Tell us about yourself and your background
Born and brought up in Delhi, I came to Pune after my graduation, leaving to work in Mumbai for a bit and eventually settling in Pune.
I have an Economics (H) from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi and MBA HR from Symbiosis Institute of Business Management Pune.
For the last 16 years I have worked in Human Resources in companies like Godrej Consumer Products, Airtel and IBM. My last corporate role was of Associate Director – Talent, IBM India/South Asia.
I have worked extensively in the space of Diversity and Inclusion and hence I had a keen interest in gender diversity and its rising importance to corporates and the economy.
Tell us about the company you have set up?
Woman At Work was set up in July 2015 as India’s first platform and magazine for working women. It aims to be the go-to platform for all women with professional interests and aspirations. The platform aims to be an enabler for women across work segments – corporates, entrepreneurs, freelancers and any other profession. The company’s mission is to provide all that a woman needs professionally to keep her in the workforce.
Why did you set up the company? / What drove you to become an Entrepreneur?
Having carved out a satisfying journey in the corporate world and built a strong reputation as an HR leader, I wanted to do something of my own which has a direct visible impact to both the economy and society at large. Starting off a venture was on top of my bucket list and when the right opportunity came, I took the plunge.
The space of working women seemed like a very pertinent one where I could make a difference to the lives of millions of urban, educated women by getting them back to work or keeping them at work. As many reports and studies have shown, a more gender equal workplace can make India economically and socially much stronger and progressive.
Also, I wanted to especially focus on media. Women constitute more than 30% of India’s workforce. Working women have made their presence felt across sectors and professions. Working women are leaders, thinkers, doers and trendsetters. Yet, when you look around, you hardly see any segment of the media addressing the needs of a working woman exclusively. Given the strong stereotypes that relate women to glamour, fashion, kitchen and family, it is an uphill task to create and retain her identity that views her as an individual who has an interest in building a successful career, developing her skills and knowledge and also indulge in her passion that could be gadgets, books, travel, cars, art or humour.
Hence our first product was an exclusive magazine for working women in digital and print, which is India’s first-such magazine.
What has been your biggest challenge in achieving your success?
In spite of being a leader in the corporate world, when you start a venture, you start right from the beginning. You have no title, only your passion and vision to stand by you. Also as a start-up, you need to know about all sides of doing a business. Being a specialist doesn’t hold good in the initial years.
Since this is a new space we created, making people understand the need for this offering has been our major focus right from inception.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
We just finished a year of our magazine and in this duration have a reach of over 300,000 readers across the country. This for us was a big validation of the need for what we had created.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
My inspiration has been the end consumer – the working women. I met thousands of educated women who want to work but could not find a way to do so in spite of tremendous digital progress. I always went back to the question – how can we help them?
Other than that, all entrepreneurs, men and women, young and old, continue to inspire me with their passion and persistence.
How do you balance your work life and home life?
I believe that only equal homes can create equal work and life spaces. Time is always a challenge whether for work or personal pursuits, but one learns to prioritise at various stages of life.
What advice do you have for women starting out on their own?
Entrepreneurship or doing your own thing doesn’t mean you need to spend less time than you did in a job. In fact it means more. I have seen a lot of women struggle with this revelation because they think being on your own gives you flexibility and time off. You definitely can choose to be flexible but you own things end-to-end. So you have to be prepared to work more. Only passion and persistence can stand an entrepreneur in good stead.
Can you recommend any organisations or networking groups that have particularly helped you on your journey?
Call it serendipity or good fortune, one of the best things that happened to me was a network called BNI International. A good friend introduced me to it. It is a business referral network of entrepreneurs – big and small – across the world and they are present in almost every city of India today. In spite of my strong, corporate exposure and belief that only corporates can be ‘professional’, their organisation and processes and the focus on business and networking with intent impressed me. BNI has been one of the biggest enablers for me in my journey in this new world of business. I would strongly recommend this to any person starting off or even thinking of a venture.
If you could ask for one thing to help propel your business what would it be?
Marketing and funding are two classic challenges of any start-up and I have the same issues. So I am constantly looking for partners for collaboration in these spaces and also technology.
What does the future hold for you?
The journey has just began and we have a long way to go. Of the 30 mn urban educated women, only 25% or so are in the workforce. It is our dream and mission to move the needle positively and make their talent count.
About Poornima Parameswaran Batish
A corporate leader-turned- startup adventurer, Poornima Parameswaran Batish started her venture, Woman At Work, in 2015. She believes in the economic and social power of women and wants to enable every woman with professional aspirations to be a part of the productive workforce. Born and educated in Delhi and Pune and now based in Pune with her spouse, daughter and parents, she credits her parents with the progressive thinking they imbibed in her right from early years. They never positioned ‘ working’ as a choice to her. It was considered a natural move for someone who was educated and talented, even if she was a female. Poornima believes that authenticity, passion for purpose and grit and take one where no one has gone earlier.