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FYI: Entrepreneurs Meet In Delhi To Talk #MyStartupStory With Facebook and YKA!

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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 Merril Diniz:

“Startups have no staff.” What they have are, “Believers, doers, foot soldiers and problem solvers – all rolled into one!” This sentiment by “SHEROE” and self-made entrepreneur, Sairee Chahal resonated rather well with the 120 odd entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs-in-waiting, she was addressing. The occasion was the second edition of #MyStartupStory, an interactive workshop, hosted by Youth Ki Awaaz and Facebook on July 9, 2016, to help budding entrepreneurs take their business to the next level. The venue was the hip hub antiSOCIAL, in South Delhi’s Hauz Khas Village.

During the intense two-hour workshop, we saw some very thought-provoking and informative sessions by seasoned and up-and-coming entrepreneurs, who addressed a multitude of issues faced by those starting their own ventures.

YKA founder, Anshul Tewari, an entrepreneur himself, kicked off the conversation with Devika Srimal Bapna, a young chartered accountant-turned-entrepreneur who started a fashion brand with a twist. This PETA volunteer, after giving up leather, was unable to find stylish, high-quality, affordable non-leather shoes in the market. So, she started her own PETA-approved, vegan shoe brand named KANABIS!

Devika shared her experiences of starting as well as the challenges of building a brand with little to no marketing spends. She also shared a great learning around this, “We are still bootstrapped, and social media has helped us scale up. Our response time on Facebook is less than five minutes!”

On Finding Funding For Your Business

Next up, was Rana Atheya, dog lover and founder of, a business that went from being an online community of dog lovers in 2007, to an e-commerce portal for pet care products and getting funded in 2016 by, none other than, Ratan Tata (a self-proclaimed dog lover, himself!).

Rana’s first great tip: “Your ‘cool’ startup is a business, too. But don’t raise funds just because everyone else is.” In the race for funding, many entrepreneurs increase their valuations, yet, find it difficult to make money and in turn profits, and hence, find themselves in a difficult position. Hence, tread carefully.

In the initial stages, you may need to get friends and/or family to chip in. “Friends are better than family when it comes to fundraising,” shares Rana, who also advises that if you don’t have a great rapport with a first-time investor, you need to be cautious. Niche businesses, may have a slightly tougher time finding funding. But don’t give up. He ended on a high note with a simple sharing, “I will run my company whether I get or don’t get funds. I am doing this because of passion.”

Hiring The Right Team

Our next speaker Sairee Chahal, has literally transformed the thinking around hiring for startups through her disruptive platform,, which helps women at various stages of careers and life, find opportunity in a diversity of modes – part-time, full-time, consultancy, internships, and more. “The people who first come to your team are never hired. Organisations dilute when they go to the ‘job hopper’s market’,” shared Sairee, who incidentally, managed to get people who worked with her in her first startup in 1999, to come work for her when she started ‘Sheroes’!

A young entrepreneur in the audience posed a great question, “How do you know for sure that a potential hire is genuinely interested and enthusiastic?”

“Be brutally honest about expectations,” advises Sairee. Those who genuinely buy into the idea, will join you, despite the odds. Also, be open to hiring a spectrum of talent. “We have hired developers from Eastern Europe and young moms who log in at 10 am and out by 3.30 pm,” she shares. Last but not the least, when it comes to making a choice between hiring a person with high skills and average enthusiasm and high enthusiasm and average skills, it’s advisable to go for the latter, as skills can become redundant, but the ability and enthusiasm to re-learn is what builds a great team. “Today, we have set up Labs and our first intern heads it!”

How To Make Facebook + Instagram Work For You

Who would have guessed, even five years back, that a photograph clicked on a smartphone, with just a little attention to colours, composition and a caption, posted on social media, could help build a brand? Well, that’s the exciting reality we live in today. Entrepreneurs are using social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, to create exciting conversations around their brands, products and services, and these conversations are bringing them business.

1.65 billion people use Facebook every month, and 1 billion of these, come back every single day. Also, people check their Facebook news feeds 14 times a day! Hence, 14 opportunities to get your message out there!” shared our next speaker, Ritesh Mehta, Head of Economic Growth Initiatives at Facebook for India and South Asia. Ritesh shared, “To create good content, answer a simple question – what’s the goal of this particular Facebook post? Don’t give conflicting, confusing messages.”

Don’t hesitate to leverage storytelling, an age-old format that also works like a charm, online. For instance, pick a theme for your product – birthdays, occasions, festivals, then tell a story around that theme. “It’s also a great idea to get your own employees and regular customers to share their stories related to your products. Do what tells your story best.”

Ritesh also shared an interesting nugget on video content. Since phone volumes are off by default, the videos you post, must have sub-titles. Also, be sure to deliver your video message in the first 15 seconds.

A Motley Crew Of Believers

The most exciting aspect of the workshop was the eclectic mix of entrepreneurs who travelled long distances and invested time for a common goal – to help make their entrepreneurial dreams come true. There was student entrepreneur named Hardik of DesinoTag, who came all the way from Karnal, Haryana, just for the event. We also had law student-turned-entrepreneur Tanuj from Lawoctopus, the co-founders of MiStay, and Mou and Abhishek, of food delivery service, Bhukkadbelly.

There was no dearth of social entrepreneurs, either from Aashish, who runs the Mash Project and Neha, who founded Planet Abled, an accessible travel enterprise, to Swarnima who’s segueing from a cushy job into a social enterprise for women. We also had a slew of creative entrepreneurs like design-preneur Saumya, Neeru, a film-school dropout who now runs a popular food blog, bako-preneur Shivam of Demould and Shubhangi from Artshire. Everyone was here to learn, share and grow, and while they benefited through the wisdom of seasoned entrepreneurs, there was a lot of post-event networking over chai, coffee and cookies, to explore new synergies!

In case you missed this workshop, #MyStartupStory will soon be back with the next edition. So, watch this space. In the meantime, if you believe you have a compelling startup story to share, write in and tell us your story!

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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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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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