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With the long-ranging impact of the pandemic, let’s meet some women small business owners and find out what they’ve done to survive and meet customer needs during the COVID crisis.
Women entrepreneurs and small business owners have been on the rise in recent years, in every field that you can think of. However, whether it’s a scarcity of funds or work-life balance issues, the challenges for women entrepreneurs have only escalated with the COVID crisis.
The sudden onset of the pandemic, followed by lock-down and the economic duress faced by all has made the path forward for small-business owners a tricky tightrope. However, there are entrepreneurs who have altered the business model or adapted their products and services, to stay viable in the COVID and post-COVID timeframe.
Here we meet three such teams led by women entrepreneurs.
Green Oak Initiative is a women’s collective of mental health professionals who have come up with a free helpline for health care professionals to seek support during the COVID crises. They offer psychosocial support, stress reduction and access to mental health resources for those working in extremely stressful conditions.
The Founders, Dr.Ashlesha Bagadia, Dr. Soumya K and Jwala N started Green Oak Initiative last year and were in the process of fine tuning their services based on needs analysis when the pandemic started. Their own medical backgrounds and suggestions from focus group discussions had already pointed to the lack of mental health support available exclusively for health professionals.
One of the founders, Dr. Ashlesha Bagadia recalls how at the beginning of the lockdown, they were discussing how to continue their consultations, and discussing the pros and cons of online methods. It was during those discussions that they discovered that health care professionals who have been at the forefront of the COVID crises needed a platform to address their increased stress and work pressures as there were no exclusive helplines.
She explains how, when the lock-down began, people were struggling to get through with supplies and other essentials but health care professionals had to continue their work at a time of great uncertainty and stress. Government helplines available for the general populace would not be able to fulfil the gap and hence they decided to pool resources to fill the void. The skill level of the team helps them connect better with the health care professionals and she says the calls serve as “psychological first-aid.”
Healthcare professionals including doctors, nurses, hospital staff and technicians can call them at +91 6366447484 and they have support available in English, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Bengali and Gujarati.
Hullabaloo, an activity portal specially catering to young children had to change strategy, following the challenges imposed because of lock-down. This method of reorganising available resources and changing strategies has been the tactic for many other businesses to navigate the COVID epidemic.
Originally conceived as a conduit for outdoors activities, they had to adapt their idea to provide an enriching experience for kids indoors, during the lockdown. The Founders, Anuja Gupta, Davneva Phira and Nithya David, all mothers to young children recognised the need to create activities for the virtual world, which became the new reality for many children.
They explain that “limit screen time” was the rule that had been the focus earlier, but now that virtual has become a norm, they try to create activities that serve to explore kids’ creative potential. On the bright side, they say the situation has allowed them to collaborate with a wider audience as well as activity creators.
Shelving their planned activities in community places and moving the focus indoors has been a challenge and as parents, they were able to formulate activities from personal experiences. Juggling work and home are demanding enough and the founders share how working from home added a new trial following the lockdown when the whole family stayed indoors. They add that parents also faced the stress of lock-down and they have been providing sessions that cater to them as well.
Pallavi Bhardwaj, founder of Save Well Being, an online site for organic foods narrates how COVID has also provided entrepreneurs like her with alternatives and ideas for new ventures. As a holistic health and wellness coach, Save Well Being was her brain-child.
The onset of COVID created job insecurity for both her and her husband Sandeep (who was part of the in-bound tourism industry). She explains that the shortage of organic foods following the lockdown, made her realise that there would be many who follow the organic lifestyle facing a similar challenge. The inability of farmers to bring their produce to the marketplace, and the need to keep away from laying off staff (part of her husband’s venture) prompted her to conceive Save Well Being. She started the venture and her clientele, her husband’s contacts in the tourism industry helped create a supply chain for organic foods online.
As a practitioner of holistic health, Pallavi says she has always valued the benefits of adopting a healthy organic produce-based lifestyle. Her personal experiences shaped her rigorous organic lifestyle, and the online model being adopted following the pandemic led to Save Well Being. The challenges of the online environment eased with time and she recounts how because of the restrictions, they had to design, create and finish their website all in-house. She plans to expand the array of organic products with time and make them more easily accessible.
Small business owners, especially women face challenging times ahead. The women entrepreneurs all relate how the pandemic has added challenges to managing time as the ‘work from home’ formula, now includes the entire family. Coming up with a balance and managing work which requires new protocols had reframed their initial idea/concept. These women who have had to conduct their business entirely online have also picked up more technical know-how with ease.
With the new normal following the COVID crises, the impact on our business models is bound to change again. The stories of these women entrepreneurs give us hope that we too can adapt and do our best to survive and thrive!
All images provided by the respective teams
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