'It's really about telling women to invest in themselves, finding more space for themselves.'
'Find space for their own dreams, do something about their own potential.'
Photograph: Kind courtesy SaireeChahal.com
The banquet hall at the Grand Chola hotel in Chennai is throbbing with energy.
The energy of the achievers -- including a former CEO, a teen who has climbed the highest peaks on four continents, and the founder of bankbazaar.com -- speaking on stage. And the energy of the women there to listen to them.
It is a summit of like-minded women who have joined Sheroes, a network of women that aims to empower women.
Sheroes encourages women to take control of their lives, create their own space, and choose a career that makes them happy.
It also helps through an 18-hour helpline, advice on careers and skill development, and support in cases of sexual harassment.
Sheroes is available on an app which connects 1.5 million women across the country at no cost.
The organisation supports itself by selling products to corporates and taking up work-from-home projects for which it recruits from its members.
Sairee Chahal, the founder of Sheroes, tells Rediff.com's A Ganesh Nadar about this unique venture.
Tell us about yourself.
I grew up in Muzaffarnagar (Uttar Pradesh) and other small towns.
In 1994, I came to Delhi to study at JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University). I did a masters in Russian language and literature. I also did a course in international relations.
I started working when I was 19.
I also did an MBA.
I worked on various projects and then founded a start up in 1999.
We started Newslink, the world's first newspaper for mariners. The company got acquired and I moved on.
Then I worked in the corporate world.
I have been an entrepreneur since 2006.
When did you start Fleximom, which was set up for women returning to the work force after taking a break?
I started that platform in 2012. It was not a company, only a platform.
Three years back, I started Sheroes, which was a complete product to help women in various fields.
Maya Angelou first used the word 'Sheroes' in her poems. It's a hero with an S.
Your aim is to make women heroes?
Our tagline is 'Take Charge.'
It's about creating your own space, crafting your own goal map, being a role model for others, inspiring others.
It's meant for women of all ages.
What do women get when they sign up?
They get a safe space. It's a women only space.
They get access to a lot of resources, work-from-home jobs, content learning, and skilling.
We also run a helpline for them. We have a team of counselors available to talk to them about anything under the sun.
It's really about telling women to invest in themselves, finding more space for themselves.
Find space for their own dreams, do something about their own potential.
As a country we clearly need that.
Do they have to pay a fee when they sign in?
It is free for women. It is a complete eco system.
Our resources come from partner organisations and companies.
You have an app to help women facing sexual harassment.
It answers their queries about what to do when you are facing sexual harassment.
It's for corporate employees.
First of all, it helps to find out if what they are facing can be construed as sexual harassment.
There is a grey space between what people want and what help is available. It's not easy to go to your HR for every small thing.
Here you can get advice anonymously before you file a complaint.
We first advise, and then, if need be, we file a report with the company.
Tell me about the helpline.
It's a chat-based helpline. It's on the app.
It is available for 18 hours a day -- from 6 am to midnight.
How many people work for you?
We are 75 people working together. They are spread out all over the country.
How many members do you have?
We have about 1.5 million members.
What are the most difficult cases you have dealt with?
Some months ago, there was this engineering college student who had been raped.
In such cases, we take the help of our partners who are specialists.
She is now studying. She is in touch with us. She is fine, and she is safe.
There was a case from a girl from a small town in Tamil Nadu. She was being physically abused by her in-laws.
She came out of that home and found us.
We were able to mobilise support for her. We helped her train to be a beautician. She has now set up a beauty parlour.
We call Sheroes a circle of support.
Do your members meet you?
We have community chapter meetings once a month in major cities and once in two months in smaller cities. They can come and meet us and also meet each other.
What are you aiming at?
On the Internet, the interactive space is full of trolls, and it's not safe. It's like the streets.
We provide a safe space. We provide a constructive space. It is all about them and their potential.
A women's space has been taken over by family or work. We want to build this as a growth network for women, a place where you will find your true potential.
How do you make money?
We make money when we offer our services to enterprises.
We have a stack of people services.
We have a stack of brands. We have platform products like Mars.
We have a remote service where our women work from home and we pay them. It is outsourced to us by companies.