At StartUp Terminal, we believe our diversity is our strength. As International Woman’s Day grows near, we celebrate the achievements of women around the world.
To kick off our celebration, we’ve asked Antwerp, Belgium-based Aisha Saraf Kothari (Originally from Delhi, India), founder of AiSPi – a luxury, fashion e-commerce portal, few questions on her experience achieving success in the field of entrepreneurship, and what advice she has for women entering the workforce today.
ST: Please tell us briefly about you.
Aisha: I identify myself as a global citizen, since I’ve lived large parts of my life in India, America and now Europe. I feel I’ve been able to embrace cultures from all these 3 very varied and distinct geographies. I am an entrepreneur. I have founded AiSPi, a unique fashion project that stems bridging a gap between consumers and the hidden gems of the fashion world in Europe. AiSPi is a multi-designer e-commerce portal which houses niche European designers, providing luxury fashion to the Indian consumer.
I am also with EY since the past 9 years (New York and Belgium) as a strategy consultant, helping big corporate companies enter new markets. I also advise start-ups and help them get funded. Other than an entrepreneur, I am also a proud wife, a daughter, a friend and now a recent mother.
ST: Who is a woman that inspires you the most and why?
Aisha: There are a lot of inspirational figures, whether historically or currently. If I really look deep within, the women that I draw inspiration from are the ones that are around me, in my everyday life. I can relate to them, and can get inspired to execute something myself. Whether it’s one of my best friends who is an entrepreneur herself, running her own business, taking care of her child, who is pushing herself every day to achieve something; or whether it is my mum or my mum in law, who have worked so hard to raise their children, bring harmony in their homes and nurture us. My sister- who is climbing up the ranks in the corporate space. I truly get inspired by these real-life women, since I have really close insights into their lives and I know how they are overcoming various hurdles, obstacles that are coming their way and achieving something in their spheres every single day.
ST: How are you celebrating this year’s International Women’s Day?
Aisha: This year is extremely unique for me, I just gave birth to a beautiful baby girl recently. I’ll be celebrating my new role as a mom, this woman’s day, something I am very proud of. I am extremely excited, getting introduced to yet another role a woman plays, amongst the many others.
ST: What is the most important message you want to send out to all the women around the world on this occasion?
Aisha: It is essential for every woman to truly own her role. As you grow up, you notice, a lot of women are constantly changing with different roles they’ve been introduced to in life. And for that it is essential for us to own it. Be proud of who you are – Whether you are a homemaker, an employee, an entrepreneur – an all-rounder with multiple roles – it is important for you to be proud of it, confident about it and own it.
Whether it is something small you’ve achieved or a major milestone in your life- celebrate and be proud of it all. Don’t compare yourself with anyone else.
ST: What according to you is ‘women empowerment’?
Aisha: To me women empowerment means to two things. One- Equal opportunities. And the second-Equal responsibilities. We all hear about the glass ceiling, where we need to have the same opportunities as the men. But at the same time, I hope that any milestone achieved by a woman is also recognized with the same lens as that of a man. It is important to have equal responsibility, whether it’s a home maker working towards building her family or her home, or whether it’s the bread winner who is contributing towards the finances of the family. I think that women, all over, need to follow this mantra- Equal opportunities. Equal responsibilities.
ST: What would you say are the main challenges facing women at present globally?
Aisha: The main challenge that a woman faces is “Assumptions”. So even before entering the door for a work meeting, or parent teacher conference or the kitchen- there is a sort of assumption, stereotype or box, women are fit into already. I wish we can all be seen as blank slates, without putting us with pre-defined assumptions. I was seen to be very studious and career oriented while growing up, however I did marry my husband when I was young and I do have a child now and I love my family very much, as much as I love my career. I see them both to be equal and important halves of my life. Forming these presumptions does not help us. People need to give women the same opportunity without preconceived notions and stereotypes.
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