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Women in business: How to #BreakTheBias

Boss ladies: Female founders Sheba Nandkeolyar and Esha Oberoi on how they strived to #BreakTheBias

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Self growth. Customer focus.  Company values. The importance of flexibility, innovation and resilience. These qualities emerged as the top tips for successful entrepreneurship at a recent online forum organised on International Women’s Day.

Two leading Indian-origin Sydney-based entrepreneurs Sheba Nandkeolyar and Esha Oberoi spoke at the event, reflecting lived experience.

The Small Business Online Forum was organised and conducted by Lawyers with Solutions – an approved collaboration as part of NSW Government Small Business Month and during NSW Women’s Week.

The event brought together a diverse audience, including business and community leaders from across NSW.

Pallavi Sinha (Supplied)

The 90-minute long program was moderated by Pallavi Sinha, Principal at Lawyers with Solutions and the founder of Innate Power of Women.

“As part of celebrating International Women’s Day, we are excited that inspiring women business leaders share their success stories and challenges, and how they overcame barriers to #breakthebias”, she said.

Sheba Nandkeolyar and Esha Oberoi both helmed their respective thriving businesses in Australia after migrating to Australia at different stages of life.  They shared their experiences of starting and successfully running their enterprises.

While Sheba had to start afresh in Australia, leaving behind a successful corporate career back in India, Esha – who immigrated to Australia as a child – dropped out of school in Year 11 to soon start her own venture after discovering her passion on the job.

“It doesn’t matter where you start,” Sheba said recalling early advice when she moved to Australia. “Don’t hesitate to take up any work in the area of your expertise. Talent and capability eventually shine through.”

It is a mantra that holds true even today for Nandkeolyar, founder and CEO of MultiConnexions Group – Australia’s largest independent multicultural marketing and advertising agency.

Nandkeolyar ventured into the digital marketing industry after seeing a gap in the way many Australian companies were tapping the multicultural diaspora in their communications.

“There may be initial skepticism here about the lack of your local experience, but once you start delivering results, you are embraced you your success celebrated,” she said.

(Source: Supplied)

Esha Oberoi, founder and CEO of the Sydney-based Afea Care Services – which provides at-home nursing and aged care to allow their 1000-strong client base to continue living a quality life in their own homes, advised young businesses to stay curious and strive to be unique.

Oberoi started Afea Care Services in 2007 at a young age, finding her calling working as a carer for six months. After experiencing crippling mental health challenges and struggling to find purpose for years, “I connected well with my clients as I could empathise with their feelings of vulnerability, isolation and depression. I realised I could do more to make their lives better. I spent time to understand and deliver on expectations and grew organically,” she said.

The company she founded now boasts of 100 staffers and has close to 800 carers on their rolls.

“Stay sharp on your existence as a business,” Esha advised. “It’s very competitive so it’s important to be unique and different. Confidence can lead to complacency.”

She added, “For a business to thrive, it is important to have an intimate understanding of your user’s journey. A culture built on clear values, vision and mission define your value proposition and most importantly, self-growth is critical to grow a business. As an entrepreneur it is important to grow every year into a bigger and better version of yourself, and then the business starts to scale up with you.”

Entrepreneurs navigating the challenges of COVID-19 will see success through flexibility, focus and fight, believes Nandkeolyar. “Flexibility to adapt your business, focus to keep your eye on the end game, and the fight to keep on going even when things look tough through constant innovation.” said Sheba, also advising businesses to nurture relationships with all stakeholders, from banks to clients and even staff.

“In the face of adversity, it is these relationships that help, and everyone pitches in like a family,” she said.

Nandkeolyar also stressed to be outcome-driven rather than time-driven and emphasised the importance of striking a balance between work and family, especially children.

Earlier, the panel heard from Dr Fiona Martin, Federal Member of Parliament for Reid, and Chair of the Select Committee on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention.

Dr Fiona Martin MP, member for Reid. (Supplied)

Referring to Reid as the ‘jewel in the crown’ for being the most multi-cultural electorate in Australia, Dr Fiona Martin appreciated the women in her electorate for all their work. “There are 168,600 more women operating businesses since 2013. Financial security, financial empowerment and financial independence of women is critical to equality. By seeing more women in business, I feel we are one step closer to achieving equality. The gender pay gap has fallen, and women’s participation in the workforce has increased, but there is more work to be done,” she said.

Proceeds from the event were donated to the Harman Foundation Her House which provides accommodation to women and their children escaping domestic and family violence, especially women of Indian origin.

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