The exciting story of why and how GurgaonMoms came about and what they do. Edited excerpts from the talk given by Ms Neela Kaushik in the MMA-Women Business Forum on 16 Nov 2021.
I studied in Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu. When I moved from the US to Gurgaon (now Gurugram) near Delhi, I was new to the city. I was yet to make friends. I wanted to figure out where to take my kid, what would be a good restaurant and so on. Basically, I wanted exchange of information. I am from a digital marketing background. Facebook groups had just begun. So I started the GurgaonMoms Facebook group. Later on, I realized that this was just a trigger that made me start a community.
One and a half years after I had started the Facebook group, we put together a small workshop for moms; women were quite excited about this concept, because suddenly they were making new friends and able to have conversations. The husbands were curious with whom their wives were talking in the middle of the night! Actually, the community gets very active 10 pm afterwards. The husbands even wanted access to the community and we were having a good laugh.
Space for being heard
Women started sharing how they finally felt listened to. People always ask me ‘why is it a women-only community?’ Because the challenges women face are unique—be it the middle age or motherhood. They face a lot of pressure and often break down. Coming out of it becomes very important.
A woman, at life’s transition points, needs to be accommodative and compromise more and more. In the process, she somewhere loses herself. It is nobody’s fault but it is just the societal constructs. All that it requires to break out of something like this is to be mindful and conscious of the choices that you make. That is why in a space like this, when you start listening to stories, you get reminders again and again of how women have been doing it. What are the right choices? People even trolled our group as a glorified online kitty party or a wailing wall.
The first time, I was really hurt, because it was belittling of the good work that the team has been doing. We have amazing team members and volunteers who put in their time and effort to bring about a lot of changes.
This is a beautiful space where women come to share their stories, ask for help and come forward to offer help as well. We have women CXOs and women achievers. They help another woman to get up whenever she falls down. Through the beautiful stories shared, she not only receives up-to-date information on parenting but also seeks inspiration for her own personal growth. We have some amazing examples.
Flooded with help
In 2015, when the Madras floods happened, being a Chennai girl, I spoke about it and our community felt so upset. We collected medicines and clothes and but sending them to Chennai was a challenge. One of our members, a CEO of a logistics firm volunteered to send four trucks. As going by road would take time, I thought of alternatives.
I knew that one of my friends’ husband works for Spicejet and I spoke to him. He agreed to take our things and deliver to Chennai. What started off as a small conversation in the community became a huge success story and created a big impact, as we could send four truckload worth of relief materials. That is when I realized that when women come together, magic happens. All that you have to do is to put out an intention there. We just organize ourselves to make things happen.
Closing the distance to help
During the Covid time, many got help. I myself was down with Covid but my team members stepped up beautifully. They all got their act together. There were doctors in the community who went out of the way to give free online calls. The community put up the list of doctors with their numbers.
Ambika, one of our volunteers, saw a post about a pregnant woman down with Covid and facing difficulty in getting food. She took it upon herself, drove all the way for one hour to provide food to the pregnant woman. She did not even post her help on the community. It is so therapeutic to be in the community.
Some of the challenges that we face are unique. When you go and communicate your problems in a bigger forum, the acknowledgement, compassion or empathy that you require may not be there. But here, it is a safe space where you can discuss anything, without the fear of being judged. You are encouraged to be vulnerable.
The forum also provides a safe space to learn and unlearn. Women often end up getting trapped in unconscious patterns of behavior, which are detrimental to their own growth and success.
More inspiring stories
A woman wrote about how she felt lonely because her kids have left home and she had no purpose in life. Seeing this post, the community members came together and met the distressed woman. One of them was a life coach who found out her interests and encouraged her to write in the community. She received beautiful reviews which motivated her. There was a woman who owned up one of her mistakes that she had done. As I was the person approving the post, I was worried that the woman would get trolled in the unforgiving social media spaces. But I was pleasantly surprised to see how women actually lauded her for owning up her mistake and encouraged her to move forward.
The forum also provides a safe space to learn and unlearn. Women often end up getting trapped in unconscious patterns of behavior, which are detrimental to their own growth and success. But in a community like this, you will come across people sharing instances from their personal life, asking doubts or even sharing stories of triumph and success. It can be even something small but can be life-changing. One of my friends brought to my notice that I do not leave my family to travel alone by myself. I have never done that before because I always thought my family may need me. So eight of us went together on a trip and I realized that even if you’re not there, the family will still go. I came back so happy.
McKinsey Global has estimated that India can add 770 Bn$ to GDP by 2025 simply by giving equal opportunities to women. The present contribution of women in GDP remains at 18% and Covid has only made things worse. In GurgaonMoms, we provide professional support.
