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Entrepreneurship in India has become inclusive for women, yet we are still looked down on with a gender-biased lens in the ecosystem. While we may be years from achieving gender parity in the workspace, Iti Rawat, Founder of WEFT, envisions creating a gender-diverse ecosystem with her dynamic network of women entrepreneurs. - By Nikita Arya
Iti Rawat, Founder of ThinkHall Training and Consultancy, calls herself a jack of all trades and master of none. Three years after the successful kick-start of her entrepreneurial journey in 2014, she, unfortunately, hit the rock bottom but successfully came out of it with her endless tenacity and optimistic approach. She now juggles with two successful independent businesses of her own and motherhood. Her women-centric organization called Women Entrepreneurs For Transformation (WEFT) is a dynamic network of women entrepreneurs supporting other aspiring women entrepreneurs.
We asked Iti Rawat how her journey led her to empower other women entrepreneurs, and in the process, brought about a change in the entrepreneurial world.
JustHer: How would you describe your entrepreneurial journey?
Iti Rawat: I have been a corporate and retail person all my life. While doing my stints at corporates, I started my own company called ThinkHall Training and Consultancy, and that is when my entrepreneurial journey began. ThinkHall is a training, recruitment and consulting company where we do research and development and create e-content and courses related to Retail. At one point, when things crashed down in my initial days, I knocked on many doors for help in the ecosystem but did not receive any. And that is when I realized how difficult it is for a women entrepreneur to access resources, and WEFT came into being.
JustHer: What keeps you busy throughout the day?
Iti Rawat: The two businesses that I run simultaneously. ThinkHall has shifted to becoming an online entity from offline during the pandemic. At the same time, at WEFT, we are constantly trying to bring women entrepreneurs up. Our vision is to achieve better gender diversity in the startup ecosystem and bring 50% of women into becoming leaders. Not only the goal is clear, but we also know exactly how to achieve it.
JustHer: Elaborate about the thought behind launching an exclusive foundation for women.
Iti Rawat: Whenever you start a business, it is either a great idea that crosses your mind or your own pain point that triggers you to give others the solution. And for me, it was both. During my downfall, I sought out help from the VCs and banks, but no one came forward. It was a pain point for me, and I could not see other women facing the same. At the time, I was in touch with many other women who were in similar situations, and that is when we came up with the idea of WEFT. The idea was to create a not-for-profit organization where we would conduct events to provide all women entrepreneurs a single platform to connect and seek help for their businesses.
JustHer: How do you think women standing up for women create a difference in the world?
Iti Rawat: WEFT always makes sure that the stories of aspiring women entrepreneurs are heard. One of our initiatives that we launched during the pandemic, Red Dot initiative, has grown quite bigger in terms of reach. It aims at providing help to women who suffered domestic violence and abuse during the time of the pandemic. The whole idea was to put a red dot on your palm and show it as a symbol of domestic violence and abuse to seek help from anyone who’s around. We have rescued women, provided them mental health solutions, and made them financially independent. So far, we have touched 120 lives through this initiative, and I think we have just touched the tip of the iceberg.
Apart from that, throughout these years in WEFT, we have seen many success stories of women choosing the right incubation program, accelerator programs, connecting to VCs, and even finding co-founders among the networking group itself. In our first event itself, 80 women were present, and everyone was talking the same language. So, we realized if we combine our forces, we could help each other. And this is what WEFT does now. We are 3500+ women entrepreneurs strong today. In WEFT, we call it ‘ the sisterhood’.
JustHer:As far as entrepreneurship in India goes, what are the setbacks that a woman has to go through while starting with her venture that perhaps men don’t?
Iti Rawat: For me, it’s been a very lonely journey as an entrepreneur. When you are a solopreneur, it is hard, at times, to determine what decisions are best for your business's growth. If you are a small entity, not many companies or forces come around to support you. Other points of concern for them remain the marketing and business development bit. Thirdly, they struggle a lot in arranging funds when a challenge stands in cash flow. I was lucky enough to have gotten my business back on track, but my challenges made me realize how other women might have been in the same situation. These were the challenges I faced when I started, and many other women have been facing the same.
JustHer: How has your family been throughout this entire journey?
Iti Rawat: I live with my husband and two daughters, and my mother-in-law. My biggest inspiration is my father. He is the one who has always pushed me and showed me different things in life. Among many other things, one clear directive from my father was — No matter what you do or where you are, do not depend financially on somebody else.
JustHer: How do you maintain a healthy balance in your life while you sit at the head of the table?
Iti Rawat: Me-time is very important to me. I am an early riser and start my day with at least 5-6 glasses of warm water, honey, and lemon. I always do exercise and yoga. My me-time is when I plan out my day and think about things apart from work and family chores. I also try to get a good sleep.
JustHer: What drives you when you wake up every morning?
Iti Rawat: I am a very ambitious person. In a salaried job, every day might not matter, but every month-end does. And in entrepreneurship, every day is significant. At the end of the day, if you do not do your bit, you would go all over the place. It is like going out and hunting like a lion every day. If you do not do that, then you will remain hungry. So the ambition of making sure that I sleep and eat well is what drives me.
JustHer: How does nutrition factor into your lifestyle?
Iti Rawat: Ghar ka khana is the most important. Try to eat homemade food as much as possible and keep a balanced diet.
JustHer: How would you suggest young entrepreneurs deal with disappointment?
Iti Rawat: When dark time comes, keep reminding yourself that everything will get better from now onwards. This is what I told myself when I had a setback. I believe there is no shortcut to hard work. You have to try harder. If you keep dwelling on the past, only then you will fail. Otherwise, there is no word as ‘failure’. Just keep learning from your mistakes.
Iti's Quick Tips on Maintaining a Healthy Mind With Modern-day Stress
1. Your me-time is extremely important.
2. Exercise is a mood booster. You can find your own way of exercising. It can be yoga, gym, running, cycling, jogging, dancing etc.
3. Keep your happiness quotient up.
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