We read many interesting stories about young male entrepreneurs who are thriving in the burgeoning Indian start-up culture. Unfortunately, not enough is being written about the women who are changing the entrepreneurship game in the country. Gender based inequality has deep roots in India, but the struggles women entrepreneurs go through are pretty much the same across the world. Despite the challenges, some have managed to break through the proverbial glass ceiling and are giving the men a run for their money. This International Women’s Day, meet Kavita Sugandh who carved out a niche for herself as a successful entrepreneur and business leader in the thriving Indian direct selling industry. From making Rs.35,000 in her first job to today making a 7-figure income in US dollars, she has come a long way!
Tell us a bit about your background and how it influenced your decision to become an entrepreneur.
I come from Nagpur from a traditional business family. My father encouraged me to start earning my own money from an early age. I always knew I wanted to do something on my own. However, lack of enough capital to get started was holding me back. After 8 years of working for leading MNCs, I quit my job and started an HR consultancy business. That was my first venture into entrepreneurship.
So how did you go from there to direct selling? What attracted you to it?
At the consultancy business, I was the CEO, administrator, and the clerk all rolled into one since I couldn’t afford to hire anyone. Through hard work I was able to grow the business but my company was centred around me. I could not afford to fall sick or go on vacation since a lot of money was at stake. Also, all the profits seemed to only appear on paper and never in the bank!
Two years after I started the business, a family friend told my husband and I about direct selling. The opportunity was through QNet, a prominent Asian direct selling company from Hong Kong. He and I went for one of QNet’s international conventions where I had the opportunity to attend training programs and interact with other distributors from around the world to learn more about this business. I was so inspired by its potential that I came back home from the convention and closed down my HR business to focus on direct selling instead.
How long did it take you before you achieved some level of success with QNet?
For the first 18 months, I didn’t make any money. I faced severe setbacks and rejections. That made me angry but it also fuelled my hunger to do better. When I earned my first major commission cheque after 18 months of hard work, the wait was totally worth it!
I have never shied away from hard work, but as an entrepreneur with QNet I have experienced hard work at a whole new level. This is not a get-rich-quick scheme, but a get-rich-sure business, provided you put your heart and soul into it.
Has it been difficult being a woman in this business?
I think men find it far more difficult. Women usually have all the traits needed to succeed in direct selling. We don’t need a special Women’s Day to talk about everything that’s good about being a woman. Success doesn’t see gender. It comes to those who put their blood and sweat into and are deserving of it.
Your advice to the young generation of women who aspire to be entrepreneurs.
In India, even today in many places young women or girl children are dissuaded from taking up a career or being ambitious. In my opinion we celebrate Women’s Day because we don’t consider women as equal to men. I tell the women in my organisation that their success is entirely up to them. They need to believe they can be successful and be willing to put in the work needed for it.