Over the last two months, we received thousands of applications, each one of them about a working woman in India and her journey towards conquering her dreams. We loved reading each application, and understanding your journeys towards living your dreams, and breaking a million stereotypes along the way.
We stand inspired by each one of you. However, as with all good things, we had to pick people who truly stood out from the rest, and to say that the task has been hard would be an understatement. We spent weeks looking at your applications, calling up a few of you, emailing a lot of you, checking out your websites and social media links, and we finally have a list of winners: 23 women who use their careers not just to empower and inspire themselves but also everyone else around them.
Here’s presenting the first ever list of KOOL KANYA HUSTLERS OF 2019. We picked 23 women, across categories, who are truly creating the workforce of the future.
Here’s a little bit about these women (more will follow) and how we arrived at our decision.
How Did We Pick A Winner?
We divided the nominations in five important criteria: confidence, perseverance, achievement, impact and a little something that we called the Kool Kanya Factor, which was for women who ticked all the aforementioned criteria and also added their own little spark that set them apart.
Each nomination was then measured against these categories, and we picked the ones that fit in best.
So Who Won?
Here are our 23 Kool Kanya Hustlers who we truly admire, and cheer for, in 2019. (We will be getting more of their stories to you in the coming weeks, but here’s a little preview of our winners).
What we looked for: We wanted to see how confident you were and how that streak of conviction help you achieve your dream.
Nakshatra is a fashion designer from Pune who designs for Marathi films. She believes in not catering to a single stereotype when it comes to designing clothes. She loves the tempo of working every day in fact the excitement of what each day will bring to her table helps her stay confident and deliver her best.
Sneha Sunil More
Sneha is a journalist who believes in taking charge of her life and keep going, no matter what life throws her way. She sees her work as a writer as the ultimate medium to communicate with women and help them live better lives. When asked why she wanted to nominate herself for the awards, she wrote, “Realistically nobody else was going to read my mind and think that I would love to win something like this. So I put my feelings and worries of being seen as big-headed, uninteresting and undeserving aside and typed out an entry for myself. It took courage to put myself out there and admit to the world that yes, I really would quite like to win an award. It would help set me apart from competitors, it would give me confidence and motivation to keep on working those long hours and pushing myself out of my comfort zone.”
We love that confidence, girl!
Sharmilaa Rajesh Kannan
Sharmilaa is a working woman from Hyderabad. She is the Vice President of learning and development at Evolgence Telecom systems. Sharmilaa believes in leading by example and encouraging women to speak up for themselves and do what it takes to pursue their dreams.
Despite suffering from chronic arthritis, Sharmila has managed to chase her dreams and she believes that all women can do the same, as long as they set their minds to it.
A marketing and communication professional in social impact, Vinnie decided to take the plunge and make a huge career shift from her PR background in 2018. Volunteering with two NGOs and a foundation, Vinnie not just ran a successful crowdfunding campaign for them but also got picked by LinkedIn to share her story of invoking responsible citizenship.
Vinnie also works with BBMP (Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagar Palika) in the waste management and garbage collection domain. “Through my story, I only want more and more people to become responsible citizens,” she shared.
Wow Vinnie, we can’t wait to see what you do next.
What we looked for: How passionate and dedicated you were towards your job, and whether you would stick around against all odds.
Charvi Amit Lodaya
Charvi is a yoga associate at D Y Patil University in Navi Mumbai. The 34-year-old yoga trainer, cyclist and trekker focuses on making women realise that before they take care of others they need to take care of themselves. She also urges people to give back to the environment and make the world a better place.
We love the spirit, Charvi. Keep going.
Sonali is a co-founder of Tulfa, a content production firm. One of her biggest challenges was to convince her conservative family to let her move to Mumbai and follow her dreams. She started her company last year and has a 35-member team, with a 50 per cent women workforce.
Her success motto is as simply as it gets, “Work your a** off to achieve the right quality for your clients and everything will fall in place.”
Great going, Sonali. Keep being awesome.
Actress (you’ll remember her from Yeh Hai Mohabbatein) and head of Designerwala Lab Productions, Kanisha Malhotra loves to make films that inspire people and force them to think. She loves to keep the hustle going and giving her 100 percent to everything is just the way she works. “I love it when people get inspired by my films and use it in their day to day lives,” shares the actress.
Keep up the good work, Kanisha.
What we looked for: We wanted to look at the scale of your achievement in the past year, the effort you put in, the skills you developed and courage you displayed in the face of obstacles.
Geetanjali is an advocate who aims to create legal awareness amongst women and empower them to build a safe and secure society for themselves. Amongst the many things Geetanjali has been a part of, her work with the Army jawaans, senior citizen and women, educating them about their rights as per the law, stands out the most. For her, creating “socio-legal empowerment” is a means to not just grow in her career, but also make others progress.
As the founder and CEO of Fairtrunk, a marketplace, Darshana aims to give women around her the confidence to break barriers and be themselves. “I left a well-paying job after a decade of working to pursue my entrepreneurship dream and have since been promoting sustainable fashion and lifestyle,” she shares about her journey. Darshana started off just from her dining table and today she has created a famous brand that is touching lives.
This is truly fashion for a cause and we are loving it, Darshana.
Content strategist and author Devika is multitasking her way to success. “I am working along with being an author and a theatre artist, plus I am a responsible daughter,” she shares. Devika believes in not just empowering herself but also talking to people around her and getting them to understand the power of using their skills to their advantage.
Just the kind of empowerment and comradery we need. Keep going, Devika!
