As a frequent traveler in the Delhi Metro, more often than not I have many moms as fellow passengers. And whilst the journey, I overhear them share their different stories with friends and peers. Stories of joy, stories of hard luck, stories of hope and so on. I listen to how some mothers sometimes go sleepless at nights because their toddler is awake and yet reach their workplace as if everything is perfect. Of how their child’s performance in school has been disturbing them, but they ensure they give their best at work. Of things they need to buy during the lunch hour so that they can save on a little time in the evenings to spend with their child. I also see ladies carry pocket sized books of different daily prayers and chant while standing or sitting. Leaving no duties unfulfilled, they work their way in pleasing both the family and the Gods! I watch how they call their maids and give instructions that need to be followed. And, as I type this out I hear a busy mother discussing with her friend trying to figure out where all her time is going. All these small little incidents everyday make me strongly believe that the art of balancing motherhood and a demanding career is a very delicate one. And since childhood having seen working women very closely balance out their personal and professional lives I understand that it’s probably the toughest job to do.
Added to that, everyone knows for good that entrepreneurship on the other hand is no cake walk. And so as a matter of fact I then know that it can only get harder for those mompreneurs who are willing to take the big risk of starting and running a venture of their own.
So, even before I met Mridula Arora, founder of MyBabyCart I knew she would have an amazing story to share. And the conversation began with her saying “Women by default are enterprising in India”. I couldn’t stop smiling because I realized that there couldn’t be a greater truth in the statement.
Mridula Arora, an engineer by education moved to Bangalore in 2003 after she got a job with Infosys. She worked in Infy for 3.5 years before the urge to move into the start-up land grew. It’s at that point that she joined a start-up venture mChek and saw it grow from a 15 to 150 strength. But, as she became a new mom, she quit her office to give time to family and be with her kid during his early years.
In January 2012, she along with 4 founders started out Mybabycart (MBC). With initial funding from family & friends they managed to launch a website and began work. It started out as a platform for selling children products. However as time passed cash became a major issue and the other partners slowly quit one after the other. In Jan’13 while they were on the verge of closing shop she asked to retain the domain name and said she wanted to independently take forward the work. She took over and restarted from scratch. She set out planning to make MBC the platform for small players who had good products and were looking at reaching larger audience. But, things went otherwise as it became very difficult for her to convince offline retailers to source their products and meet their T&Cs.
Since her younger days she had always wanted to do something for the development and empowerment of women. The spirit still remained and that’s when her mind struck a gold mine. She thought why not make MBC a platform for household women who make products relevant to new borns and kids. So, between Feb’13 and Nov’13 she set forth meeting many mompreneurs and explained and discussed her proposal. Lo, and by Dec’13 MBC had a new face to it; the hub for creative household women. She launched it with 5-6 mompreneurs’ products. Mridula confesses that at that point in time, all she knew was that she wanted to make a big difference in these people’s lives who had placed implicit trust in her. She had to help them make the most of this opportunity with her limited resources. She wanted to help those mothers who had no backing to establish shops of their own to still be able to sell. To be of assistance to those people who didn’t have sufficient knowledge to start selling their stuff online. To give a face and a name to many of those whose talents were always carpeted.
“So what started out as an experiment is now a serious business”, says Mridula. Today there are 100 odd mompreneurs active on MBC very happy with the way their life has unfolded.
Each one has a tale of their own, unique in their own way and a success story to their own name. About 98% of the products are related to infants and kids and just about 2% are women oriented. Since these are home based mothers, they have time under their control and chalk out their routines likewise. Mridula herself adds on that once she winds up for the day at 6:30 PM, the next three hours are completely set aside only for her son. Any pending work is taken up only after her little one is fast asleep.
In MBC each of them make limited number of pieces of any merchandise as per their capabilities. So though one may not get 100 pieces of a particular design one sure can choose from a 100 different varieties.
#100% women oriented company
Mridula proudly says that though hers is a start up, all their systems are very much in place. Her inherent qualities of being well organized and a purely technical person has helped her structure the company in such a manner. The CRM system in MBC is used extensively and she says it’s in par with or maybe even better than what established companies have. The customer service function is outsourced to 3-4 mothers who are working in different schedules. And, every slot has a back up! These mothers are chosen after a proper interview. Those women who have the ability to listen and the inclination to solve a problem are usually chosen for this task. They are given online training and the major point focused always is to assume that the customer is right.
MBC houses mompreneurs who excel in crochet and knitting. These women knit cute little blankets, sweaters, scarves and caps amongst other things. Some creative minds also are busy working on selling baby hair bands and clips. They craft out the whole piece with laces, beads, pearls and colourful flowers. Also women with their own clothing line or running a boutique are having bee lines for their products on MBC.
When a new mompreneur signs up, raw data is gathered from them. Prices are then discussed upon. And the agreement’s ready. Mridula’s team works on the cataloging and the design. The mompreneur then sets to do her work. Once the products are ready, a pick up request needs to be sent and MBC has the product picked from their place.
“I make women sitting at home knitting, heroes”
Initially when she started out, everyone around her was wondering what she was up to. Clueless to her intentions and motives they couldn’t relate to her work. Though she was lucky enough to get family support and no one questioned her ability but at times it would be really depressing when things didn’t shape the way she wanted. She kept battling the question of “Am I doing right?” But today time has answered that question in the best way for her.
#dealing with glitches in running a start-up
Mridula like a true entrepreneur says that the last thing she does when a problem arises is to run away from it. Instead she analyzes it deeply, contemplates on the probabilities of different solutions and seeks out help every time she is stuck. She knows very well that many unpleasant situations are bound to arise but the trick is to handle them rather than ignore them.
#highlight of MBC
A daughter who helped her mother staying in Kurnool, a small town in Andhra Pradesh become independent and have a standing of her own. The mother was very good in crochet work and so the daughter asked her to make simple frocks, cute looking caps and other interesting infant wear. When the mother received her first payment, probably the first in her life it was the greatest moment of pride for the trio, the mother, the daughter and MBC.
This is what a typical Mompreneurs meet looks like… the smiles of achievement!!
#to all women
Whatever is your passion make time for it and follow it. Don’t let your time go in vain. It is very necessary to have an independent footing, so irrespective of what you do or how much you earn chart out a course of your own. Always be willing to move out of your shells and keep learning new things.
“You can’t be thanked enough for creating such a wonderful community. You may not know how many people you have benefited. My first post that I read was on Marwari School and I could relate to it very well. The Doodh ka Doodh post still stands vivid in my memory. Each time I visit TRHS I go back learning something and implement it in my work. Thank you for the painstaking efforts in making so many of us widen our horizon of knowledge.”
More often than not the greatest inspiration is not the person who is the most successful or the richest or the happiest or the most perfect but rather its the one who has walked a similar journey as yours and shown you that your dream is possible….inspire and stay inspired!!!
So to all ladies out there “Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” ― Nora Ephron
About The Author:
Sunaina Shenoy is associated with a startup, Parentune. And is involved in getting brands to leverage and engage the rapidly growing parent members’ community. She is a proud rodinhooder and even more grateful to be an Editorial Asst. for The Rodinhoods. She takes delight in dabbling in different things and is still trying to find her mark in getting good at something. She likes to showcase unsung heroes and the story behind the story is what intrigues her the most. She enjoys travelling and exploring places. A hobby writer, she is developing her skills to get better at it. She has had her stint of failure with her own start-up but risen back to re learn the process. A huge proponent of giving back to society she tries to live up to it in any little way she can. And yes of course she is proud of being a woman!