Shanaya Mody is a member of:
I received my undergrad degree while in Australia and I then went to London to complete my MSc HR & International Employment Relations at the London School of Economics. Needless to say, I returned to India armed with zeal and an entrepreneurial spirit. I did not want to venture into the traditional family business which was into heavy engineering but was keen to start something of my own. Since there was some unused land and machinery at my disposal, I did some market research and created a thorough business plan, BCool was started.
A Brief Introduction
While evaluating multiple business propositions with the help of a consultant, we realized that there was an un-used piece of land equipped with some machinery. Basis his advice, I realized the range of products that could be manufactured with the help of those machines and stumbled upon Drink Mix which led to diversification from the heavy machinery business that Mazda was into. We founded ‘BCool’ which marked the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey. I am the Director of BCool (Mazda Limited).
BCOOL is the food division of Mazda Limited, Ahmedabad. Established in 1981, Mazda Limited is a BSE listed company, supplying equipments to various industries like power, fertilizers and chemicals. It was in 2008 that the company entered the international food market with a wide range of products solely for exports.
Important Career Choices Made
I had to make this important career decision while exploring my marketing options. It was clear in my mind that I needed to tap into international markets. However, I was warned by family and friends alike that export trade will take time to establish and breaking through international barriers would be a challenge. That is when I discovered Alibaba.com while searching for an online promotional channel and started a whole new business and used the portal to generate those first few inquiries. We have been leveraging the e-commerce platform as a Gold Supplier member on Alibaba.com for eight years now! We ventured out into manufacturing and exporting premium instant powdered soft drink mixes, food color, flavoring essence, rose-syrups and jams. Today, the business has grown by 125% by using e-commerce as the only promotional and sales channel.
Visions as a Leader
Leadership itself means having visions, visions for where you would like to see yourself, your business and your progress. However, these visions are continually altered and built upon. Not all visionaries are leaders and not all leaders are visionaries. The key for me is to strive to be the best I can be and to encourage those in my team to be the best they can be.
Challenges Faced as a Woman
I was fortunate to have some family support in terms of borrowed capital. In terms of initial starting up, I did invest in R&D while the capital goods for the production were already available. Coming from Ahmedabad, I did see initial barriers by different individuals in this eco-system, be it suppliers or other vendors from packaging. But I was keen to take this challenging assignment up! The internet offers business owners to be gender-neutral, too, so it wasn’t such an obstacle for me. Regardless, as the business grew and became more successful, banks and other financial institutions had faith in me as an entrepreneur and gender became immaterial. Today, we are absolutely debt free and with strong financials.
Striking A Balance
Time Management is a huge problem for most entrepreneurs who single-handedly run their businesses. However, for entrepreneurs like me in the online space, one of the key advantages is that we are mobile – it’s business on the move. Sometimes it seems that I’m working 24/7, because I am connected for most of the day, either on my laptop, tablet or mobile phone.
With the growing use of e-commerce, women entrepreneurs like me can save time at every step of the business cycle, including identifying business opportunities, purchasing raw-materials and even finding sale leads online. While common perceptions of a traditional export oriented business, is travelling to meet with clients, participate in trade shows, etc. In my case, my entire business is run online which leaves me the flexibility to do whatever I wish - as long as I am connected to the internet.
With access to information at the click of a mouse, building and sustaining business networks is made far easier. Online B2B platforms offer aspiring women entrepreneurs virtual workplaces and digitally mobile lifestyles provide the needed flexibility to manage both domestic and work responsibility with ease.
Doing it Differently
I really wouldn’t have done anything differently, for the sole reason that if I had, I wouldn’t know what I know now.
An Opinion: Women Leaders Act as a Driving Force for Powering Businesses.
Today, women are breaking stereotypes and moving away from traditional roles and corporate profiles to turn entrepreneurial. It is not just educated, urban woman, but also women from smaller towns and rural villages who are turning to entrepreneurship and setting-up independent businesses. There are several women who have been able to reshape our world through their entrepreneurial skills and as a result, have been able to create an identity for themselves.
All businesses require hard work and determination, anyone who brings this to the table in a business becomes the cause of its success.
Lessons Learned from a Professional Life
In my opinion, women entrepreneurs are not taken seriously particularly in the business community. Women in my opinion should rise above these barriers, once you establish yourself as a successful entrepreneur; there is acknowledgement from all stakeholders in society.
With online platforms, we can break the socio-economic barriers prevalent in our society. It also provides us with a platform which helps eliminate gender biases for woman entrepreneurs who are in a male-dominated industry.
The reason I endorse e-commerce, is that reach and benefits of this medium are unmatched. From a business perspective, it continues to help us identify serious customers from others. Even if 20% of the inquiries translate into sales, it is good business for us. It is definitely a cheaper, quicker, cleaner and easier medium for entrepreneurs like me.
Dreams and Ambitions
A couple years from now is a very short horizon to achieve all the things I would like to achieve. Nonetheless, year on year I would like to see my business grow along with the hold of my brand in its targeted markets.
An Achievement to Feel Proud About
I am proudest of the relationships I have developed with my long term customers. Business requires a fundamental trust and to have clients instill this trust in you is the best achievement.
A Message for the Women
I’ve learnt that just as they say for life ‘nothing is constant except change’, similarly as an entrepreneur I’ve come to believe that ‘nothing is constant but struggle and often failure’. Success, then, according to me, lies in sticking it through and constantly finding ways to rise above these difficulties while ensuring that in each attempt you’ve superseded your last. I would say that no matter what the obstacles, keep aspiring and moving forward. It does take some time but once you’re established, things sort themselves out!
Message to a Budding Professional
Embrace technology. It may seem like a daunting task for those unfamiliar with e-commerce or how to reach new clients via the web but there are networks of people who can help teach you the ropes, in addition to your own willingness to try and make mistakes. For me, it was a medium I was already familiar with but I’m still learning how to improve my profile and reach new markets. Every day brings new challenges, new competitors and technology can help me be informed and stay competitive.