When women entrepreneurs in India set out to launch a new business, they face a plethora of challenges – from family restrictions, unsafe environments, and lack of network, support and mentoring opportunities, to being surrounded by male dominance in the corporate world.
Recognising these challenges of entrepreneurship for women, banker Megha Agarwal, who had lived abroad most of her life, decided to rope in her sister, Delhi-based photographer Neha Agarwal, to launch a unique co-working space for women entrepreneurs and professionals, called uoQpi (pronounced ‘you occupy’) in Gurugram this year. It’s the first of its kind in Delhi-NCR.
“From a very young age, our mother, who started off as an entrepreneur whilst living overseas, has been our inspiration. She set an example for us and showed us that women can manage both their personal and professional lives. However, as we were growing up and becoming more aware of our surroundings and of the real world, we noticed that though a majority of the women were ambitious and career-oriented, but somewhere along the line, they were pulled back from pursuing their dreams and family responsibilities took precedence,” says Neha, 38, the elder of the duo.
The more the sisters read up about this, the more shocking facts they found. “Closing the gender gap globally in the workforce could add a staggering $28 trillion to the global economy. If women’s participation is equal to that of men in India, this would inject further $2.9 trillion to India’s GDP,” they noted.
Further, they found that between January and September 2019, only 5.2 percent of the $9.14 billion raised in overall funding by startups went to one with a female founder or co-founder.
These astonishing facts led to the inception of uoQpi, an avenue that is meant to provide women the space they need to re-energise, re-boot and re-connect with their own. “uoQpi is a combination of a physical space with a community filled with inspirational women in business, where collaborations and brainstorming ideas are born. Our vision is to become an incubator for women-led start ups by providing them with all the tools and resources that they need to excel,” says Megha, 34.
Located at Unitech Cyber Park, Gurugram, the centre offers all the comforts of a green, cheerful, soothing co-working space with great views, plus more. Women can bring their children along, and the space has been designed to host events and talks in future, from healthcare and beauty workshops to mental-health awareness events. The space also includes a makeup studio for makeup artists and video professionals to create video logs and tutorials.
By offering flexible packages starting from just Rs 1500 for five visits per month, the sisters have ensured that women in all kinds of fields can benefit from such an arrangement.
“We understand the power of collaboration. We wanted to create a physical space and a membership community for a nominal amount giving flexible options to allow women entrepreneurs to be innovative without any boundaries, make lifelong friends and have open and honest discussions with other women,” say the founders.
After seven months of hard work, the space was officially opened to women entrepreneurs last month. The sisters are upbeat about what the future holds: “The journey so far has been exciting and there is still a lot more that we need to do. We’re looking forward to expanding and creating more uoQpi business hubs to empower and increase the number of women in business.”
First published in eShe’s November 2019 issue
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