DEC 18, 2020 | 28:29

Episode 4: Empowering Woman
Leaders With Ragini Das

Uninterrupted is a platform that was merely curated with one goal, to build a community: a familiar thread to connect with like-minded people. For this week, our special guest is Ragini Das. She started a powerful & private network for women called Leap Club. In today’s interesting conversation with our Samriddhie Taneja, Ragini talks about the in-outs of how to professionally accelerate your career, financing a startup, and gender diversity in the workplace.

How did Leap Club start?

If you asked me this 13 months ago today, I had no idea it was going to happen. It started off with Anand who is my co-founder. He and I used to work together at Zomato as well. When we started it was just an idea and then we validated this with some research. So, we actually started speaking to a bunch of people and ask questions like what they do for the professional truth and what is it that they need? People spoke about how important executive coaching is, being mentally happy is and how important it is to actually like what you do. They just need a stronger network of people, access to industry items and upskilling tools, and the need to constantly learn, all of this kind of really stood out for us. We said, “Okay, I think this makes so much sense because it obviously resonated with us, we’ll call it a ‘Zomato Gold hangover’, or whatever.” That's how we started shaping all of our benefits.

Can you elaborate on how our audience could sign up to become part of Leap Club? 

It's very simple. Our website is www.leap.club, but we do have a waitlist. Since it is a private network, we do all the groundwork of calling you and checking if it makes sense for you at this stage. That's how our team speaks to almost 200-300 women on a monthly basis. That's how we onboard our members. Just log on to our website and join the waitlist, and we'll get in touch.

Could you explain what the membership entails?

Since it’s a private network, our members get access to the overall community or the network and unlike any other platform, these are not cold reach outs. It's a network, everyone's 100% invested in not just pay growth, but everyone else's growth as well. So in some sense, what you get is a strong network, a sounding board of people you can bounce off ideas with. This goes obviously, beyond your friends, family, and immediate colleagues. That's a very big part of what we do at leap: executive coaching. So you can book one on one coaching sessions with us. Today, we have more than 60 top coaches in India, listed and impaneled with us. Executive coaching is somewhere around 20-30 thousand rupees per hour. But we've got them together at very lucrative prices. It's anywhere from 2000 rupees to 8000 rupees per hour. This is exclusively for Leap members. So you can either pick a goal or if you're not sure what your goal is, we also have some wellness coaches impaneled with us. I think that being mentally happy just helps you so much professionally.

While talking to women at Leap, are there any atrocious observations or stories that have stuck by you?

India is fit from the bottom when it comes to women in leadership positions. Only 2% of women startups get funded, and that's ridiculous. We speak to so many women daily, sometimes their stories boil your blood. We decided to build this for women because it's 10 times harder. You do need access to all of this stuff for your professional growth, but we also wanted to be very clear about what we are and what we're not. And with our mission-like laws, It's so easy for anyone to think of us as a social charity. But the truth is, we're not. Leap is a paid private network. We focus on building a solid network, we focus on learning, building, and managing the marketplace.

You got funded at a very early stage of the startup. As founders, what was it that made you lean towards joining hands with external forces?

I don't think it was about money or the cheque size. The one thing we always knew was that we didn't want to build this alone. We needed people who built businesses. That was the key to even start thinking about who we want on the cap table, or who needs to be invested in this, etc. So, I feel the first question to ask yourself, is if you need that money at all, or not. I think everyone glamorizes fundraisers so much. It’s important to ask yourself if it is a must-have for you, or if it is a good thing to have for you because it's a very time-consuming and long process. That's what we wanted to build; we wanted to build value. I think we lucked out with some of the best in the business. And it was primarily because we wanted to join forces with people who can help us when we're lost. That's very important.

How did you decide to start out with a co-founder?

The biggest tip to anyone starting up is to 100% get a co-founder. It's amazing how literally no founder who's built businesses will ever tell you to start up alone. It's a very lonely journey, so having someone who can challenge you and whose opinions you respect is equally important. Not to say that there won't be tough days or there won't be disagreements. I have worked with this person here for the last three years. But of course, till today we have 10 disagreements in a day. But ensuring that you all have the same vision for the company, that you all have complementary skills, and that you all are compatible as a team is important.

How can gender diversity or equality within the workforce be promoted in organizations?

Investing in their growth, not by doing a women's day seminar, or giving them chocolate on women's day, and definitely, not just doing this one day in a year. It's not that only women in leadership positions will have access to A, B, C.. I think mid-career women need help more than anyone else. Because those are people who will move to the next level. Those are people who will move to those leadership positions. I think that's where the majority of the drop off happens. I think even when I started off, it was a 50 50% split and an equal number of men and an equal number of women. But I think as you grow, you end up being the only woman in the room sometimes. So, ensuring that voices are not just heard, but companies are going above and beyond what they do today, not just in terms of flexibility or leave policies, but helping them up-skill is important.

What is Leap leaping towards right now, especially after COVID affected us all?
So, COVID did not even exist back then in our heads. We had to pivot pretty early. We launched during COVID. On the 1st of May, when we went live, Leap was completely offline. We didn't even think of an online world. We had thirty days to completely pivot from our initial point. We launched on the first of May. I think we started with 30 founding members. But pivoting and knowing when to pivot is super important. Of course, it helped us so much, because today we have members from Delhi, Bombay, Bangalore, Pune, Hyderabad, Chennai, and Jaipur. So I think it just expanded our horizon and we took the leap
 If there was one icon who could represent Leap, who would it be?

Kamala Harris and I don't even have to explain why!

According to you, what's the one life hack that women entrepreneurs should always remember?

Take time off, take breaks. Take screen breaks, take work breaks, take enough breaks, because I think the burnout is real.

If you could be the brand ambassador for a lifetime for one brand. Which one would it be?

It would have to be something food-related, because food makes me the happiest. I'm thinking I would love to be the brand ambassador for Chipotle, so I'd get a free chipotle burrito bowl, or maybe Boba -bubble tea.

Top three international or dream locations that you want Leap to be in?

Singapore. London, and Jakarta.

What is the one ideal workplace quality that you think makes people stay loyal to an organization?
Fun and colleagues and nothing else. No beanbags, no leave policies, nothing. Just people. You need to love the people you work with, and that's what brings you into work every single day.

If you weren't breaking a leg at leap what would you be doing professionally?

Wondering why I'm not breaking a leg with Leap. I think potentially, I could have still been at Zomato, or another job I don't want. But this was the best decision of my life. People keep speaking about how 2020 is the most terrible year. But I think it's, it's been my best so far, and I wouldn't have it any other way.



To catch the full candid podcast tune into Uninterrupted by clicking here! 

Episode 4: Empowering Woman Leaders With Ragini Das