Emerging Entrepreneurs

Building a safe hang-out online for women

N Ramakrishnan | Updated on December 23, 2019 Published on December 23, 2019

Sairee Chahal, Founder & CEO, Sheroes   -  N Ramakrishnan

Sheroes is a women-only community platform that allows its members to do a lot of things

It was the consulting company, Saita Consulting, that Sairee Chahal started in 2006 to work with tech start-ups that seeded the idea for what is now Sheroes, a women’s only community platform that has nearly 16 million users. That was a high calibre team, she says of Saita Consulting.

“We were a consulting company and we needed to hire people who had come from the consulting business. We had women who were ex-McKinsey, ex-Bain and ex-BCG, who worked with us for the only reason that we had a lot of flexibility for them,” says Sairee. “They were not on the treadmill, they had time to look after the family,” she adds. “That became a little seed for what we do today. Basically putting women and the internet together.”

Fleximoms

She started a platform called Fleximoms that brought together companies and women who were looking for flexible working options. At that time, she points out, there was no concept of work from home. She would talk to companies to explore flexible working options for women. Many women signed up on the platform.

Her choice then was to either build a boutique company or build an Internet company that could be scaled. Sairee chose the latter option. She quit the consulting business and founded Sheroes in 2014, as a jobs and career community for women. “We were focussed on companies and jobs. The thing that we did well and that is the DNA of Sheroes was the community,” says Sairee.

 

 

 

Sheroes had a helpline, had a lot of Q&As, it did offline, thanks to which women were able to leverage the platform for themselves. Sheroes also raised angel money from well-known serial entrepreneurs and investors. It counts the likes of Girish Mathrubootham of Freshworks, Vijay Shekhar Sharma of Paytm, Binny Bansal of Flipkart, Rajan Anandan, then of Google India, and Raghav Bahl, then of Network 18, as its investors. “We had 20,000 companies signed up. But somewhere along the way, the conversation started changing. That is when we realised something was happening. Jio was happening. Women were coming from different parts and asking questions, looking for different things,” says Sairee. This prompted her to re-boot and relaunch Sheroes in 2018. “We launched as this platform that exists today, as a women only social network. The idea was to build it for everyone,” she says. With the number of women online increasing, Sheroes decided to offer them much more than just jobs and careers. Sheroes now offers women choices around well being, building their own online identities, career guidance and counselling, access to income opportunities, access to growth, access to mentorship and, more importantly, “a safe place for women to hang out and have fun.” That is what Sheroes is today. “It is really a space for women to hang out and have fun. It is a space for women to hang out, to get more from life, to find their online identities, to build large networks, peer networks. It is a rich experience for the internet for them,” says Sairee. Sheroes still invests a lot in well-being and support. It runs a counselling helpline. It has tied up with Fortis Hospitals to make available its counsellors and therapists on the Sheroes platform.

According to Sairee, Sheroes runs a workforce business to help women get jobs. The platform is slowly opening up to peer-to-peer transactions, women buying and selling. Then there is credit to women. Sheroes gets capital from banks and NBFCs and does the under-writing, the risk and recovery of the loans.

Transaction fee

Where does Sheroes get its income from? From the workforce business, where it helps women get jobs. It takes a transaction fee. These women work from home, earn monthly salaries and Sheroes manages that entire transaction. It gets an income from the peer-to-peer transactions and through the lending business.

Sheroes, according to Sairee, has opened up immense possibilities for women. More women are forming small groups, are comfortable sharing their creative side and are more open to discussing problems and issues. The platform got to the first million users in 2017 and now has 16 million women on the platform. Its aim is to get to 100 million women in 3-4 years. A majority of the users are from smaller cities and towns – places such as Surat, Ahmedabad, Visakhapatnam, Pune, Kohima and Gorakphur. Sheroes does a gender verification of its users, and has a high degree of spam and abuse control. “More than the number of users, what is important is what these users get from us. What is the value to them. Building these business lines, building the ecosystem, creating more partnerships, ultimately think of us as a super app for women,” says Sairee.

 

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Published on December 23, 2019
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