My children keep me grounded by making sure to appreciate the smallest things: Deepthi Ravula, CEO, WE HUB
A pioneer in the industry, a leader at the workplace and a loving mother at home, Deepthi Ravula, CEO, WE HUB shares her thoughts on this mother’s day
Anushruti Singh May 9, 2021
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Deepthi Ravula spearheads WE HUB, the country’s first exclusive incubator for start-ups founded by women innovators and developers. With an extensive experience of 15 years in the STEMS field, she is currently focused on creating a work environment that is gender blind and on fostering economic independence as a tool for empowerment.
At home as mothers, its imperative that we include our children in both our professional and personal lives as they are an essential part of the journey and doing so makes the family stronger. As SME Futures caught up with her in a conversation, she discusses the various aspects of women’s entrepreneurship. She believes that many facets of entrepreneurship are similar to what a woman goes through while shouldering the responsibilities of motherhood. This is why most women entrepreneurs thrive after they become mothers as they bring more vigour to what they do.
Why do you think mothers make the best entrepreneurs?
Every aspect of entrepreneurship focuses on the customer. It is about getting the product right, thinking about the gaps the customer may have to deal with, about the various uses for a product and ensuring that the product gets to the market on time. And all this needs to be done with a huge motivation to hustle and to put the best product out in the market within a given time frame. Motherhood, has the same aspects… So, while I will not say that mothers make the best entrepreneurs, I believe that many of the best women entrepreneurs do thrive after they become mothers.
For me, motherhood did not push me into entrepreneurship. But it ensured that I accomplished more within the time that I was at work, because anytime that I am at work is the time that I am not spending with my children. It makes me much more driven, outcome oriented and most importantly, achieve more in the time that I have in a day or in a week, essentially, within the time frame that I have set for myself to achieve that goal.
Tell us a bit about your relationship with your children. How have they pushed you to be a great mother and a successful entrepreneur at the same time? Any instance?
My relationship with my children is a lot more informal than the relationship that I have with my own parents. They are a big part of my journey and as a family we ensure that our children are part of our personal and professional journeys.
My children keep me grounded by making sure that they appreciate the smallest things and question the biggest things.
The beauty of life is to begin again with new perspectives and new learnings. I learnt skating from my son and continue to learn whatever arouses my curiosity, along with my children.
How has the journey and evolution of WE HUB been so far?
WE HUB is engaging with women entrepreneurs across the country, through their incubation programme, which is open to urban tech-enabled enterprises across the country. In the first cohort, they had 26 entrepreneurs from seven cities in India. In the second cohort, they had 26 start-ups from 16 cities in India.
So far, WE HUB, the country’s only start-up incubator for women entrepreneurs, has given wings to 148 dreams, and in the three years since its inception, has engaged 3,427 women entrepreneurs, supported 276 such start-ups, and created 320 jobs.
Entrepreneurship in the pandemic is especially working out well for women entrepreneurs. What are the key takeaways from this?
As the pandemic posed unforeseen challenges for the incubator, it threatened to shut down work and undo all that they had achieved in the past two years.
However, our team kept working throughout this harrowing time to keep women entrepreneurs motivated. The team at WE HUB put in a lot of effort, where we started engaging with our entrepreneurs via one-on-one phone calls, not at our own convenience but at their convenience. And not just to tell them that, ´you are an entrepreneur, go for it’, but more in terms of asking them, “how are you doing, is there something that we can do for you”?
WE-HUB´s work during COVID has given them much traction. They started eight new programs during the COVID crisis. Entrepreneurs received more than US $157,000 in funding during this time to create four new projects.
We have received funding from the Australian High Commission for enabling more urban tech- enabled women entrepreneurs, for which they’ve launched a programme called Upsurge. They have also collaborated with an initiative of Stanford University to train about a hundred girls in data science.
We also received a CSR grant from a private individual, based on which, they created a revolving fund for women entrepreneurs looking for basic stopgap funding. Recently, we were also able to create a new programme with the tribal welfare department in Telangana to support 37 tribal women entrepreneurs across the state. In addition, they have received support and funding to create a programme for 400 women led businesses in one municipality of Telangana.
We have also successfully disseminated an amount of Rs 12 crore to women entrepreneurs through their Credit Linkages Drive during COVID.
Adding to that question, are there any special programs or initiatives for mompreneurs from WE HUB, or are there any plans for the same?
One of the foremost thought processes that we follow when we create a programme at WE HUB is to ensure that it includes all women irrespective of their life stages. So, a lot of care goes into making our programs as flexible as we can so that more women entrepreneurs can use WE HUB.
The organisation propels the start-up vision of aspiring women entrepreneurs by being the 1st incubator to have a 24/7 monitored space with access control, flexible seating options, a play area for children and a nursing room for mothers.
Despite the progress women have made in Indian society, do you think we are still battling with subtle stereotypes in India, especially when women becomes mompreneurs? What needs to change?
Yes, there are a lot of biases towards gender in the workspace and it’s not just an Indian phenomenon. It is a worldwide phenomenon. Change needs to come from within by having more women leaders in decision making spaces, more women in board rooms and most importantly, women themselves should champion other women who are coming up the ladder.
One of the biggest challenges that we need to overcome is the internal self-doubt that all of us have. Once we overcome self-doubt, the world is our oyster and there is nothing which can stop women from being an integral part of the workforce of the country.
What more still needs to be done in the start-up ecosystem space for women entrepreneurs?
The biggest service that can be done for women entrepreneurs is to look at women’s entrepreneurship as more than just a check mark and to create sustainable and scalable programs keeping them in mind.