Mahalakshmi Saravanan is the founder and CEO of Women Entrepreneurs India (WEI). She is the recipient of various awards such as the Rex Karmaveer Global Fellowship (awarded on November 27, 2016), the Best Woman Entrepreneur Award conferred by SSM Educational Institutions, Komarapalayam and was a panellist at the International Women’s Day Celebration (March 2015) held at the World Trade Centre, Mumbai. She is passionate about creating better opportunities for women and has been encouraging budding entrepreneurs. With her indomitable optimism and can-do spirit, she has become a role model for thousands of aspiring women entrepreneurs today.
The Guindy Times received an opportunity to interview this ever-charming entrepreneur at Conclave – a motivational talk show organized by the Rotaract Club of CEG. The event was held at the Vivekananda Auditorium on 29th January between 5 PM and 8.30 PM and witnessed a strong crowd of over 750 students.
GT: First of all, welcome to Anna University! You are described as a very optimistic person with a can-do spirit by fans and in previous interviews. Where did all the positivity come from?
MS: When I started my career, I wasn’t very positive. I sought inspiration from many people around me whom I met frequently. My husband has always been my greatest source of inspiration. He believed in me and thought I could do something on my own. That’s how I started my venture, with my husband being my mentor. I’m what I am today because of him.
GT: You have been to many national and international conferences, many organizations like the Reserve Bank of India and many institutes like the NITs, IITs etc. for motivational talks and lectures. How different is it to be at Anna University, facing our hyperactive students?
MS: It feels different to be present here, giving a talk to Anna University students. They are very attentive, with inquisitive minds. I also feel that they will be successful entrepreneurs soon. They are just amazing.
GT: How did the idea of supporting and motivating women around the country to become entrepreneurs originate in you?
MS: This idea started because I personally went through a lot of hurdles - I didn’t want my peers to go through the same. So I thought about educating women who were planning to start a business, and that’s how the idea came to be.
GT: In your talk, you mentioned that when you started WEI, you did not know IT. However, you have now come up with great strategies for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – a pressing need in today’s world where many cannot find their way without the help of Google. How did this happen?
MS: SEO is a growing technology and is being updated almost every day. When I started this in 2008, the SEO concepts that we applied were different from what we’re using now. Learning about SEO requires only knowledge of why SEO is needed, whether it is paid/free (it’s basically free) and other such concepts. We started applying our concepts in various websites. It was initially very difficult to learn about them, apply our strategies and bring it to the top. We learned a lot from our mistakes. I have now learned a lot through the ups and downs and have reached the position of being a digital marketing strategist in SEO.
GT: You were interviewed by The Economic Times on Women Entrepreneurship Day. Do you think that such interviews would help inspire others? If yes, were you inspired by any such talks?
MS: It would certainly inspire others. I haven’t attended or read a lot about such talks, to be honest. I hadn’t ventured into other platforms when I started my business. After a few years, I started my network, brought in many women, motivated them and they, in turn, motivated others. I think motivation is much needed as it impacts the listener and inspires them if they can relate to the speaker’s position. That connect is possible only through such talks and listeners have to start taking actions on the ideas to be motivated from within. Not many know that they can be motivated by themselves. They have to empower themselves so that they can face challenges and lead a contented life by achieving what they want.
GT: What are your short term and long term goals?
MS: When it comes to business, my short-term goal is to conduct at least 100 events this year. My long-term goal is to be featured on the Forbes list. However, I would not be upset even if that didn’t materialize. When some women establish their own startups and tell me that it was because of me, it is overwhelming and that recognition is more than enough for me.
GT: Why did you decide to focus on women entrepreneurship?
MS: When it comes to business, we need to see ourselves not as women, but as entrepreneurs. I started focusing on women because they needed encouragement in this domain.
GT: Success or self-satisfaction? Which would you prefer?
MS: Self-satisfaction is what I’m experiencing every day and that leads me to success.
GT: What do you prefer at WEI: profit or service to women?
MS: We’re actually offering service to women and are not making any money at all. This shows that we are into the service sector. Also, being a service minded person, I prefer service over monetary benefits.
GT: Your awards, the name of your organization, and many other things all start with the word Women. Do you think this special attention is essential in bringing up women in any domain? Does this result in equality?
MS: There’s nothing to do with equality here, I guess. In my organization, I want women to know that there is a forum to help them out with the execution of their ideas. Even I wanted to generalize my forum with the title Entrepreneurs India and not WEI. But, when I started WEI, I never thought about it as I felt that it was much needed for women. The prefix or suffix is just one’s own perception or mindset. In our company, there are a lot of men, just like women, working for the welfare of other women. We have reached that point where men and women go hand in hand in every business and domain.
GT: Thank you so much for your time and patience.
MS: My pleasure.
The Guindy Times thanks the Rotaract Club of CEG for giving us the opportunity to interview their speakers and congratulates them for the success of Conclave’18.