“We are a women-first enterprise, and our aim is to build products that create sustainable value for women. Trust, empathy, safety - these are all at the core of what we do, and to be more effective, we partner with businesses with women-first strategies.” Explained Sairee Chahal Founder, CEO – SHEROES (the women’s community platform)
In an interview with MediAvataar India, Sairee took us through the amazing journey she has had with women empowerment over a span of her wonderful and benevolent career. Here is the complete Q&A....
MediAvataar: Today more and more women are becoming financially independent and have an elevated decision making, in your opinion how is it influencing brand strategies around the globe, especially in India?
Sairee: I believe this shift is already influencing the global gender narrative in the way we design and market products for women. Even in how businesses view women employees. For instance, I see finance companies rethinking the way they engage with women consumers, also pushing for diversity in their boardrooms. I see legacy lifestyle brands echoing values that can support women’s growth, making products accessible, body-positive, inclusive. It’s a slow shift, but it's definitely happening.
MediAvataar: Tell us more about SHEROES, and what made you connect with it?
Sairee: SHEROES is a women’s platform, and SHEROES communities are safe, high trust, high empathy spaces where women talk about a range of things - from health and careers, to relationships, parenting and travel. Having started our journey in 2013, today, we are a 2 million-strong community, and growing rapidly, via our online platforms and offline summits, community meets and foundation initiatives.
MediAvataar: There were a few transitions to the platform since its inception what made you reach the decision and how do you keep this machine well oiled?
Sairee: We started off as Fleximoms, a platform to support women on career breaks looking to return to work. At the time we engaged extensively with businesses to influence mindsets and help workplaces transition to being more relevant to women. However, as we engaged with more women, the underlying message was that women across profiles and geographies, needed support - not just in crafting career journeys via opportunities and mentorship, but more importantly, through continued engagement around other core pillars like health, parenting and relationships, to name a few. Scaling this engagement is of course always a challenge. So, we launched online communities in 2016, and in 2017, we launched the SHEROES app, a women-only space. Our focus is now to build more lifetime value for our community members by investing in our communities, both in terms of relevance and depth.
MediAvataar: What is your core value system for SHEROES?
Sairee: We are a women-first enterprise, and our aim is to build products that create sustainable value for women. Trust, empathy, safety - these are all at the core of what we do, and to be more effective, we partner with businesses with women-first strategies. For instance, we partnered with a tech business looking to invite women in tech back to work post a career break, a mobility business to talk about the link between women’s safety and aspirations, a training company looking to attract more women into analytics, and an urban creche network to talk about the impact of onsite daycare centres for professional women. At the end of the day, it is always a win-win for SHEROES as a brand, our primary customer - women, and the businesses, we partner with.
MediAvataar: Despite the data not backing your decision to launch a women-only app, what made you take this risk?
Sairee: Our gut told us that just like workplaces in the industrial era, most apps are primarily built for a male-dominated audience - the language, the orientation, the journey. Yes, we do have some women-based apps, however, they tend to focus on specifics aspects - menstrual cycles, fitness, or fashion. There is nothing holistic in the market built to support women in their growth journeys. The SHEROES app is designed for a women audience, and the women on the platform respond to that. The engagement tools are designed to tap into women’s aspirations. For instance, we host regular AMAs with experts around important aspects like financial health, health-based conversations and travel. At the dawn of the New Year we challenged women to share their dreams for 2018 - and the responses were bold, and deeply aspirational, which only deepens are resolve to keep pushing the boundaries of what a “product for women”, can encompass.
MediAvataar: How has been the response to the app so far?
Sairee: We launched in 2017, and have clocked over 1,30,000 downloads, and counting. Women log in everyday to see what is buzzing in the communities, like you would on say, Facebook or Instagram. The app also has some unique features - for instance, we have a dedicated helpline where women can speak to our counsellors about anything - the questions are extremely diverse, and often, they are not questions, but conversations. On the app store a reviewer described the app as a “friend, guide, doctor, sibling, parent”. That says a lot.
MediAvataar: As per the real time data that you gather through the app what is the support the women seek/need from the private and public sector?
Sairee: One, we have thousands of women posting their real live experiences around getting back to the workplace after a career break - the judgement they face, and how their skills and experiences are completely discounted, after they have taken time off to be caregivers. If more businesses introduce creche services, maternity and paternity leave, and flexibility at work, women’s careers will be disrupted less, and we shall see more women in boardrooms. Two, safety is a top concern for women across the board - in homes, in offices and on the street. We have had women share instances of domestic abuse and workplace harassment. Safety is a collective responsibility and must be on the top-most agenda for businesses, as well as our public services. Three, our healthcare systems are mired in gender biases, and a very skewed understanding of women’s medical and health needs. There is an urgent need for upgrades both in terms of mindsets as well as the overall approach to healthcare. In a nutshell, this real-time data is absolutely fascinating, and will tell you so much about women’s progress (or what’s lacking in it) in India.
MediAvataar: Tell us more about your recent acquisition.
Sairee: SHEROES recently acquired mom’s app Babygogo, which was founded in 2014 by three young entrepreneurs - Siddhartha, Sowrabh and Satyadeep, to help parents leverage technology to address everyday child healthcare. Being the best-in-class among a sea of parenting apps, Babygogo aligns perfectly with the SHEROES vision in terms of crafting a high empathy, high trust space where mothers can discuss a range of things, while also seeking expert advice and simultaneously, leveraging the real-time collective wisdom of its growing community. Besides domain depth, Babygogo brings with it a strong tech foundation, and we are extremely thrilled to welcome them into the SHEROES fold.
MediAvataar: What is SHE and what made you launch that?
Sairee: SHE is our compliance and prevention of sexual harassment product in 2017, which interestingly, we launched before the #MeToo campaign. Our conversations and engagement with women since the start, convinced us that the approach towards curbing sexual harassment needed a much more nuanced approach - businesses by their very nature had to focus on becoming safe spaces - not just on office premises; the framework must include work-from-home employees, offsites, and online communication, to name a few. Such a transformation can never happen through one-off trainings but over a period of time, through continued interventions via trainings, conversations, debates and discussions. Such interventions are as important as addressing cases that crop up, fairly and swiftly. The larger vision is to nurture safe spaces, and healthy work cultures, and this can only be brought out through more focus on diversity at work.
MediAvataar: What is your future vision for the platform?
Sairee: In the next five years, SHEROES aims to put 100 million women on the growth road map, and to meet our goals we are strengthening our communities, building solid relationships with partners, and evangelising ideas around what constitutes women’s growth.