- Date : 05/02/2018
- Read: 5 mins
Pooja Bhayana, co-founder of Let’s Barter India, offers a peek into her entrepreneurial journey, gender bias, and her advice to aspiring businesswomen.
A lot has been said about the challenges that women entrepreneurs face. For example, it was found that startups headed by women received only 2% of all the equity funding raised last year. But very little has been said about women who have crossed all kinds of hurdles to run successful businesses.
Pooja Bhayana is one such woman entrepreneur. Pooja, along with a friend Sahil Dhingra - started a venture - Let’s Barter India – in 2015 with just a Facebook page. Today, this online exchange platform for products and services has an app, and its Facebook page has close to 1.9 lakh members.
Here’s what Pooja Bhayana has to say about her entrepreneurial journey.
Family, education and personal experiences
I was born and brought up in a very protected environment. When I was 17, I went to Singapore to pursue a graduate degree in mass communication. This experience gave me a lot of exposure as I lived and interacted with people of different ethnic cultures. After working for a magazine in Singapore for a while, I wanted to live closer to my family. Hence, I decided to return to India.
Moving from a career in public relations to starting her own venture
My job in public relations was a high-intensity one. It was a while before I realised that I did not want to be a part of the rat race. My brother motivated me to think of the bigger picture – “where do I wish to see myself after ten years?” That’s when I decided that it’s “now or never”. So, I worked in different start-ups for a year to understand their working process better. Let’s Barter India wasn’t planned at all. At the risk of sounding cliched, I started something of my own to “find happiness” and to be able to set my own pace of work.
Challenges she faces
While I don’t like focusing on the negatives, I did encounter some challenges because I’m a woman. There have been instances when investors had invariably turned to Sahil when they had questions about our venture. It seemed like they presumed that Sahil does all the work. I’ve also had investors ask me about my future plans – “what happens when you get married?” Another challenge we faced was making Let’s Barter India stand out from all the countless other start-ups.
Role and duties in running Let’s Barter India
I am involved in every aspect of Let’s Barter India. Initially, I handled content and graphics. Now, I also manage social media, operational process and fundraising.
Funding the venture
We started with a Facebook page as we had very little working capital. Initially, we sought help from people that we knew, and later we began approaching investors. We did not want to choose an investor just for the sake of funding our start-up. I think the relationship between startup founders and their investors is much like a marriage. We wanted to ensure that our investors share our mindset, values and vision.
Response to Let’s Barter India
The response has been overwhelming, considering we did very little marketing, except for some events. For example, we organised a social book barter event where people exchanged their books with those bought by others. It was all organic – our customers came to us on their own.
How Let’s Barter India is different from its competitors
I think what makes us unique is that we aren’t here to promote an app, we are here to encourage the bartering culture and create a community. Our aim isn’t to give our customers something they will like, but to understand what they want and then build a product around that.
Biggest support on the journey so far
Our biggest support has been Dr Ritesh Malik – who runs Innov8 Coworking. He suggested turning our idea of barter into a business venture. He also helped us with funding in the initial stages. He helped open many doors for us. He has always treated Sahil and me like equals, and never let me think less of myself.
Advice to other women entrepreneurs
When it comes to impressing an investor, your business needs to make financial sense – it is not just about the ideas but also about execution. You should be able to explain to them how you plan to return or grow their money.
Also, don’t think you are not capable of achieving your dreams and don’t wait for someone else to help make them come true. You can be your own hero.
Today Pooja Bhayana is an inspiration to all women who want to fight and are fighting gender biases, as they try to establish their place in the business world.