Leading Women: Stories of Entrepreneurship
All of us have hidden strengths that come forth when we are challenged or inspired. And at SoaringEagles we love to hear these stories of human endurance and ingenuity. Of dreams – big and small – becoming a reality.
Every month, we try to catch up with a woman entrepreneur or business leader for a quick chat to understand how they do, what they do!
This month, we spoke to Nirali Sanghi, Founder & Owner, Indiaparenting.com
Indiaparenting.com is India’s first and largest parenting site catering to the needs of parents across diverse geographies, culture, and language with nuanced content that is relevant to their local culture.
“I had a 5-month old baby; we did 18-hour days, and I couldn’t wait to get up the next day and start again.”
This is the sentence that sticks to mind from our conversation with Nirali!
Here’s the rest of the talk –
Q: You launched indiaparenting.com in 1999 and almost 20 years down the line you still sound so excited about it. Tell us how it all started.
Nirali: Well, after I had my baby in 1998, like all new mums I went on the Internet to look for advice and information and saw a huge gap – there was no information that was India centric. All the biggest websites and forums were either US or UK based. Things like Indian baby names, information on mundan ceremonies, etc – things that are specific to our culture was just not discussed online.
So right off the bat, I knew that this is something that has enormous potential! By the time my baby was 5 months old, I had a team of 15 people working out of my bedroom – there were desks and laptops all around and a baby sleeping on the side. We launched the website in May 1999.
It was crazy, but also really great! We were doing everything in that one room; writing, designing, programming – you name it.
You have to remember this was the dot-com boom period and the website really took off very very fast. We even had an offer to sell it. We got funding in 2000, just before the huge dot-com crash!
Q: Wow, this sounds exciting! Did you find it difficult to get an investor on board? And did this investment help the website?
Nirali: Well I have around nine years of experience in Banking and Marketing, so when it comes to approaching investors, I knew what I was doing.
At first, the idea was to use the funds to acquire other similar parenting sites and expand the business, but with the crash, the market was quite iffy, and in 2003 I decided to return the unused funds. Our investors had entrusted it to us and as we didn’t need the funds anymore; I was sure that returning them would unlock the investment for someone else, so we gave the investors their money back.
Our website was self-funded and making money. We didn’t need the extra funds, and it was the right thing to do.
We did a whole redesign and relaunched the website in 2008, and then the market crashed again in 2009!
Q: What bad timing! And twice in a row! What are some of the challenges you faced throughout your 20-year journey?
Nirali: In the beginning, naturally the struggle to just get it off the ground was immense – there was no office, very few employees, I had to keep a tight rein on the cost because it was all coming out of my pocket and also it was all so new.
Plus, I have very strong opinions on what I like regarding content and style and managing a diverse team of creative people with different mindsets was something I had trouble with in the beginning.
What I find professionally challenging and also very exciting is to create new products and develop them from scratch – its all yours, like a baby. That’s what keeps me going really.
Of course, along the way, there were products and services that didn’t work very well – like an e-commerce venture for baby products. We realised that people are searching for specific information when they visit us, and the mindset was not receptive to pitch sales.
Q: What about your experience as a woman entrepreneur? Anything that stands out?
Nirali: I didn’t have any specific challenges being a woman.
Now things are a bit different, but at the start, we would go for meetings, and people would just look at the male employee, they just expected the guy to be senior, I guess (laughs). Men focus on men! All that has changed a fair bit now, so many more women in boardrooms now.
Q: Almost 20 years down the line; what are your takeaways from the journey.
Nirali: We are the largest Indian parenting site! And the first, other sites came and went, but we are still here and growing. I couldn’t have done it without my outstanding team. We have 15 permanent employees now, and every single one of them is fantastic. I give them a completely free hand and no matter what the challenge – they just crack it! I know it sounds like a cliché, but we are like a family.
Q: You recently did one of our courses on public speaking. What motivated you to do this course?
Nirali: Well actually I am getting several opportunities to speak at forums and conferences, and I thought I could use some help.
What I discovered is that I am part of the vast majority of average speakers (laughs) – we are not too bad, but not great either. So, the course really helped spike my confidence by correcting some important points – like dealing with negative situations or structuring the ppt.
What I really liked was how to make your presentation memorable – I never really thought in that direction, so that was quite refreshing.
Q: Finally, what do you think is the most important requirement for an entrepreneur – women, and men.
Nirali: From my experience, its family support. Your husband, your children, and your extended family matter a great deal – they can either make the journey fun or make it harder.
As the digital world expands and fills up our homes, we are quite sure that Nirali and her team will continue to grow with it. We wish them continued success!
If you would like to share your entrepreneurial journey, then drop us a quick note or a comment below. We would love to hear from you.