Roshni Ghose Nathan
Roshni has been a part of the food and beverage industry for over two decades, and her dream is to have her own restaurant. Last year, Roshni set up one of the largest nightclubs and restrobar in Hyderabad and while she had to leave that company, she still thinks that the project got her a step closer to her dreams. She firmly believes that women can be at the top even in a male dominated industry like the food and beverages sector. “Even though I left my previous job (right now she is working with designer Anushree Reddy), I continue to work and earn. My dream is still on and one day soon I will open my own restaurant.”
We are sure you will, Roshni.
Owner and founder of Bee’s Kitchen and Bee’s Cafe in Pune, Bhakti feels that her determination and a never give up attitude is what has helped her achieve all of her dreams. In 2018, she managed to take her business from partnership to ownership and that has been her biggest success so far. “I inspire women to start their own business,” she shares.
Great going, Bhakti.
What we looked for: We want to know how your work has impacted the community, helped others around you and made a difference.
Vandhana calls herself a Mompreneur and is the CEO of India’s first co-working and incubation centre for women entrepreneurs. Her company has helped over 8000 women entrepreneurs and women led start-ups to expand their business. She has also provides opportunities for women in tech. For Vandhana, the biggest challenge has been to “compete in a patriarchal market of startups and entrepreneurs and establish herself as a leader and trendsetter for women entrepreneurs.” Vandhana has mentored more than 50 women and spoken in more than 35 international and national conferences on women entrepreneurship.
With Kool Kanya Hustlers of 2019 she adds another win to her kitty, some of which are Bharat Nirmaan Entrepreneur of the Year, Emerge Entrepreneur of the Year and SISA Award for Best Startup.
What can we say, Vandhana… you rock!
Papiya Kar Mitra
Papiya is the owner of Maker’s Club India, a place that offers creative workshops and brings together female artists under one roof. Rudrarup, her husband who nominated her tells us that Papiya is responsible for discovering and helping artists grow and make money, along with being a mom to a seven-year-old and having a job.
Wow that’s how you own that hustle, Papiya.
As the co-founder of Chottu Ki Education an NGO in Hyderabad, Yuvaneshwari focuses on rehabilitating street kids. “Last year, about ten kids were taken off the streets and were admitted in schools where they are currently excelling,” shares Yuva. CKE started in 2016 on women’s Day and has two branches in Hyderabad.
Keep up the good work, Yuva.
Huda is a nutritionist and clinical dietician with NutriBond. With clients from six countries and several cities in India, Huda is pretty much running a “one woman army”. She is also associated with a movement that aims to educate underprivileged girls about menstruation.
This is the kind of awareness that we need, and we are glad Huda is around to lead the way.
Iram works as a digital marketing consultant and writer in Haridwar. She is also behind Aligarh Muslim University’s first women-only committee that boasts of 18 thousand members. “We are bringing all women at the same platform and intend to harness our educational and financial resources to bring an overall positive impact on society,” she shares.
Keep going, Iram.
Kool Kanya Factor
What we looked for: We were looking for that one aspect that sets you apart from the rest. A unique factor that you bring to your work.
The face behind ‘The Hijabi Vignettes’ Noorain is an influencer who is trying to “represent a community where the hijab is a norm by making people see that what speaks the loudest is your confidence, irrespective of the size or shape or the kind of dress that you wear.” As a mom to two kids, her biggest challenge is to balance her work with her family life, and make sure she gives her 100 percent to both.
You go girl.
Sajida, an audio engineer by profession proudly claims to be “the best female sound engineer in India.” You’ve got to love that confidence, especially when it’s backed with the fact that she’s the first woman to receive the President Award for her work, plus she has her name in some of the top lists for Indian females in sound and music. She also happens to be the first female music technician in India.
We salute you, Sajida.
Asmita Neve-Pawar is the director of Asmita Image Consultancy, a place that helps women pick the correct lingerie. The consultancy specialises in programmes on appearance, etiquettes, grooming, and communication, all of which aim to make women feel more confident about themselves.
“Eighty percent of women wear wrongly fitted lingerie and are unaware about intimate hygiene which this leads to lots of health issues. The biggest challenge was to make people realise the importance of correct lingerie,” shares Asmita.
Her work may be unconventional, but this is just what we need: inner confidence. Great work, Asmita.
Nusrat Nasir Khan
A child abuse survivor, Nusrat is the founder and director of Cactus Foundation. Her husband Rohit, who nominated her, tells us that her career is dedicated towards creating awareness about child sexual abuse among different sections of the society. Her wonderful journey was captured by a Singapore-based organisation, in a movie, that has won the Shorty Award, USA and is also nominated for SIMA Awards.
We cannot wait to see you change the world, one step at a time, Nusrat.
Working as an assistant director for academics in Delhi, Rathi is also a part-time writer. While she suffered a setback in her career because of her health, she never let it come in the way of her dreams. Rathi believes in doing what makes her happy and healthy, and according to her sister Nithya, who nominated her, that is what sets her apart from the rest. “Even when you see her drink her black coffee and watch a video on her laptop, you can tell she is happy and at peace. This is truly inspiring. She teaches me that it doesn’t take much to be happy, to live in balance,” shares Nithya.
When Bulbul is not working at British Telecom, she is busy blogging at Fravaganza. “I am a big-time hustler, multitasker and go getter. Managing a full time corporate career and a part time fashion blog and a PR freelancer, that’s my life,” shares Bulbul.
Bulbul has also been chosen as one of the top 50 bloggers in India by The Bnb Mag and has won the Cosmopolitan Fashion Bloggers Face Off.
We just have one thing to say, Bulbul, keep rocking!