More men than women might have reported loss of jobs due to COVID-19, but the impact of the unemployment crisis is far greater on women, analysis shows.
According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE)’s Consumer Pyramids Household Survey (CPHS) database, around 17 million women lost their jobs between March and April. This means, of the already meagre population of women in the workforce, four out of ten women were rendered unemployed due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Now this might be a small number as compared to the 100 million men who lost their jobs, but when analysed in terms of the percentage drop in employment, it represents a great setback. Almost 39 percent of women were reported unemployed between March and April. The percentage dip for men was just 29 percent for the same period.
Obviously, women’s unemployment has reached a point from where recovery is difficult if not impossible.
Enter Kool Kanya, a community for working women.
Action, and not discussion, is the need of the hour. And Mumbai-based Kool Kanya, a startup launched by Vanshika Goenka in January 2019, is working towards this very goal. It offers actionable insight via its platform, dubbed a career community dedicated to women.
Here, job-seekers can get authentic career guidance, build their network, and express themselves in a safe space. They can also find work opportunities through a fully vetted and verified online marketplace.
“Our platform provides extensive career resources and community support from peers and experts,” says Founder Vanshika in a chat with MAKERS India.
But above all, it is the uncertainties posed by the COVID-19 crisis which Kool Kanya is tackling head on, by tapping into its extensive network of peers, mentors, and various industry leaders.
“We have had women who lost their jobs and who in turn have been able to start working on their own businesses with guidance from mentors and peers in the community,” says Vanshika.
In response to the unemployment crisis and job loss as a result of COVID-19, Kool Kanya also launched an online event called ‘GetWork’ to help women find work. Vanshika claims that they had received 1000 applications, out of which many were converted into offers.
Besides this, the startup has been hosting monthly digital webinars for small businesses and weekly virtual meet-ups for its community members. A wide range of focus areas are covered during these meet-ups, including content writing, building portfolio, confidence-building, and mental health in times of uncertainty.
The Founding Story
Kool Kanya’s inception story dates back to its founder’s formative years. Vanshika, now 27 and a graduate from Brown University in the US, was all of five when the realisation that women are not really treated as equals as men, settled in.
“I was only five years old when I overheard a conversation between my father and his relatives,” she recalls. “'You have only two daughters,' they said. 'Who will manage the business later?' This conversation left a deep impression on me. I wondered why this question even needed to be asked. 'What about me?', I wondered.”
A couple of decades down the line, the question surrounding the representation of women would once again surfaced. Only this time, it’s a more professional setting and the question is not just about Vanshika, but many young women like her.
“I was working for a company that manufactured sanitary pads,” the entrepreneur shares. “I realised that I was the only woman in the room, working with an all-men team to create a product for women. It was then that it hit me that there were just not enough women in workspaces. I started delving into this skewed ratio. This is what led to the inception of Kool Kanya.”
More than just a career platform
Today, Vanshika’s enterprise is more than just another career platform. It’s a safe space for women, explains the founder adding that it is important for her that the users of Kool Kanya are able to express themselves and share even their vulnerabilities when it comes to the work environment.
“Therefore, we even have an anonymous feature where users can ask questions and find career advice,” she adds.
The entrepreneur, who has previously dabbled in augmented reality (AR) and textile industry before starting Kool Kanya, also has her eyes on the gig economy.
In India, blue and grey-collar jobs represent a burgeoning sector, with ASSOCHAM predicting a $455 billion opportunity by 2023, with the market growing at a CAGR of 17 percent. This estimate is of course based on the market scenario pre-Covid, and a lot has changed since then. Now, remote working and work from home options are not only acceptable but widely popular. For the community of freelancers and gig workers, there are whole new opportunities up for grabs.
“We have started with a focus on women freelancers and independent professionals,” quips the Founder.
With this, she adds, even novice freelancers can become sellers on the platform while continuing to benefit from the support system that the community provides, which is ultimately the aim of Kool Kanya: to foster a career ecosystem, by women and for women.
(Text Edited by Athira Nair, Video Edited by Siva)