Moving on from two successful businesses, Kadambari Umapathy is now spearheading the third one, Women’s Entrepreneurship Development Organisation (wedo.org.in). Her challenge-riddled story is the stuff of movies and the fact that she’s still so full of plans for her organisation and the empowerment of women, speaks volumes about her zest for action and never-say-die spirit. Her learnings have shown clearly that entrpreneurship is not just about finances and talent, it’s also about having a clear purpose and being in the right environment to be able to succeed. And she’s sharing these learning with communities of women entrepreneurs, helping them cocreate, expand and optimise (CEO) their potential through WEDO’s offerings.
Married at 20 and bearing a child soon after, Kadambari has had to change routes to finally find one that has led to her current destination. Starting off her career as a cardiac technologist she soon realised she was more of a manager and administrator. She joined a company consulting in soft skills at a time when it was fresh and new. Even with no experience in the field Kadambari managed to blend in well and introduced courses in Medical Coding and Billing (in which she had completed a certification herself) to add to the revenue of the floundering company. When things didn’t work out she resolved that she would make an example of how well employees needed to be treated in the next venture she founded.
First taste of entrepreneurship
She achieved her resolution within a year of starting a HR company partnering with her friend’s fiance. They grew fast offering soft skills training for colleges and handling recrutiment for corporates such as Wipro. The business flourished, with her partner handing the backend and Kadambari being the face of the firm. “Yet,” adds Kadamabari, “the partnership was a mismatch and things had to be ended abruptly after 7 years. Though the business was doing very well we went our separate ways. It’s only much later that I realised how important it is to have a shared vision and purpose that went beyond achievable milestones to keep a company inspired and growing.”
Life changing experience
Feeling her family life deserved her attention now, she took a break and was recouping when she learnt what she believes is her most important lesson. “After being so busy, sitting at home was depressing. Feeling low one evening I suggested to my husband that we go out window shopping just for a change. His casual question of why I needed a kurti when I was not going to work, really shook me. I had a bank balance and was fully capable of fending for myself. If this was the response I was getting I couldn’t fathom how so many homemakers who didn’t go out to earn were being treated and how they managed! Yet I couldn’t do anything at the time.”
Having promoted enterprises with others and succeeded, Kadambari decided to make an efffort closer home with her husband’s business. “I believe women are natural networkers and I used this to influence and grow Chitti Creatives where apart from wedding photography which my husband initially specialised in, we added architectural, commercial, product and other kinds of photography. The business was good but when I wanted to expand it even further using deep technology and the franchisee route, my husband was resistant to the idea and I knew I had to move on. ‘You can’t expect mangos from an orange tree,’ a saying shared at Mahathreya’s program which I attended much later. clearly describes the situation I was in then!”
Zeroing in on her purpose
Having nurtured two successful businesses but still being out in the cold, Kadamabari was keen to understand where she was going wrong. She enrolled herself in IIM Bangalore and completed their Master Progran for Women Entrepreneurs (MPWE). Knowing she had to to strike out on her own, Kadambari sharpened the narrative she wanted to promote through her next enterprise. “I was clear I wanted to empower women through the entrepreneurship route. Women have always been self-limiting like the story of the temple elephant that grows up with one leg tied, not realising that as an adult it could break free with a single kick! Financial independence gives women self respect and allows them to negotiate, not to break away, but to maintain harmony in the family. On the other hand men should also be taught to handle empowered women, skills they don’t have right now. Also men need a break from the bread winner role too. Women entrepreneurs can pitch in here,” notes Kadamabari.
Believing that if she was to guide women entrepreneurs she had to be one herself, Kadambari chose to start a private limited company rather than an NGO. She launched WEDO, a community based business accelerator for all kinds of women entrepreneurs. Currently WEDO offers two kinds of community platforms – the Community Club and the Visionary Women’s Circle. For as little as Rs.500 per month women signing up for the Club have access to a whole lot of resources that can help them build, market and grow their business. The idea is to expose them to strategies that will get them thinking beyond stalls and pop ups. ‘Dreamer to Entrepreneur’ and ‘Stagnation to Scale’ are monthly programs they can benefit from.
All about Visionary Women
“The Visionary Women Circle, is a gamechanger where members not only have access to peer to peer learning, but also enjoy the guidance of mentors and advisers. The whole idea of forming communities is to break geographical and other boundaries to facilitate cross selling and encourage collaboration. For example a doodle artist from one part of the country works with a bag maker to create customised brand merchandise for corporates! The circle empowers the businesses to become investable, scalable and collaboratable. And such innovative and visionary women-owned businesses and professionals in India find a place in WEDO’s Visionary Women’s Collective, a compilation available as a book.
“We also have the SHE Finance Fund for women who are focused on their product or service but need help with all other aspects such as finance, marketing and sales. While we hold the major stake for our contribution, the enterpreneur earns without the headache of running a business. Currently, we want to take women brands global. This was one other thought I picked up at Mahatreya’s session. I’ve become sort of obsessed with it. We are working to create legacies and built to last companies. We are out of the rat race of valuations and are working on value creation,” empahsises Kadambari.
Today while WEDO is a lean business with 5 employeees, it has a community of over 60 women leaders working to empower other women! The organisation has seen 2 seasons of awards and
3 seasons of conferences since inception. “My vision is to go for an IPO and scale to make our brands go global!” This seems to be just the start for Kadamabari who has many other irons in the fire. A winner of many awards already, the future seems bright for this young changemaker.
Get in touch with WEDO through wedo.org.in