7 Startup Lessons From Shravani Pawar, Karnataka’s 1st Woman Entrepreneur In Security Services
Shravani Pawar began her inspiring journey at 23, and has made a real change to lives of women with her startup in security services, SafeHands 24/7, that employs and leases out women guards.
Many media channels describe Shravani Pawar as a woman in a man’s world. She embraces this in a way, but also takes the opportunity to correct, “It’s just an image people have about certain industries. Every time anyone thinks of a security guard, they think of a man with a moustache who is well built, because that’s how it had been, but now I changed it!”
Shravani Pawar started her entrepreneurial journey at age 23 in Dharwad. Coming from an academic background of social work, she was passionate about empowering women. She explored the possibilities and started a cooperative society for women during her Social Entrepreneurship Program at Deshpande Center for Social Innovation, but soon gave it up as she felt that co-op societies may just add more burden on women as loans, instead of helping them live free.
After a market research and finding a gap in the requirement, Shravani decided to start Safe Hands 24×7 to employ women as security guards. With this company, she was determined to provide gender equal opportunities and to break the stereotype that women cannot be security guards.
Initially, she faced a lot of resistance from women and their families regarding the uniform and the kind of job duties involved, but she persisted and 9 women joined her as guards. Today Safe Hands 24×7 employes 1000 people, both men and women and provides facility management services to many cities across states.
Talking to her is like collecting pearls of wisdom, so here I am putting them down as a list.
10 startup lessons from Shravani Pawar:
‘You’ are the only hurdle you need to cross
Shravani shares stories as a way to lead by example and that makes it even more impactful.
Coming from a small city like Dharwad, Shravani came from a somewhat conservative family that had some unspoken rules of coming home early and some others. She also started her company with literally no financial backing.
She is thus a great example of the possibility to achieve anything when you set your mind to it. No matter what background you come from – may it be academic, financial or resources, once you set your heart to it, everything seems possible.
So the biggest hurdle is ‘You’, your mind set, your fear and your insecurity, the moment you cross it all, every door opens
Explore your curiosity to find your path
Shravani says, “I knew social work, but social entrepreneurship is what drove me curious!” She enrolled with Deshpande Center for Social Innovation for their Social Entrepreneurship program and learnt everything about building a business from there.
Fan the fire in your heart and let the mind be curious, because as you explore newer dimensions and possibilities start to show itself.
Running a company is not about you
After setting up Safe Hands 24×7 with two of her friends and running the company for a year, her two co-founders exited, but Shravani was not ready to give up. She had already employed 100 women and did not want to take away their livelihood.
So Shravani shifted to Hubli from Dharwad to focus on gaining more clientele.
Pitch to the right customer
When running a company that’s breaking many glass ceilings, it sometimes makes you passionate without logical thinking.
But not for Shravani. She did not spend her energies going to organizations where she had to take a lot of effort to convince them to hire women security guards, but instead went to companies that had women in them. For example NGOs, PGs, hospitals, garment factories etc., and kept adding on to her client base.
Tweak your approach when necessary
Shravani recollects an incident wherein the owner of a tractor sales shop was not ready to hire women guards and argued about it being a bad idea, as most farmers were men who came in. Shravani felt the man’s perceptions were clouding his decision and offered a free trial of 30 days. If he was right, she wouldn’t charge him a paisa, and if he was wrong he had to give her a 2 year contract.
Shravani got the 2 year contract as she was right in seeing that male farmers were more respectful of the woman guard, and listened to her whether it was parking or anything else.
The end result was the same, but changing the direction of the conversation made the point, instead of an argument that may have led nowhere.
Grab opportunities when you can
TEDx Pune organizers invited Shravani to give a talk in 2014, 3-4 days before she was due for the delivery of her first child. Though TEDx Pune team were understanding and gave her an option to return the next year, Shravani wanted to do it that year itself. Her thought was, “Who knows if I’ll be alive next year?”
With her husband’s support and a nod from the doctor, she did her TEDx talk and came back safely to deliver her baby.
Her passion and view at life is encouraging, as am sure even her children would learn to grab opportunities when you are can.
Give back to the community
Shravani credits her growth as an entrepreneur to the community around, from TiE. As she grew to be more successful, she started volunteering her time in these organizations to help other entrepreneurs and pave the way for their success. Shravani Pawar is the first woman and the youngest Vice-President of TiE Hubli chapter.
It’s a profound thought; she says we take so much from them when we are growing, why not give back equally.
Shravani Pawar is a mother of 2 beautiful children and a successful entrepreneur. There is one more life lesson she shares quoting Gururaj Deshpande, Founder of Deshpande Foundation. “Personal life is like a glass ball, which shatters when you throw it away but professional life is like a rubber ball, it can always bounce back.” Shravani believes both should go hand in hand and to live life to the fullest you can.
Shravani Pawar was a DH Changemaker 20 in 2020, and featured in Tata Salt Desh Ka Namak.
This is part of a series I determined to write to showcase the amazing women in North Karnataka. Having recently shifted to Dharwad, I find it fascinating how these women have shattered glass ceilings and broken stereotypes to grow in Tier II and Tier III cities. I hope with this, many learn the stories of the women of North Karnataka.