This is an account of my experience at the Breaking Barriers event from Women’s Web on April 1, 2017. The photos are from public Twitter feeds, some my own, and the Women’s Web Facebook page, courtesy their video partners Kraft Films

There are events and events. There’s something to learn every time. But some events leave you thinking. Some events awe and amaze. The #BreakingBarriers event was in that line.

I was excited to be on a panel discussion with achievers like Srividya Sen (Group Practice Head – Marketing Solutions & Services, Tech Mahindra) and Jonali Saikia Khasnabish (Founder at Heeya Crafts & Business Consultant). It was scheduled after Women’s Web founder Aparna Singh’s opening note.

I was so pumped up I arrived too early. I decided to take a walk around the Target India venue at the Manyata Embassy Business Park. As I skipped past concrete giants, I was reprimanded by security staff to walk in the cordoned-off area for pedestrians! Ouch! Corporate protocol … distant memory.

I entered the main Target office which is very handsome by the way and got my dog tag, er, visitor’s tag. 😊 … sorry, life away from corporate has spoiled me.

#BreakingBarriers begins

The event started at 10.15am with Aparna’s opening note.

Aparna Singh at #BreakingBarriers Bangalore 2017

This was followed by our panel discussion on “Content Marketing to Search: What you need to know.” We talked about content marketing, its importance in the current consumer era, trends in content marketing, the importance of a content marketing strategy, and some tools.

Content Marketing at #BreakingBarriers by Women's Web, Bangalore, 2017

While we had a lot to share, time literally flew and half an hour was over before we knew it. Just so no one misses out on some of the tools that were mentioned during the discussion, here’s a list:

Image creation/editing

  • Canva
  • PicMonkey
  • Instagram, Snapchat have great filters too; you can then download the images and use as required
  • Prisma

Video and animations

Web Analytics

How to build a personal brand – Mangal Karnad

The next session had Mangal Karnad, Co-founder of Fablesquare take the stage. She talked about why each and every one of us needs to build a personal brand. She gave some of the best examples of personal brands – Mahatma Gandhi and Kiran Bedi. Mangal succinctly explained “brand” as what people say about you behind your back. How do you ensure that it’s good?

Mangal Karnad at Fablesquare at #BreakingBarriers @womensweb Bangalore 2017
The session invited great interaction from the audience. Mangal made some interesting statements that stayed with me, such as “If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying new things.” She also laid out a step-wise process to build personal branding.

Mangal Karnad talking on How to Build a Personal Brand at #BreakingBarriers @womensweb Bangalore 2017
It was a super valuable session!

A break that went long

The tea break was welcome because I was hungry. Not that I hadn’t been eating the biscuits already but nevertheless.
Aparna incentivized networking with the promise of a surprise but this audience needed no encouragement. People networked like crazy – sharing stories, learning about each other and their professional interests, exchanging cards.

I was impressed with the people I came across – aspiring marketers, established writers and entrepreneurs. Everyone seemed hungry … and not for the biscuits! It was excellent interaction.

Success has taught me, yes but failures, even more!

This was another panel discussion with Aparna moderating the show. The other panelists were Shalini Singh (Founder, Galvanise PR), Anju Maudgal Kadam (Founder & Director, WebTV) and Lakshmi Dasaka (Co-founder, Dropkaffe).

What stood out through the whole session was the honesty with which the panellists answered questions on failure. All of us have failed at some time or the other but it takes guts to talk about personal moments of weakness in front of strangers.

Anju talked about how she let self-pity and lethargy keep her off work for 7 years. But she broke out of that and built herself a career, a brilliant one. She also encouraged the audience to use digital media and forums such as to share their stories and thoughts. When asked how she handles failure, Anju said she prefers to “go quiet” to assess the situation and rework it.

Shalini talked about how ego blinded her to the fact that her business was failing. But she got back on track, changed things and revved up her business again. When asked how she handles failure, she recalled her father’s advice on “what’s done is done, now move on.” A “non-judgy” friend (Hear, hear!) and exercise also help to fight the blues.

Lakshmi talked about the fear of making hard decisions and our resistance to change. When asked about what she could change from her past, she admitted she would have become an entrepreneur much earlier. She emphasized that there is no such thing as over-communication if the message is relevant and valuable. Also, that introverts have an advantage in the digital era as they can be heard by the world without face-to-face communication.