In fact, two of the girls in the community made their first post about their idea of launching millet related products based on their own experience of looking for some healthy snacking for their children. They wanted women to taste their cookies and give them feedback. Guess what? Today, their company, Slurp Farm, is a huge brand and I am very happy that they were able to make that first post in the community and invite feedback. I remember that they received huge encouragement and they received the validation that they required as well. I also remember the founder of mother and baby care brand The Moms Co, which was very recently bought over by MyGlamm, mentioning to me how a single recommendation on GurgaonMoms suddenly saw a surge in one of their products. Such is the power of women and mom communities. We also help women find jobs. Today a lot of companies post their requirements in the community and they have found high quality resources. I suggest that if companies are looking for temporary or part-time resources, please do consider women and mom communities. Women prefer flexi-working.
Another thing that we are extremely proud of is organising our Mom Achievers Summit. At first, people didn’t understand why a summit for mothers was needed and that too from 9 to 5. There is so much about mom; parenthood is just a slice of life.
The cheering squad
You can come to GurgaonMoms any time you feel you’re down. You can just come for entertainment or to find inspiration. You have a ready-made cheering squad available for you. They mean it when they see it. It’s not like they say it, just to make you feel good. They all go through it. Women go through the imposter syndrome. We often ask, “Do we really deserve this?” That is when you need a cheering squad who will tell you that you deserve it and that you are the reason behind many things that are happening behind you.
The summit of success
Another thing that we are extremely proud of is organising our Mom Achievers Summit. At first, people didn’t understand why a summit for mothers was needed and that too from 9 to 5. There is so much about mom; parenthood is just a slice of life. Women have career aspirations, lots of hobbies and want to network as well. When we invited people, they were not willing to buy the delegate passes because they didn’t know what to expect and we had hundred plus women who attended the event. Half of them were invited by us. The next year onwards, the story was very different. We were getting sold out every year and we had to move from one bigger venue to another bigger venue until last year. In 2019, before the pandemic, we had an event that saw 450 plus members attending. In 2020, we were just moving to an even bigger space but Covid happened. The summit is the culmination of our efforts. If you want to experience the community, you have to attend the summit. In that one day, you will be able to understand what it is about. You will hear stories that will make you laugh and inspire, as well. That is what happens when women come together, be it in online space or offline space. The energy is just so palpable. Failure resume is popular these days. But I would like to share my learnings.
At the end of the day, I preach that women’s time has to be valued and so, the people who spend time on my community need to receive some sort of financial support. My learning is that money is not a bad word and sustainability is extremely important for this purpose.
Taking control of my life: I come from Chennai, growing up in Trichy and watching Tamil movies and dreaming a perfect life. After marriage, when I prepared coffee and gave it to my husband, he asked me, “Why are you giving me a cup of coffee in the morning? I can make my own coffee and you can make your own coffee. That’s how it has to be. It has to be a choice and you don’t have to do anything by compulsion.” That really made me question many other things in life.
For the longest part of time, I was getting used to giving away the control to my life and that realization came only a few years back. But after that, I have taken control of everything in my life. I know that I have choices. I am responsible for my own choices. If somebody is making choices for me, that is because I have let them make the choice ahead of me. Know that you have to stand up for yourself.
Big mind, small mind: My coach has taught me a beautiful thing that there is a big mind and a small mind inside each of us. The big mind always gives us such a beautiful picture of us and tells us that we are capable of achieving anything. That is true also. The small mind constantly tells us, ‘Hey, you’re not good enough. What happens if you fail?’ It will stop you from doing. Unfortunately, it is the small mind that we listen to most of the time. Instead, if you push yourself and listen to the big mind, beautiful things will happen in your life.
Reach out for help: Do not hesitate to ask for help. This is something that as women, we do not do. Probably, we think we don’t deserve it. When I started putting out my intention, I realized that the Universe conspires to make it happen and I can confidently say that if you’re in a women’s group, the group will conspire to make it happen for you. So do not hesitate to ask for help. The worst you can hear is a ‘no’ but what if you get a ‘yes!’
Money is not a bad word: We are a community of volunteers. But if I want to scale from one level to another and want the impact to be bigger, then I’ll have to talk in terms of numbers and money. I will have to pay our salaries. It doesn’t have to be a big amount like a corporate, though. At the end of the day, I preach that women’s time has to be valued and so, the people who spend time on my community need to receive some sort of financial support. My learning is that money is not a bad word and sustainability is extremely important for this purpose.
Magic waiting for you: I would like to remind each one of you that you are special and you deserve special things to happen to you. It can happen to you, only if you allow it to happen and make up your mind for it. For all this to happen, you have to be part of a community. I am speaking in the MMA network today which has such a great power. There is a community out there waiting to happen. There is magic waiting to happen.