Neha Bagaria is a mompreneur, founder and CEO of JobsForHer– an online portal that enables women to accelerate their career after a break. Neha is a finance, marketing and MIS graduate who started her entrepreneurial journey even before her graduation. From managing her first venture that introduced Advanced Placement program to Indian students and then working with a pharmaceutical company to becoming the founder of ‘JobsForHer’. Neha shares more about her business story with WOI- Womenpreneursofindia
For woman entrepreneurs to succeed in the competitive business landscape, it is imperative that we become comfortable giving equal weightage to our careers as we do to our other obligations, roles and responsibilities. And, for that we need to build a thick skin and a strong support system.
Born and brought up in Mumbai, I graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania with majors in Finance, Marketing and MIS. I’ve always been a social entrepreneur at heart. During my last semester at college, I founded my first company, Paragon, to introduce the Advanced Placement Program in India, becoming the College Board Representative of India, which is the body that governs the SAT and AP examinations worldwide. Through the AP program, Indian high-school students could receive credits and placements at prestigious universities in the US, instead of having to repeat courses when in college.
When marriage brought me to Bangalore, I started working with Kemwell, a pharmaceutical services company, in the fields of HR, Finance and Marketing strategy. The growth and development that I experienced at Kemwell was immense, but my passion for social entrepreneurship continued to stay ignited within me.
When my first-born came into the world in December 2009, a baby gave birth to a mother! I became the primary caretaker of this precious little life, and he became the core of my being. Nothing else held more importance, and I decided to take a sabbatical from work. I became a full-time mother and my life revolved around my baby. Three years later, I had my second baby and again, my perspective changed. I realised that it was about time I got back to being the person I used to be — it was time to restart my career.
I restarted my career at my previous company and started regaining my confidence when I realised that I could hit the ground running even after the 3-year career break. As my responsibilities at work increased, so did the quality of time I spent with my children, husband, family and friends. I was no longer in a brain coma, no longer needy and emotional, and no longer sweating the small stuff. I became a happier and more fulfilled person, which translated into becoming a happier mother and happier wife. Additionally, my renewed passion and intention to prove myself again helped me contribute at work with greater dedication and commitment.
This personal journey opened my eyes to the accomplished women around me who stopped working when they got married or became mothers, or for a variety of other personal reasons, and then never returned to the workforce. I started delving into the reasons behind this female brain drain and it became clear that there were many re-entry challenges that need to be addressed in India. These range from requiring flexibility, regaining confidence, re-training, overcoming biases and changing mindsets. It made me determined to enable other women to restart their careers and connect them with whatever they require to do so, thus founding JobsForHer on International Women’s Day, March 2015!
We started with a small band of 6 women returnees working out of a restobar called Social. At that time in March 2015, I was told by a lot of women that they were being advised to hide the ‘gap’ in their resumes, because most companies would perceive the gap negatively. The same was corroborated when we started speaking to companies to recruit women returnees, and they brashly proclaimed that they don’t want to hire women on a break or mothers!
Changing mindsets of companies, society, families and most importantly, women, was the biggest challenge! When we started, we had only 20 companies who believed in us and took the chance. Today, there are over 7000 companies on the platform. We have done many career fairs, recruitment drives, and in 2020 we have even started doing virtual hiring events! We started with a team of 6. Today, we are over 60 strong and there is no slowing down.
Over the last 5 years, we have made a huge effort and achieved progress in changing the mindsets of both the women and companies. Women, so that they feel confident about the gap in their resumes and portray it in the right light, and companies, so that now they are not only taking back a huge number of women returnees but are working with us closely to reach out to this candidate pool.
In 2017, When we decided to host our first flagship event ‘RestartHer’, we received a lot of skepticism whether JobsForHer could pull off such a large-scale offline event. Since, our entire focus until then had been in the digital world. As is typical in the JobsForHer world, our ambitions were sky-high and we decided to ensure that all of our offerings were provided for women under one roof on one day, and that too catered to the needs of over 2000 women who wanted to restart their careers. What’s more, when we made the announcement about RestartHer, we weren’t sure we’d get a single penny in sponsorship and we would have to bear the brunt of the entire event cost. However, the JobsForHer team once again proved their mettle and scoffed at the word impossible. They toiled to ensure we offered an array of brilliant speakers, mentors, workshops, along with job opportunities at the event. They created awareness of the event through social media campaigns, media coverage and radio campaigns. They even managed to get a dazzling line-up of sponsors for our very first offline event.
That day, in September 2017, when I stood on the first JobsForHer stage and made my opening address to our first offline audience of women who are raring to get back to work – that day marked a new era for the JobsForHer team and further deepened our belief that once we put our minds and hearts into something, we shall achieve it!
I have learnt how important it is to build a team that is not just skilled but passionate about the impact your business can make. It’s also extremely important to build the right culture that builds your team for success rather than drag it down. Especially, in a startup model which is continuously evolving, you need to build a team and culture that is agile, adaptable and dedicated to achieving the vision of the company.
Luckily, I have a very strong and positive support system of family and friends who believe in me and the work I want to do. My biggest supporters have been the three men in my life – my husband, my brother and my father – all who constantly push me, motivate me and challenge me to work harder and dream bigger.
“For woman entrepreneurs to succeed in the competitive business landscape, it is imperative that we become comfortable giving equal weightage to our careers as we do to our other obligations, roles and responsibilities. And, for that we need to build a thick skin and a strong support system.”
Because until we do, we won’t be able to create the ecosystem required to support this challenging journey to the top of the corporate ladder. We will need to rally the troops and have our backbone structure in place — parents, in-laws, extended family, friends, and yes, husband too. We will need to stop caring about people who don’t understand, and help the people who we care about to understand. We will need to make sacrifices and compromises about being there for everyone all the time and having everything perfect. And we will need to stop feeling apologetic about it!
Thankyou Neha. ‘JobsForHer’ is definitely a promising platform enabling women to start, re-start and rise in their careers. We are very glad to feature your business story on WOI. We wish you all the best for future endeavours. Keep Inspiring!