From the land of Wasseypur to the world of entrepreneurship: Poonam Gupta

Imagine growing up as a girl in the world of Gangs of Wasseypur. Imagine being raised in a family who believed that it is not worth educating women. Imagine fighting all odds to not only get a good education, but also becoming an entrepreneur to find solutions to real problems.

Poonam Gupta: The lady behind the success of WeeSure

Imagine growing up as a girl in the world of Gangs of Wasseypur. Imagine being raised in a family who believed that it is not worth educating women. Imagine fighting all odds to not only get a good education, but also becoming an entrepreneur to find solutions to real problems. 

This is the story of Poonam Gupta, the Founder of WeeSure.

Coming from the city of Dhanbad in Jharkhand, on which the said movie was based and shot, Gupta holds an electrical engineering degree, along with an MBA.

“I am grateful to my parents who believed women should get equal education opportunities. I am the only woman in my extended family who is highly educated,” she shared.

Here she shares her unique story of becoming an entrepreneur and also an investor in a startup called Juncart, and talks about what led to the founding of WeeSure, an innovative, hygienic home pregnancy test for women.

How did WeeSure happen? Please share the story behind it.

After finishing my schooling in Dhandbad, I went on to pursue my electrical engineering at College of Engineering, Bhubaneshwar. In my second year there, I joined a startup as an intern and I continued working with them for four years. When I felt my growth was getting stagnant, I decided to upgrade my skills and pursued an MBA.

I worked as an IT consultant with HCL. This stint gave me a huge exposure to how companies function, the HR policies, the administration work, and more. During this time I got married to my love from college, who also is an entrepreneur.

After few years, I realised working for an MNC was not something I wanted. Before I could decide my next steps, I got pregnant. I felt this was a sign for me to quit my job, enjoy my pregnancy and then figure my career path after having my baby.

The idea for WeeSure germinated during my pregnancy. I had to purchase home pregnancy tests to confirm my pregnancy. While using it, I realised it was messy, unhygienic and a big turn-off. First you need to pee in a cup, which may not be the most sterile option and then use a dropper to place a drop on the device. If by mistake you dropped 4-5 drops, the device got ruined or you got invalid results. I had to buy 3-4 devices to perform one test.

I just thought there had to be a better, hygienic way of testing pregnancy at home.

During my pregnancy, with a lot of free time on my hand, I used to read voraciously. I read about a urinal device that women in Western countries used while travelling if they could not find a clean bathroom. This was a funnel-like device. I thought why this couldn’t be turned into a home pregnancy test. 

This is how the WeeSure started.

How is WeeSure different from other ways to test pregnancy?

WeeSure is a completely biodegradable device made from paper. It replaces the plastic devices available today in the market.

It is funnel shaped and the test strip is attached to it. In it, one does not need to restrict the flow of urine. All you have to do is unfold the device, place it in the flow area and pee. You then remove the device and read the result. It is completely hygienic.

WeeSure does not manufacture the pregnancy test strip. We use the strips from a trusted partner. All we have done is used a smart technology to change the process of testing.

We have tested it in multiple clinics with successful results. We are waiting for certification and will launch in the next few months.

How did working with a startup during your engineering days help you become an entrepreneur?

I come from a business background, so being an entrepreneur is in my blood. But, yes working with the startup helped me understand the workings of a company, importance of pivoting your business as per market demands, building innovation, dealing with different people, managing teams, etc.

How difficult is it to become an entrepreneur? What challenges have you faced?

I think being a woman is a big blessing and an equally big challenge. Balancing a new baby, family, in-laws and my startup baby was difficult. I did not have guidance on what I needed to do and how to get it done. The medical field itself has a lot of compliance and procedures to adhere to. Convincing the right people of my startup idea was a challenge. I wasted a lot of time running around trying to find the right path.

How do you balance your work-life spaces? Could you share some useful tips to our readers?

The key lies in prioritising. Family or work – one thing cannot come first always. It is about knowing what is important in that moment. You cannot always strike a perfect balance, but you need to keep trying.

My husband is also extremely supportive. He shares the home responsibilities with me and takes over the management whenever I need to travel for work or rush to meetings. He helps me strike a work-life balance. 

What would be your advice to India's youth/budding start-ups?

  • Stay on the pulse of the market. Before starting or concluding your startup idea, check if that is what the market demands.
  • Try to find solutions to real problems.
  • There will be new challenges along the way. Be ready to meet them head-on.
  • Think ahead. Getting an idea is easy, execution is very difficult.
  • Understand what you can do alone and what you can do along. Use this knowledge to partner with the right people.
  • Ensure you have the family’s buy-in. It will play a huge role in your success.
  • Entrepreneurship is tough. Be ready for the ride of your lifetime.

What are the life lessons that have helped you face the rigours of entrepreneurship?

The first is by my husband. He says, “Always listen to people around you. You may be surprised by the insight they provide.”

The second one is by my father. He told, “Never give up. Finish whatever you have started.”

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