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A Quick Roundup Of The Event No Entrepreneur Should Have Missed: #MyStartupStory

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Facebook logoEditor’s Note: With #MyStartupStory, Facebook and Youth Ki Awaaz are coming together to help you scale your business. Share your startup story and write to us if you want to host a workshop in your college!

By Siddhant Nag for Youth Ki Awaaz:

The ‘startup bubble’ is a topic well discussed in most circles, with special emphasis on how India has become an exceptional hub for entrepreneurial businesses.

We have always been an enterprising lot, but the Internet and social media particularly Facebook and Instagram and other open-source digital platforms, have caused a paradigm shift in the way business is conducted today. Suddenly, we find a multinational conglomerate and a small corner (kirana) store using the same platform, tools and structure to achieve their business goals. These mediums must be credited with creating equality of access and of opportunity to reach audiences. Never before could you sell to someone in New Orleans, sitting in New Delhi, in just three clicks, all over an FB page!

But engaging on a platform like FB that connects a billion people, there are always questions that need answering:

How do I amplify my impact?
What’s the right way to boost my posts? Are ads as necessary as I may think?
How should I position my business? Is there a right way to scale?
How can I establish an emotional connect with my customers?

And then some about building a holistic company and product:

What’s the best way to build my team?
How do you curate good work culture?
Should I add more features to my app?

To answer these questions and many more, YKA and Facebook decided to partner-up for a one-of-its-kind campaign – #MyStartupStory. As a part of it, entrepreneurs were invited to share their stories of starting out and creating a business, on Youth Ki Awaaz. In fact, it was almost as if we received people’s lives on a word document, such was the passion in each story that was published!

Taking the conversation offline we then invited these entrepreneurs to attend the #MyStartupStory workshop at the INNOV8 Co-working space in Delhi, which prides itself as an incubator of inspiration.

The workshop which was held on May 3rd was designed to aid the founders on making use of handy tips, best practices and relevant strategies to leverage the tools available to them. The event, conceptualised by FB and YKA, was created to help businesses engage better with their community, grow their audience and refine their internal practices. Furthermore, the idea was to work with young businesses holistically, by offering expert advice on crucial categories such as technology, product development, talent management, branding, marketing and optimizing resources for a better Return Of Investment (ROI).

Things kicked off with a panel discussion that comprised of three individuals who embodied the spirit of #MyStartupStory. Rashi, the founder of Heads Up For Tails, started her business of dog products with the idea that her dog deserved the best, the market was not providing it., probably the world’s first crowdsourced fashion brand, was conceptualised by Mridang as a business where Technology meets Tailors, to provide a clothing solution for every body type; reinventing the age-old profession. We also had Bee The Baker – Bayiravi Mani, switch gears completely, to create Kol Kol Baby Carriers, an ergonomically designed comfortable baby carrier that helped her spend more time with her child. The room was filled with inspiration, and when these entrepreneurs spoke of having their resources spread too thin, dealing with established players in the market, hard-to-break stereotypes and juggling their personal lives, you could feel an instant connect.

(Right to left): Mridang, Bayiravi and Rashi share their startup stories.
Right to left: Mridang, Bayiravi and Rashi share their startup stories. Photo credit: Rachit

The stage was perfectly set, we had progress and problems in equal measure, but to truly conquer the mountain, you need an expert! And so we had a Yoda each for Tech and Product Strategy, Talent Hiring and Retention, Online Marketing and Product Development take to the stage, next.

Fahad Moti Khan. Photo credit: Rachit

On technology and product development, Fahad Moti Khan, co-founder of organisations like BitGiving and Khana, spoke about engagement strategies and how to capitalise on pre-established interaction routes. Going against the tide, Fahad spoke of how having more than one Call-To-Action (CTA) on your first screen, can increase bounce rates significantly and ultimately lower the engagement on your app. He went on to talk about ‘Featuritis’ – how developers and founders try to load as many features as they can into their product, which leads to a reduction in user experience and finally, the efficiency of the product itself. Speaking further, he drew a strong connect between the way technology and product development go hand-in-hand, and thinking like a consumer can really improve the way your business progresses.

Ester Martinez. Photo credit: Rachit

Ester Martinez, CEO and Editor-in-chief of People Matters- India’s leading knowledge and media platform for the Human Resource space, turned the entire talent hiring concept on its head and redefined it. “It’s not talent hiring, it’s attracting talent,” she said. Ester went on to rename, redefine and reconstruct the way the subject of human resources is approached. She spoke of how founders must be the leaders, strategists but also the cheerleaders and at times servers of the business itself. Finding the right employee is comprised of finding whether the individual adds to your team or subtracts; do they help you achieve your goals or are they just fitting in – it’s not about the right candidate, it is the candidate that is right for you. Ester took the audience through 2-3 HR frameworks, curated to help a business identify where it may lack and what it must strive to achieve in terms of bringing talent on board.

The train was fully loaded, and the team from Facebook India became its rails, as they guided the audience through all the techniques, strategies and tools through Facebook and Instagram that could be leveraged to improve any business’s prospects. Satyajeet Singh, who heads the product partnerships arm for Facebook India, spoke in-depth about the avenues that Facebook had curated specifically for small businesses to engage in business more easily. From developer tools, ad manager programs to eLearning modules on Facebook Blueprint, Satyajeet further stated that FB Start, a new program from Facebook designed to help early stage mobile app development, has helped create the ideal environment for a business to truly engage the marketplace with maximum penetration.

Satyajeet Singh. Photo credit: Rachit

Ritesh Mehta, Head of Economic Initiatives at Facebook India and South Asia, took Satyajeet’s information further by giving the audience vital information that could impact their business’ reach online. “1 in 5 mins is spent on Facebook or Instagram…150 million people in India use Facebook, out of the 150, 145 million use it on their mobile…1 billion people use WhatsApp” – these numbers had the minds of the audience ticking, immediately prompting them to think of the implications, and the potential that had been ‘present, all this time.

Ritesh Mehta. Photo credit: Rachit

One small bit of advice at a time, Ritesh constructed an exceptional web of tactics, that could be used to penetrate the market and help the audience engage with business products better. “Visuals lead to higher engagement…punchlines in videos must be at the 15-second mark for the best impact…the newsfeed is checked on average 14 times a day, that means 14 opportunities for an organisation to approach the consumer” and how vernacular languages helped improve traction and viral-potential of content on Facebook. With questions for Ritesh spilling over to the tea and biscuits session after, the event was a success in terms of the conversations we were hoping to start.

With that, the afternoon wholeheartedly dedicated to innovating and growing your business came to an end.

But Facebook and Youth Ki Awaaz’s mission is far from over. We have planned similar workshops across different cities, with the idea of providing rare expertise and an opportunity to receive advice straight from the horse’s mouth.

So if this interests you or you can think of a friend who would benefit from learning these tricks of the trade to grow their business, share ahead, tag ‘em and keep an eye on Youth Ki Awaaz’s FB page to know when a workshop is happening next.

Spread the love people, who knows, maybe you help a small corner store turn into a multinational conglomerate!

Featured image credit: Innov8 Coworking

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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