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BabyChakra Founder Naiyya Saggi On Building A Dependable Mom-Child Ecosystem In India

BabyChakra Founder Naiyya Saggi On Building A Dependable Mom-Child Ecosystem In India

When nine months pregnant Naiyya Saggi, Founder & CEO, BabyChakra,  walked into an investor pitch meeting, she was asked to come back after three months. They told me, “Hey, why don’t you come back in three months when you’re more ready. I don’t know what made them think that I was not ready?” she asks. Saggi, however, was brave enough to take every challenge head-on.

She went to Harvard Business School on two scholarships (Fulbright and J. N. Tata Endowment). Before starting her own venture in India, Saggi worked at McKinsey & Company as a consultant, working extensively with maternal and child health. BabyChakra, one of the first and most trusted parenting portals in India, is a proof of her hard work and persistence. As a woman entrepreneur, she’s on a mission to change the archetype of success. 

She made motherhood her strongest pillar and launched BabyChakra, an online platform for parents, in 2015. Saggi’s vision of the brand was to create a non-judgmental and credible community of new and expecting mothers. The brand is now all set to scale new heights as MyGlamm has acquired the online parenting platform. Together, we (MyGlamm, POPxo-Plixxo, and now BabyChakra) aim to build the largest 3C (content + community + commerce) company in South Asia.⁣ With this acquisition, we strive to consolidate the Mom-Baby category. Saggi will join the MyGlamm group as co-founder and president spearheading the mother-baby vertical.

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Naturally, this power leader had to be a part of our POPxo Women Who Win series. In a candid conversation with POPxo, Saggi spoke about her desire to empower other women entrepreneurs, embracing her right to thrive and running a successful baby care business in India. Excerpts below:

How do you begin your day?

I’ve recently started beginning my day without an alarm clock. I leave the curtains open when I sleep at night so it’s daylight that wakes me up. And the first thing that I do is I go and check on my baby. She’s two-and-a-half years old. Actually no, that’s not true, the first thing that I do is I check my phone and then I go check on my baby. When I have my cup of coffee, I get started on addressing any important questions throughout the day. I wish I had a better answer for how I begin my day but that’s not happening. 

What does a typical work day look like for you? 

You can’t be a slave to your calendar because then you don’t get time to think. Of course, all my internal and external meetings are calendered in but I’ve started carving out pieces to myself. I just need thinking time, absorbing time or conversations externally with people I believe I can blog about or just reading time. Until six months ago, I was constantly in execution mode so it was important at that point of time to think about where the business was. But today where we are, I need to spend more time figuring out what the next steps of the company are and how to get that opportunity faster and more strategically. If you ask me, my day is quite structured, but there is some unstructured kind of thinking time that’s put into my calendar that helps me switch off from the other operational items. 

Earlier, I used to work a lot of weekends as well and there wasn’t much difference between a workday and a weekend. However, I think over the last year I’ve started demarcating or holding on to my Sundays as quiet time with my family and with thoughts. Because I realised that if I don’t have that one day off, my week is not going to be that productive and I don’t have as much clarity as I’d like to. I really love what I do and I’m kind of obsessed with what I do. So I am always consumed with thoughts about growth, about my team. I don’t switch off per see. 

What is your definition of work-life balance?

So there is no work-life balance really. It works together.  It’s impossible to have a work-life balance. I love my work, and of course, I love my child dearly. It all comes together. It’s about certain principles. My husband and I have always been equal parents, we’re equal partners in our marriage and in raising our child. So that takes away 50 percent of the burden of childcare. See if women don’t do their bit, men won’t try, right? The second thing, I think having a team at work and a team at home, that’s what really makes this possible. If there’s something pressing at work, then honestly, my family takes a backseat. Or if there’s something pressing on the family front, let’s say my child’s unwell, then work does take a backseat at that point of time. 

How did you begin your entrepreneurial journey?

I wasn’t a mother when I started BabyChakra. It didn’t come from a journey of personal need per se. It came more from a place where I felt that it was a problem that had to be solved. I was working at McKinsey as a consultant, and I was working extensively with maternal and child health. I was working from the public health side. I was interacting with the government, mothers, the private layers, the entire spectrum. And I realised that everywhere the system was broken. There was no one set of care ecosystems for mothers that would personalise to their unique needs because each mother, family, and each context that she operates in are so different. When I went on to business school at Harvard, I remember being exposed to a lot of digital products there for the first time at that scale. And I’m like why don’t we have a digital ecosystem for mothers in India? Another thing that really stood out for me was the amount of judgement that mothers felt. So I thought of building something that is non-judgemental. Our mantra is that you make the choice, we will support you in whatever decision you make in a way that’s backed with facts and efficacy. So I think these are the two sets of principles that are my personal motive in building BabyChakra. 

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What has been a turning point in your career?

