WE@Headstart Navi Mumbai Feb 2017: Panel Discussion

Read about the WE@Headstart Navi Mumbai launch here.

The panel consisted of our keynote speaker Corporator Netra Shirke (with all her Wisdom), & first generation entrepreneurs Dr Tejal Kanwar (bringing her Insight) and Dr Supriya Shinde (Sarcasm. So much Salt.)

The panel was moderated by Aishwarya Meenakshi (yours truly 🙂 )

(I have a vague urge to include the Captain Planet theme song.)


Coffee With Aishwarya returns!

The panel explored themes of motivation, imposter syndrome, work-life balance (and associated double standards) economic enablers for women and government initiatives that benefit women entrepreneurs.

When things are not going as well as they should, or when everything is going wrong, what keeps you motivated?


The resulting silence amazed me, as our panelists visibly recalled their journies so far to scourge for the answer before ultimately settling on themselves as their biggest motivators. WE@Headstart hopes to engage and motivate women entrepreneurs going forward, and share a multitude of success stories.

Netra emphasized on herself being the greatest motivator. Her drive and ambition has always kept her going, a trait that was echoed by and celebrated by the audience.

Tejal said, it’s a very lonely road, while adding to what Netra said. The grind of being an entrepreneur is hard enough as is, and your sense of purpose must be clear enough.

Supriya reinforced all that was being said, and added that it is the cause that keeps you going when you get up in the morning.

This is a term that members of the academia might be familiar with: Imposter syndrome – the feeling that one is not good enough even while having achieved a lot. How have you coped with self-doubt?

Netra confidently laid down the fact that she rarely doubts herself. Her decisions have always been carefully considered before implementation. A level of self-awareness is also necessary, one must be able to own up to their mistakes and work on correct them to assuage self-doubt. (*drops mike*)

Tejal agreed with the above statement while reiterating that making mistakes was a part of the process. It is important to be aware of one’s weaknesses and address them in a politic manner.

Supriya expressed that she had never suffered from this syndrome. She has always owned up to her faults and those of others. This was accompanied by a hilarious anecdote of her time in TISS( wherin she declared “I may not know what I want, but I definitely know what I do not want”.) and a discussion into the millennial self-confidence. (It seems to have skipped me altogether. I had to work so hard for it! )

What are some journeys which you have seen that you identify with & are inspired by?

Netra narrated a gem of a story: A lower middle class woman, recently widowed, with children to educate and no means of income acquired an auto, taught herself how to ride and hit the ground running. She has managed to earn a decent living and educate her children as well, one of whom is an engineer today. ‘It is these small stories’, said Netra, ‘that inspire far more than the big ones’.

” The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead, there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one.”

–  To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf

Tejal cited Jayalalitha as an inspiration, having read about her only in the days following her death. The fact that she was so well read & an effective leader despite her background is a huge motivator.

Netra also mentioned Smriti Irani, commending her zeal, pro-active nature and preparedness.

Supriya, playing the Devil’s Advocate time and again, raised the point of marriage as well, stating that it has a pivotal impact on an entrepreneur’s journey. Her stance that one must get married only when ready and not because it has been expected was very well received.

There are a slew of government initiatives that benefit women entrepreneurs. Are they effective?

Netra stated: ‘Banks are our friends, we just need to know how to reach them’. This led to an alarming discussion into the nature of loans, mortgages and banks’ demands of the spouse’s finances while applying for a loan.

Supriya elucidated her experience with Standup India, giving a detailed introduction to the entire procedure and lamenting the sheer amount of documentation required and zero handholding being provided. Netra agreed, and cited the Maharashtra Chamber of Commerce as a viable resource for entrepreneurs looking for some degree of handholding. (The sheer amount of scribbling that erupted during this question was fascinating.)

Mrs. Chaya Kubal (Asst. Director, Skill Development, Employment and Entrepreneurship) also pointed out the importance of Skill Development Programs to increase employability. Read more about the Maharashtra State Skill Development Society.

It is an electrifying and beautiful thought that WE@Headstart has mentors such as these to open doors and pave an easier road for our budding Women Entrepreneurs.

How do you maintain a work-life balance?

Netra pointed out that only balance in life is change. While one may try their very best, that guilt of not striking a balance will always creep in.

Tejal rightly pointed out that this is a question that is specific to females. It is even more specific to Mom-preneurs. (I love this word.)

Supriya vehemently agreed with both views and gave a personal POV into her version of balance.

What are some economic enablers for women, which you have encountered?

There was universal consensus on education being the greatest enabler. For those without formal education, skill development can be a significant game changer. Everyone also agreed that a collaborative space like WE@Headstart is the need of the hour and are extremely proud to be associated with the initiative. (*Puffs up like a pelican*)

It is on this note that I concluded the panel and threw open the floor for an audience Q&A session.


Sulekha Chandra, a budding entrepreneur and corporate trainer, raised a poignant question: Why do banks require details of not just the woman herself, but the entire family income? This is the 21st century!; we vehemently believe that a woman has every right to exercise her financial independence without having a man’s name (or account) attached to hers.

Another interesting observation came from Dr Lata Menon herself: The question of work-life balance is indeed asked only to women, specifically the idea that she would be taking maternity leave sometime in the future is assumed and accounted for in the interview itself!


As Mr Spock would say, the end result displayed air-borne chromatic dispersions. (flying colors, my dude.)

Written by Aishwarya Meenakshi .Edited by Smedha Sarkar