Women Entrepreneurs: Ritu Mathur Interview
1. Tell us about yourself and your venture.
I grew up in Delhi & after graduating from the College of Business Studies I worked across various verticals like sales, consulting & HR for about 8 years. Then, as with many other women, I had to quit as I had a difficult pregnancy with my daughter (now 16). Subsequently, I got absorbed between moving to Mumbai and the birth of my son (now 13) and bringing them up after that
Now, with both the kids somewhat grown-up, I wanted to look at options outside. Around this time, my husband, Vivek, who has been in senior consulting, retail & e-commerce roles, also decided to explore possibilities of starting up, and one day we just came upon this idea for Kidwise
With both our kids we were always looking for good local learning & recreation options and seeking recommendations particularly as we have been moving cities/houses every 3-4 years – and so were our friends who had school-going kids! While many communities and resource sites existed, they focused largely on new mothers -minus 9 months to +3 yrs.
That is when we decided to set up an online platform for parents of school-going kids to connect with each other and with a variety of service providers like hobby classes, sports coaches, daycares, activities, etc. Since parents largely rely on reviews and recommendations from other parents like them, the community is always at the heart of Kidwise.
This is supported by the ‘discovery’ of various local providers enriched by reliable reviews, as well as content to engage and enlighten parents to get better at the job of parenting. Also, unlike most other parenting sites that are exclusively for Moms, we wanted a platform where Dads could also participate.
We started working on this about a year ago, and we launched kidwise.in a couple of months ago in Pune. We plan to roll out to other cities after assimilating our learning in Pune.
2. What does it take to be a women entrepreneur?
Obviously the expectation – from both self and family! It is the notion that the women will tend to the home & kids, as the first priority. This creates conflicts and challenges when one decides to go back to work. So, certainly, one needs to have a support system in place, and set clear expectations with each member of the family! Explaining the reasons for that is also a very important requirement
Secondly, if one has taken a long career break, as I did, then a considerable amount of unlearning and re-learning is necessary to catch up. Third, one has to find opportunities which can leverage one’s strength and capabilities.
3. What have been your accomplishments as an entrepreneur?
We have only just begun, so it is too early to speak of accomplishments honestly! But it is personally very exciting and gratifying to see the heartwarming response from both the parent community, as well as small providers, who have joined the platform
On one hand, Kidwise intends to solve the problem of finding, evaluating and getting reviews of various types of providers; schools to classes to activities to special needs! It’s exhausting! And on the other, it will empower the thousands of micro-entrepreneurs, again a large majority being women, who run tuitions, classes, etc, by enabling them to reach out and connect with parents in their neighborhoods and beyond! I believe that this platform will be a boon to grow their businesses.
4. What are the challenges of having your spouse as a co-founder?
Unlike 20-something couples who decide to start-up a business together, we have been together through the ups and downs for over 20 years and have learned to manage our diverse preferences & disagreements
We also recognize that our strengths and personalities are complementary, and it is important to leverage that difference. So we decided early on, that I would manage the community and content, while Vivek will be responsible for the technology, marketing, team& financials.
It is still early days, but we are confident that the mutual understanding of over 20 years shall enable us to weather the differences & disagreements!
5. Whom do you consider as your role model and why?
I’ve had various role models at different stages of my life as my personal and professional goals kept evolving. At present, I have an opportunity to interact with several women entrepreneurs and educators who are successfully managing the daily challenges of balancing home and career. With much to learn from them as I embark on this journey, for sure they are the role models I look up to!
7. What would you like to say to the budding women entrepreneurs or those who want to become entrepreneurs?
It would be presumptuous for me to offer advice, as I am only getting started on this journey. However, the one thing I would say is that it is never too early, and it is never too late to start up something that you believe in!
6. How do you strike a balance between home and career?
Vivek has never believed in the work-life balance, even in his earlier roles, which means that I’m quite used to his long hours and often working weekends too!
For me, to balance that, I have set strict boundaries on my time, to ensure that home & family continue to run smoothly, and we both are comfortable with this arrangement.