Kanchan Mittal, a Chartered Accountant with 22 years of progressive experience in management accounting and assurance services and co-founder of Ipsaa, speaks to SHEROES.in today:
How did you zero in on this career choice? Did your educational qualifications help your foray into ‘mom-preneurship’?
I am a “mom-preneur” working in the field of progressive education and child care. I am the co-founder of ipsaa, a chain of day care centres in Gurgaon. A chartered accountant by profession, I have over 20 years of experience in management accounting and assurance services.
Having worked with multinational accounting firms like E&Y and KPMG, and the non-profit sector--including organizations such as Care, Praxis, Katha, Gramin foundation and Access Development Services--has given me enriching experiences.
All these organizations are known for their outstanding work for enabling women and children to lead independent and respectful lives. I am a strong advocate of business with a social consciousness.
How did the idea of ipsaa come about? Could you tell us about the journey?
Being a woman who chose to continue working without compromising on the honour and pleasure of motherhood, I have lived a very challenging life. While there is a lot of public emphasis on solving problems such as female foeticide and education for girls, all the effort from the government or civil societies ends after this stage.
A bigger challenge comes when educated girls with career aspirations are abandoned to struggle on their own. I realised that sitting and waiting for society’s attitude or behaviours to change will take too long, but what we can provide is support for parenthood. We could be present as a dependable facility available to working mothers. That’s how ipsaa was conceived.
The moment my husband and I wished for such a concept, things started falling in place. We found a plot in the heart of the city, and started construction, without having a clear idea of how to structure the programme.
We hired our first group of mentor mums in April 2013 for our first facility to start operations in November 2013. In January 2014, the first child enrolled with us. Today we have 8 centres running: 2 more in the pipeline, and a family of over 500 children with us.
We continue to improve our programme with training sessions and professional learning. We continue to innovate and bring about newer and better ways of engaging with children, thus we continue to grow!
What were some of the most challenging and inspiring moments in your startup journey?
As a CA, we were trained to ‘not sell’. We researched and invested a lot in our programme’s design and structure, and happily assumed that children will come to us on the strength of our programme. In the initial three-four months, we had financial obligations to meet without any revenue stream. This became our biggest challenge.
We did some introspection and realised that we need to communicate to the parents and tell our story to them. Again, a team of experts helped us with marketing and one more hurdle was taken care of. People started visiting us and talking to us.
Another challenge is finding the right people to work with us. There is no institute that provides training to people who wish to work in a day care. This remains a challenge for us till date, and we keep looking for people to work with us.
The most inspiring moment remains the entry of our first child here. This little 8-month-old girl came to us on a motorcycle with her father and grandfather. They really liked the facility and the grandfather agreed to leave the child only if we allowed him to be with her. It took him about five days to believe that the little one adjusted well and is secure with us.
What future plans do you have for Ipsaa?
Our vision is to be present all over India, and to increase the number of centres so that a woman like me does not have to think twice about continuing with her career. We also want to create professional opportunities for women who wish to be engaged in child care and education, thus enabling them to realise their potential.
We aim to create a platform to bring together all the individuals and organisations who work in the field of early childhood care and education in order to bring about a change in social attitudes, and thus contribute in the growth of the economy.
What would you say makes ipsaa different from other day care centres?
Let’s first say what is common in all day care centres, which is the fact that we all work with children. However, the way we all work is different.
Ipsaa’s USP is the blend of love and professionalism. All our programmes are designed to enhance life skills in children coming to us. We follow children’s rhythm yet bring about a discipline in their life. We support children to be independent, confident, stable and compassionate.
While the vertical grouping of children is aimed at enhancing their social skills, habbas help children find their calling and identify the special gifts they have.
All ipsaa centres are led by experienced teachers who are able to constantly innovate and nurture children.
What are your thoughts on the “work-life-bank” balance concept?
As per Hindu mythology, the power of ashth bhuja (eight hands) is given to goddesses. I interpret this as the tremendous power given to every woman for multitasking. If a woman wants, she can take care of work and her personal life well. The challenge lies in identifying the power.
Another consideration is adjustment as parents or a married couple. Every family and every couple will have a different balancing point. The trick lies in identifying the point and getting on in life with it.
I say ‘different balancing point’ as we are all different as social beings and have different ways of associating with others. It is like cycling or swimming: you have to find your balance in order to keep moving!!
What message would you share with our readers?
Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you. Find your calling, your core, and get going with honest intentions. You will be surprised by the speed at which things start falling in place.
Lastly, what are your must-haves?
A woman must have a little girl alive in her heart always. One who doesn't doubt herself, has faith in love, is able to laugh her heart out, has beautiful dreams and a lot of energy and enthusiasm to make these dreams come true.
Collated by Paroma Sen