I would say that there were quite a few turning points. When I was building communities from India, I was asked why not stay in the US. I was told you’ll get access to the best sort of tech talent you want in the US. But I was very clear that we’re going to build for India and in India. But our stories were shared in global tech and development platforms by Google, Microsoft and Facebook. It was such an amazing feeling because we are building a world-class product from India. Last year, we were selected by Healthline, the largest Digital Health Publications in the world. We were selected amongst the top parenting and pregnancy apps globally, we were the only ones selected. I think these things give you hope that India has turned a corner and it’s not just about offshoring to India or building in India, it’s a market that works. 

What has been your biggest professional accomplishment so far? 

There have been many. The day BabyChakra was profiled for the Global Developer Conference at Google, or at Facebook Developer Conference in the Valley, many people messaged me. So many product managers, so many CEOs saying this is amazing, like India’s there on the map. I think my second professional accomplishment has just been the impact it has created. I think we’re truly becoming a part of families in India. It’s not like a transactional service, it’s like you’re accompanying a mother through her journey of pregnancy and parenting. Mothers actually talk about how BabyChakrahas helped them make so many choices and it has given them a  voice. If we are impacting so many families and their lives, it’s important that we work with them in ensuring the best care that they can get.

What would you say are the key skills or qualities that have helped you succeed?

I have lots to learn. I mean, every day I’m learning. I am learning to be a little more patient because I’m by nature very impatient. I’ve realised that patience is something that you need as you go through the journey of entrepreneurship. You need to make peace with the fact that you will never know the right answer but it’s okay, no one does, right? And I think execution is important. Therefore, the team that you have can make or break whatever you’re setting out to build. That’s one big learning I’ve had along the way. I can’t be more grateful to my team than I am because they have built BabyChakra. I’ve worked with them but they are the ones who are building on it. Knowing that life is long and that professional journeys may and will intersect with each other, you need to respect people’s contributions. Invest in their successes, it’s very important. As an entrepreneur, your success lies in making your team successful. 

A mantra that you swear by in your professional and personal life?

Tomorrow is a new day! New challenges, new opportunities will come up. I think the best remedy that I’ve found is to sleep over something. If you’ve had a crap day, the best is to sleep as you wake up with a fresh perspective and a fresh start.

Would you say you have faced challenges as a woman entrepreneur? 

Oh definitely! The story of success in entrepreneurship in India has been set by a certain archetype like an IIT male who looks a certain way, talks a certain way, behaves a certain way. So for a woman to walk into a pitch meeting or an IC meeting and present a case, it requires a very different level of confidence. I mean, the diversity hasn’t been seen yet in the ecosystem in India. It’s still happening. The voice doesn’t percolate through because that’s not your archetype story of success, these patterns match all the time. We have to set the story right for other women entrepreneurs so that they never face this again. I think that is the intent that I personally feel strongly about. I think the onus is on us, the smaller set of entrepreneurs, to be successful than ever before as then we can change the archetype of success.

What would be your advice to young women entrepreneurs?

Have your own creative journeys, that’s where the fun really lies and that’s where the value that you will really create lies. Because it’s an undiscovered path that you sort of find the most challengeable or the most opportunities on. You will not get anything served to you on a platter, that’s not how life is. Life is inherently always full of ups and downs, challenges, and some unfairness. It’s you who is in control of you, you are the master of your own destiny and how you deal with it. You have to be brave, you have to call out when things are unfair and you have to support other women. It’s very critical that you do this because it’s kind of lonely being a woman on the battlefield of entrepreneurship or at the workplace. Don’t follow anyone’s footsteps, be brave and go on your own journey. 

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What kind of future do you envision for BabyChakra? Can you tell us about the recent MyGlamm-BabyChakra acquisition?

I had been in touch with Darpan Sanghvi, Founder & CEO, MyGlamm, for the last one year. It was only more recently when I felt there was so much clarity in the content community of ecommerce journey and it’s very exciting. It resonates with how we were approaching things at BabyChakra too. Myglamm has done phenomenally well on it’s commerce site. So that really caught my attention and it made me think this could be a possibility. And of course, the mom-baby is so large and under-penetrated. There is a lot of provision for Darpan and I, that we can become the biggest players in the mom-child ecosystem in India very rapidly together. That for me, was the point that made sense. I’m really excited about our commerce capabilities. Building up the content and community stand with POPxo and building out the community stand for the group—there are a lot of exciting things ahead. 

And lastly, how does an extremely busy person like you unwind?

I love reading, I love painting and my husband and I spend a lot of time with our daughter these days, when we want to unwind. I think it’s fun sort of creating scenarios for her to make choices in. We’re constantly thinking about ways where she can make choices. I think that’s what keeps me busy and I think when I am in a negative state of mind, painting certainly helps.

19 Aug 2021

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