Wednesday, May 22, 2024

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Do it like a woman! – Why go Undercover? – Monica Anand, CEO, Switchers

This interview is part of the series for International Women’s Day.

Why is it that even today, we are so secretive about what we wear below our daily attire? Lingerie, specifically, is a taboo word! When heard in the open, people go scurrying under their tables! Amidst all of this, we spoke to Monica Anand, the superwoman behind the iconic brand “Switchers”.

Monica Anand draws inspiration from everyday things and people around her. A keen observer of people’s behaviour, evolving patterns and changing lifestyles, Monica is an entrepreneur, a people’s person and an unshakable optimist at heart. Here’s what she had to say when we quizzed her about things that matter this Women’s day!
Monica Anand, CEO, Switchers

Lingerie? Shhh! Don’t say that word! But why? Why Switchers?

Lingerie is a necessity. For far too many years the product category has been under serviced because people didn’t understand the importance of good lingerie. All women had were options of white, beige or black cotton bras. This is why we started a brand of sexy lingerie. We wanted to build the importance of good feeling, well-fitted lingerie and how it can make the wearer feel and transform their look. So in a sense, it was because of this taboo that we decided to start Under Cover Lingerie.

Switchers- Your everyday fashionable bra

How difficult was it to convince your F&F while starting off?

I wouldn’t say it was difficult, but I would say that my family was surprised by my decision. Their concerns were that I was leaving a secure job to start a business and that the business was of selling lingerie. Add to that the novelty lingerie that we began our business with. I think they all thought I was a bit out of my mind, but they were supportive none the less.
How did you go about securing funding for this as a woman & a start-up that caters to women?

 We are a boot-strapped company. With women emerging as a major audience across all product segments, I have to say that being a woman running a company that caters to women customers has been a huge asset.
Motivation at work?

 As a young company, you have to take one day at a time. We have a clear goal for the next few years, and we take steps in that direction. Often, we end up making mistakes, but at the end of the week, if we are still moving forward in the right direction, we consider it a win.
Business is not for us! Let the men do it!- NO!

Entrepreneurship takes a lot out of the entrepreneur. It’s a very emotional journey filled with blood, sweat and tears. I think a lot of people – male and female are wisely averse. On a more serious note, Indian women have been entrepreneurs for generations. The traditional Indian family system where women took care of the home meant enterprising women could not go out and get a job. They were essentially limited to home businesses to generate an income. These women have been true revolutionaries and have paved the path for the multitasking super women of today. Women who now are able to handle multi- million corporations that they themselves created.

Women have used their own strengths of multitasking, collaboration, organization and negotiation to climb both the business and corporate ladders. I believe that many more women will come into the fold as strong entrepreneurs. It is just a matter of time.
When it comes to funding, how receptive do you think the industry is to women entrepreneurs?

I am happy to say that in all my meetings with investors, I have never once got the feeling that my gender was part of their consideration. Discussions clearly revolved around numbers and future plans. Everyone who deals with entrepreneurs is aware that each one has very different strengths and weaknesses. What is usually considered is whether those individual or collective skills will help to propel a business toward its goal or not.
What are the industries you think you would like to see women entering into as innovators, game changers?

I would like to see more female policy makers. With more women stepping into the workforce, I believe that there is a need to re look policy to ensure that it can accommodate a woman’s unique requirements. Create real rather than token policy to enable more women to become independent.
What skills do you think are important to be a good leader?

 As a leader, there are skills to aspire to, even if you don’t already have them. A list of 5 such skills which I consider very important are:

1. Focus on a clear vision: A leader needs to be clear on direction and goals to lead their team with conviction toward that goal. There’s nothing a team hates more than lack of clarity.

2. Confidence: A leader must be confident enough to inspire confidence in those he leads. Knowing that you have a good person to back you up is a great propeller for employees.

3. Integrity: A leader without integrity is just a boss. No one likes someone who lacks principles and stands behind them. This is the first thing that makes employees jump ship.

4. Tenacity: It’s easy to work when you are on an upswing. But the ability to hold firm when things are going south is something that is very important for the business and for your team.
5. Passion: Passion is infectious. If a leader is passionate about what they are doing, it will trickle down and infect the entire team creating a multiplier effect that is just magic! A passionate team can achieve with very little what an indifferent team with all the resources cannot.
Sexual harassment at workplaces are coming in light in some of the best companies around the world. Do you think with a woman on top these can be curbed?

I do believe that more women at the top of companies would help to curb sexual harassment. More than anything, their achievements will make companies value their female employees more, which will make them make and enforce better policies such as the sexual harassment policy to keep them around.
Do you think it’s important to have an International Women’s Day?

I think every day that we appreciate the people in our lives is wonderful. It gives us a benchmark date to mark our progress for that event during a year. I think women have achieved a whole lot for the gender over the last 5 International Woman Days J
What are your tips for women who want to be an entrepreneur just like you?

My single tip for woman entrepreneurs is: Do it like a woman. Who you are is very different. Your skills are different. Use that as your strength and to your advantage.

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