Panel on learning from failures at #BreakingBarriers @womensweb Bangalore 2017
During the session, the topic of “mentoring” also came up. There are many forums/networks available for people to search for the right mentor such as The Indus Entrepreneurs (TIE). Women’s Web also has a mentoring aspect that can be explored. The panellists did suggest it helps to first identify why we need an entrepreneur, respect that entrepreneurs time and knowledge, hold our own when needed, and give feedback to the forum/network when a mentoring setup does not deliver as expected.

Caring for yourself

Usually, I’m not too keen on diet-related sessions but Archana Reddy from Motherhood kept me interested with her humour, subject matter expertise, and sheer cuteness. Kudos to her!

Archana Reddy from Motherhood at #BreakingBarriers @womensweb Bangalore 2017

A fun lunch break

During lunch, I had the opportunity to chat with more enterprising people. I met Shalini and shared the lunch table with Kavita Jhunjhunwala, the next speaker for the event, and two other talented ladies. The conversation moved to topics such as home management, growing older (and wiser 😉), exercise, diet, weight-loss and some leg-pulling. It was fun!

YOU are all you need – a personal story

The limited interaction with Kavita over lunch had been enough to convince me that this was one self-assured woman! Her session proved she was humorous, empathetic and observant as well. She shared her personal experience as a girl from a Marwari family who chose to work and do bigger things. I have a Marwari friend so believe me, that is not as simple a feat as it sounds.

Kavita started her session with a video that set the tone for the afternoon. Watch it below.

If that was not enough to jerk us out of any post-lunch lethargy, Kavita took it one step further. She invited three people to share their motivational stories in 120 seconds.

The first lady talked about her work as a scribe, writing books on advanced studies for the blind. One of her students topped in the exam!

The second lady (who came all the way from Goa) talked about her survival journey – cancer, a broken leg and 40% burns. The empathy and support from the audience was palpable. Some women from the audience came and hugged her on stage. It was a moving moment. The best part though, is that this superwoman now teaches dance, that too Bharat Natyam!

The third lady, a tall, dark, beautiful woman talked about the constant discouragement and criticism she faced over her physical features. That was till she got through one of the most coveted universities in Singapore, took up her studies while pregnant, gave her exams and returned home to deliver a bonny child. Nothing can stop her now.

Inspirational stories at #BreakingBarriers @womensweb Bangalore 2017
Wow! It’s certainly true that no one can make you feel small without your permission. These stories brought home the fact that women face unique challenges. But more importantly, they rise above them!

As Kavita continued, she talked about the need for women to establish themselves as an expert within 10 minutes of being in a room full of sceptics. She encouraged women to ask for help, not try to do everything themselves.

While I loved Kavita’s message, what really struck me was her natural stage presence. She was interesting, she kept us engaged, and she kept it real. I think I’m going to ask her for some public-speaking tips.

Kavita Juhnjhunwala at #BreakingBarriers by Women's Web, Bangalore, 2017

Next up, Growth Hacking

This is embarrassing but I’ve never completely understood the term “growth hacking.” I thank Ravi Sangtani (Director, Target Accelerator) for helping me out here. Ravi talked about various strategies for growth hacking such as community building. He emphasised on how it’s important to keep trying different things and keep the ball of innovation rolling.

Ravi Sangtani of Target Accelerators at #BreakingBarriers @womensweb Bangalore 2017
I missed part of the talk but when I came back in, there was something on how women must misbehave. I am not sure of the context but I like the sound of it. I’m game!

Creating Brand Ambassadors – from customers to spokespeople

I have always found the concept of co-working spaces interesting so I was happy to hear from Ravindra MK (Co-founder, Bhive Workspace). Ravindra talked about how the company faced bad times and how they could turn that challenge into an opportunity. Bhive expected an investment of funds that did not happen after months of due diligence. They shared their story on social media with the idea of helping others. This move gained Bhive many loyal followers, empathetic supporters and visibility.

Ravindra of Bhive at #BreakingBarriers @womensweb Bangalore 2017

Ravi also shared that Bhive employs many women. His parting words were, “Be assertive.” Thanks, Ravi!

The event ended with a note of thanks from Women’s Web’s Partner and CMO, Anju Jayaram. This was followed by more networking and many, many conversations with writers, a doctor, UI/UX and web designers, marketers, business owners, and more.

I am glad that Women’s Web organised this event and opened it to women from all spheres, for free. I hope the next year sees more women taking advantage of this wonderful opportunity.

April 1st was a Saturday well-spent. I thank Women’s Web, the speakers and the wonderful attendees for a memorable day!

UPDATE: Adding the video developed by Kraft Films with the event speakers.