that vision become reality one day.
Q) How do you manage a work and play balance? What are your tips for others to try and achieve the balance?
Work life balance is the key to successful life for anybody more so for a woman professional.
The harsh reality is that workload at home is not shared equally between men and women. Woman of the house is primary caretaker of children and home. For working women, it is like doing 2 full time jobs. I find achieving work life balance to be the hardest part as a working mother. It is tough but doable. I also have excellent support system at home which consists of housekeeping helps such as maid, cook and babysitter. I try to spend quality time with my children and spouse. I always have a priority task list combined of professional and personal “to do” items for the day. I plan my day meticulously and stick to my plan. Following are my tips to achieve the balance:
1. Do not ignore the importance of work life balance. This is critical to your career. If you are out of balance often and for long time, chances are that either personal or professional life or both would suffer. Hence I would advise to work on it constantly.
2. Time management: It is the key. As a working mother you have no time to waste. You have to be an excellent planner and executioner of that plan. You have to manage your limited time at work and with family judiciously and efficiently.
3. Productivity and Efficiency: productivity is very important for a woman professional because there are always important issues at work or home waiting to be looked at. You have to be efficient in your work, focused and not distracted by not so important things which would bring your productivity down.
4. Support system at home: This is also very important. Your objective should be to free your time at home as much as possible from work which can be outsourced such as cooking, housekeeping etc. Save all the time at home to be with your children and husband.
5. Your “me” time: Sometimes between work and family/home there is no time left for ourselves. It is important to find some time, even a little, for yourself. It is important to unwind with whatever works for you- a book, a walk, music. Juggling work and home responsibilities is no mean feat and you need to be physically and emotionally fit to do that.