Her one-of-a-kind initiative has become a remarkable platform for women who wish to benefit from the Internet. The SHEROES app offers a free-to-use counselling chat helpline, resources, mentorship, peer-to-peer conversations, a marketplace, a reproductive health tracker and opportunities for women. Team Culturama catches up with Sairee Chahal, Founder-CEO of SHEROES, the women-only social network.
How did you come up with the idea for the SHEROES app?
We wanted to create a slick, state-of-the-art, contemporary social product for women that is accessible from their phone. The number of Internet users is growing fast, and the number of rural women going online is the fastest growing demographic. For these generations of women who are going online for the first time, the SHEROES app is a safe, high-empathy, high-trust aspirational product, which is her playground to grow herself and her dreams. It is designed in a way that it is relevant to her goals and aspirations and is a space to grow her identity, connections, and nurture good health and financial independence.
How supportive has your family been in your ventures?
My family has always been supportive. My mother, a homemaker, especially inspired me with her take-charge attitude towards all life’s difficulties. She showed me how we can change things by taking action.
What would you say is the USP of SHEROES?
We are building a high-quality, tech-based product for women – the first of its kind in the social network category – a women-only social network built out of India. It has been exclusively designed around aspects like identity, community, entrepreneurship, mental health, and financial independence, and we are already seeing it move the GDP and gender index needle.
You are an entrepreneur who also believes in uplifting others. What are the challenges you face in the process?
The biggest challenge is getting more and more women online and onto the growth track. Access to smartphones and data is still controlled often by male members of the family. We have now partnered with several organisations to tackle this challenge and bring more women online.
You have helped over a million women; any particular story that stood out in your journey?
Millions of stories stand out – a young woman from a village in Tamil Nadu comes onto our helpline and talks about domestic violence and her dream of starting her own beauty parlour. With the help of SHEROES, she achieves her dream and emerges as a single mom and entrepreneur supporting other women in her village. A home maker in Nepal grows her identity as a poet, home chef and community creator. A young techie in Chandigarh goes from passionate crochet creator to small business owner. A Gen Z who has worked since the age of 15 has completely transformed herself via online counselling.
Who would you consider your role model? And why?
I am inspired by so many women – poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou, entrepreneurs like Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, social activists who fight for girls’ rights, my mother and the millions of SHEROES members who are rewriting their stories every day.
You have won several awards, including the Most Powerful Woman in Indian Business. How do accolades help in one’s journey?
They create visibility for our platform as well as for our excellent product team building it. SHEROES members experience great pride, and of course, recognition of a good initiative – we need more of it.
Do you find any difference when it comes to working women in India and abroad? If yes, can you elaborate?
In India, all women work, but some get paid for it and some don’t. We also do not have an identity and respect for caregivers. I think in many ways this is a universal issue, and such perceptions need to change.
During this pandemic, several entrepreneurs are in a state of uncertainty. What is your advice for them?
Seek support and mentorship, and engage with peers and communities. The issues faced are on a similar vein, and we are much more likely to find solutions when we unite during a crisis. We have launched several utilities on the SHEROES app to support women, including our entrepreneurs, who are now on a learning and support path to prepare for a post-COVID world.
What are your future plans with the SHEROES app?
We shall keep building it based on real-time data. It will be accessible in all regional languages, and we shall keep putting together useful resources such as our in-depth, easy-to-consume financial guide for women emerging out of domestic violence.
Sheroes on your finger tips: