On running a 100% women-led company | Conversation with Meeta Sharma
When you think CEO, you may picture a higher-up in a long chain of command, someone removed from the ground realities of a business, only in charge of signing off on big-ticket items.
At least, that's what I thought, until I met Meeta Sharma.
When I began working with shumee, one of the first things that struck me was how incredible it was to have a hands-on CEO like Meeta.
Her sharp business smarts, keen insight into motherhood and play, and wonderful people skills is what brings shumee together. From design to creation to marketing, she is at the helm of every decision we make.
So this Women’s Day, I sat down to speak with Meeta about how she runs this fantastic company. We go down memory lane as she shares how motherhood inspired shumee, discuss what it's like to be a completely women-led company, and talk about the changing playscape of India. Read on to know what Meeta has to say!
1. Your experiences with your sons is what led to the creation of shumee toys. Does being a mother shape many of the decisions you make at shumee?
The journey of shumee started for me after I became a mom. Being a mother helped me observe how my sons were developing and what the role of play was in their development. Also, being in the US and being associated with a center based on reggio-emilia philosophy, I started understanding the relationship between play, toys, and development. This definitely shaped my journey with shumee. As a mother, I am always conscious of the quality of everything that comes from us as a brand — not only the safety aspect of the toys, but also the content and resources we put out.
2. Shumee is a largely women-run company. Was this a conscious hiring decision?
To be honest, it was not a conscious decision but something that happened organically. I am quite happy that it turned out like that, though. We are a team of 10, and currently, we are a 100% women-led team!
3. Do you think that having a team of so many women has impacted the company in any way?
Though we are a 100% women team, we don't have many moms in the team. But being a team of women certainly helps in getting a softer perspective on many things.
4. What has it been like being a female business owner dealing with mostly male vendors and partners? Do you feel you have any advantages and disadvantages?
I feel it is an advantage because I can easily connect with and understand my vendors and partners, and have a meaningful professional relationship beyond just work with them. This has helped us build strong partnerships which have lasted for years.
"In these 5+ years, there has been a constant increase in awareness of play in India. Parents are now more conscious and concerned about what they are getting for their children in every domain of the child's life.”
5. How has your understanding of parenting and play changed as a result of running shumee and interacting with thousands of customers? Have you learned anything interesting or unexpected? Any country-specific nuances?
The consciousness and awareness of play among parents used to be much higher in countries like the US compared to India. We also noticed that parents there were more ready to experiment with new brands as opposed to the Indian market at large.
But in these 5+ years, there has been a constant increase in awareness of play in India. Parents are now more conscious and concerned about what they are getting for their children in every domain of the child's life. This was not the scenario when we started our journey.
6. Shumee’s toys are largely gender-neutral. Could you tell us more about this?
Open-ended and free play is the basic foundation of everything we do at shumee and gender-neutral toys are something which fits in this whole narrative. Both gender-neutral toys and open-ended toys are very empowering for kids as they don’t put any boundaries or biases in the overall personality development of a child, but lets them explore and discover at their own pace and imagination.
"I would like to celebrate every woman entrepreneur out there, as each of their journeys have been based on a passion they strongly believe in and are doing their best to take forward."
7. What is one tip you have for women entrepreneurs, especially mothers, who wish to have a healthy work-life balance?
I believe life is a balancing act at all times and in all roles. My one tip for all the women out there is to prioritize and to not try to be perfect in all situations. This itself helps balance out many aspects of work-life balance. Also, I guess another skill that is very essential to develop is the ability to say ‘no’ both at work and at home, depending on the situation and need of the hour.
8. Who are some women entrepreneurs who have inspired you along your journey?
There are so many inspiring women in the world and it is difficult for me to select a few. In my life, I have been inspired by women from different spheres, starting from Helen Keller to Fran Allen (IBM). Also, after starting on the path of entrepreneurship, I realized that every entrepreneur is an inspiration in him/herself as entrepreneurship starts with a belief and a conviction which you need to follow through on for many years. So I would like to celebrate every woman entrepreneur out there, as each of their journeys have been based on a passion they strongly believe in and are doing their best to take forward.
9. Where do you want to take shumee in the next couple of years? What is your vision and focus?
"I want shumee to be the trusted partner of parents for their kids in early childhood development."
I believe we are moving rapidly towards more aware parents. If we can become the brand they look to for guidance on play and development, both in our resources and products, it would be a happy place for us.
I want shumee to be the ‘trusted partner of parents for their kids in early childhood development’. We want to hold the sphere of play and make us the go-to brand in India.
10. What is something you would have told the Meeta beginning her entrepreneurial journey if you now had a chance?
I would have told her that it is not an easy journey but it is definitely a journey worth trying.
Thank you for being with us along this wonderful journey. We wish all the superwomen and mothers reading this a Happy Women's Day from our team at shumee!