IWD 2021: Amica founder Heeral Pattni on empowering women to take the plunge and take up space
For International Women’s Day 2021, Bdaily reached out to a range of female business leaders from across our key regions to share how their experience of the pandemic has shaped their passion for gender equality.
Heeral Pattni is the founder of Amica, an app designed to help solo female travellers meet and connect safely.
Bdaily spoke with Heeral about the challenges of having a travel-focused business during the pandemic, supporting women to take risks and the importance of female communities.
As a woman, how have you personally adapted during the pandemic, and what challenges have you faced?
“When the pandemic hit, we had to pivot our entire business and delay launch plans for our App; we didn’t want to release a friendship app for women travelling solo when travel was firmly on hold!
“So, instead, we adapted to creating value in other ways. We’ve still managed to bring people together and replicated a community feel through virtual events; for example, throughout March, we will be holding virtual discussions with risk-takers and change-makers who are generating positive impact and empowering women.
“These conversations will allow our community to join in, ask questions and feel inspired. Of course, events like these take a lot of hard work and coordination, which has been challenging for a fully remote team in different time zones.
“We’ve even made some hires in the team that I haven’t ever met face-to-face! But we’ve managed to find a really great rhythm between all of us in the team and as a result, we can still provide value to our community.”
How have you and your business supported women during the past year?
“Our entire concept is built around empowering women, through enabling them to create meaningful friendships around the world.
“Last summer, we set up a community for women to share advice on travelling during Covid and then recently, we created another group for women to share solo travel tips and experiences, as we all gear up to safely plan for future trips.
“Community is at the heart of everything we do and we have given a lot of consideration and care to nurturing a safe space where women can come and connect.”
What opportunities do you feel that the pandemic has created for women, if any?
“The pandemic has evoked a sense of urgency and has prompted us all to question our normal routines.
“For a lot of us, this has led to realising that we would be more fulfilled working on something that we can call our own.
“So, a lot of women have been taking the plunge to start something new by themselves, which is so encouraging to see.”
In your opinion, has the pandemic highlighted any gender imbalances in business?
“Unfortunately, yes - venture capital funding for female-founded or led startups was down 31 per cent in the first three quarters of 2020 compared to in 2019, while for men it only dropped by 16 per cent.
“This doesn’t bode well knowing that already, companies that go on to raise later funding rounds are male-dominated, while female-founded companies struggle to get their foot in the door at early stages because they are deemed “riskier bets”.
“So the entry for women to gain startup funding at earlier stages may have been made narrower as a result.”
As we step into a post-pandemic business landscape, how do you think women’s roles in business may change?
“The pandemic has shown that women aren’t going to be held back; they will take risks and can manage multiple priorities at one time, whatever that may look like in a personal and professional sense.
“Seeing the amount of new businesses that have started in the pandemic and are thriving, is really empowering.
“Hopefully, women’s incredible contribution to the startup scene will be reflected in startup funding post-pandemic.”
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