Women entrepreneurs: Monica Gupta

In life, while we learn to do many things, some things just come to us naturally. Same is the case with Monica Gupta, 32, founder of the online portal Craftsvilla.com, who likes to believe that she was born with the trait of entrepreneurship. “I am from a Marwari Baniya family,” she smiles, as if in justification. “Business runs in my blood.”
A professionally qualified chartered accountant, Gupta had spent some time in the US to pursue her MS. On returning to India, she worked with some NGOs in Gujarat and Maharashtra. It was a pleasure road trip to Kutch that changed her life. “I met so many artisans who were selling handmade products at such a cheap price,” she says. “I realised that when we get out in the market to buy handmade products, they are really expensive. This is just because of the many middlemen whose hands they pass through. Neither the customer nor the artisan benefits from this process. Some artisans were even thinking of leaving their profession in search of better paying jobs.” That is when the idea of Crafstvilla.com occurred to her. After much brainstorming with her husband, Manoj Gupta, the portal was born in 2011. Craftsvilla.com was initially funded by Gupta’s personal savings of Rs 10 lakh and later by external funding from Nexus Venture Partners and Lightspeed Venture Partners. In six months, Manoj quit his job and joined his wife as business picked up.
Craftsvilla.com is an online marketplace to discover unique handmade ethnic Indian products, says Gupta. “It offers a platform that connects sellers and buyers directly and does away with the middlemen,” she says. “The listing and registration for sellers is free. We only charge a 15 per cent commission when the sellers get an order from us. The buyers also benefit as they pay directly to the seller and all the middlemen charges are taken off.” Even though online shopping is picking up in the country, both buyers and sellers are not fully open to the idea yet, feels Gupta. “I had sellers coming to me with all kinds of queries—how do I pack my goods, how do I courier it, how do I get payment and so on,” she says. “So now when a seller registers with us, we provide them training in basic e-commerce procedures through slides and videos. There is also a helpline that caters to their doubts.”
The portal, which has more than 600 registered sellers and 1,00,000 products up for sale, was the best possible business model, says Gupta. “It would be impossible to set up physical stores to stock up so many products.” And, it is more than successful. The 25 per cent monthly growth rate and turnover of Rs 6 crore (as on closing in last accounting year) is enough proof. But Gupta does not measure her success in numbers. “I am happy that my business is profitable,” she says. “But, I become happier when I know that I have touched the lives of even a few around me. For instance, an artisan from Kutch called me and said, “Madam, Aaj main bahut khush hoon. Aapki vajah se maine apne bachche ka fees bhara hoon.” These are the moments when I feel that I am, indeed, doing the right thing.
Being a woman, what gives her immense happiness is that her venture is helping empower many other women like her, says Gupta. “I feel proud that I am creating so many women entrepreneurs,” she says. “So many housewives have become entrepreneurs, even if on a small scale, through Craftsvilla.com.” But she has a word of advice to all the women who are nursing dreams of starting up businesses on their own. “Take care of your health,” she says. “It might sound like a very banal thing to say. But you will understand the importance of this piece of advice only two years into your business.” She says irrespective of whether an entrepreneur is a woman or not, they should take care that they eat healthy, do not overwork and get regular exercise. “After two years of Craftsvilla.com, I was like, ‘Man! I’ve grown so old so fast’,” she says, with a laugh. “Now, we have made it a point to restrict our work at Craftsvilla.com from 10 in the morning to eight at night.
Gupta, who stays at Kandivili with her husband and her two young daughters, feels that the negative aspect of being a women entrepreneur is that sometimes “people do not take you seriously”. “When they see me with my children, they feel that I am no good to take care of my business,” she says. “This is a general notion that people harbour about women. But what they forget is that women are biologically made in a way that they can multi-task effectively.” But the positive side of being a woman is the respect you receive from the artisans in the village. “Villagers are very innocent people,” she says. “I have noticed that they trust women more than men and believe that we are more truthful and loyal. So this works for me as they listen to me patiently and place their trust in me.”
The last thing a woman should try to do is balance her business and home, says Gupta. “It just drains out all your energy and brings in a lot of guilt,” she says. “Life involves a lot of juggling. So when I juggle responsibilities of work, family and myself, I have learnt to intentionally drop a different ball every day. Like that I can take care of every aspect of my life without feeling guilty.” Accept that you are not perfect, that you are not superhuman, she says. “Just let go.”

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