Female Founders: Amrita Saigal of Kudos On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
FOCUS. Think about that one differentiator, or that one product you want out there. Don’t think of a zillion different things. Women tend to want to do it all. But you are going to be shipping a zillion mediocre things that way. You really have to focus on that one thing you are going to do GREAT.
As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amrita Saigal.
Amrita is the founder of Kudos, a cutting-edge and high-performing sustainable baby diaper brand set to launch in the spring of 2021. Prior to Kudos, Amrita co-founded Saathi, now one of India’s leading manufacturers of eco-friendly sanitary pads made from waste banana tree fiber. Her work experience spans manufacturing for Procter & Gamble’s Always pads and Gillette razors, operations & manufacturing for Google Glass, and all-around-all-hats-wearer as one of the earliest employees at Thunkable.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I studied Mechanical Engineering at MIT. I’ve always been fascinated by the consumer products industry, so right out of college I joined P&G and worked on the engineering side for a few different brands including Gillette razors and Always pads. I saw firsthand how much plastic goes into all these products. I left P&G to start my first company called Saathi, a leading eco-friendly sanitary pad brand in India which manufactures sanitary pads out of waste banana tree fiber. As I entered my early 30s, my friends started having children and kept telling me they couldn’t find a natural baby diaper that actually worked.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
We set out to make the most plant-based baby diaper on the market from day 1. Our goal was to get as much plastic out of baby diapers as possible. We decided to test cotton early on as one of our materials for its environmental benefits of being 100% biodegradable and compostable. As we started beta testing the diapers with a 100% cotton top sheet, we started to get tons of positive feedback that parents were seeing significantly less diaper rash. When we started, we were not expecting to be building a diaper that helps parents ditch diaper rash, but that has now become one of our leading features!
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?
Women tend to doubt themselves way more than men. There is no doubt (pun intended) about that. Women need to rise above the imposter syndrome. We all have it at times, but we cannot let this stop us. We have all seen it. A man may not be qualified for a job but will still apply and explain why he is qualified. A woman who may be perfectly qualified for a job doesn’t apply because they are worried they aren’t perfect — they doubt themselves.
This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
So many of the problems that are being solved for women today are in male-led companies. Isn’t that crazy when you think about it? For example, when I worked for Always Pads, the majority of the engineers were men. Shouldn’t women be designing products and solving problems FOR women. They know best.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?
I find one of the biggest myths to be that people think founders need to have knowledge about every part of the business. This just isn’t possible. No one can be great at product development, design, marketing, sales, finance, etc. What you do need to have as a founder is a strong vision and know where your strengths lie. You need to know your weaknesses and be able to hire talent smarter than yourself to fill in the gaps for things that are not your strength. This is exactly what I have tried to do at Kudos. Yes, technically the people I have hired “report” to me, but in all honesty we are a 3-person team and we all learn from one another daily.
Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?
Anyone and everyone is cut out to do anything and everything they want. You just have to believe in yourself and put in the work. You have to be willing to put yourself out there and ask for help when needed. You just need to be ok with a lot of rejection and people not always believing what you are doing. I think this is often harder for women to deal with than men. Nothing is ever too big for someone to achieve. You have to want to manifest the infinite power within you.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. Take advantage of your network and connections. Don’t be shy. ROAR. Make your network work for YOU.
2. FOCUS. Think about that one differentiator, or that one product you want out there. Don’t think of a zillion different things. Women tend to want to do it all. But you are going to be shipping a zillion mediocre things that way. You really have to focus on that one thing you are going to do GREAT.
3. JUST GO. Focus on shifting and moving over PERFECTION. Keep moving, keep iterating. Women tend to only ship things when it is PERFECT. But by then you have lost. You need to keep going.
4. SPEAK UP. Women tend to lean on being quieter, letting others talk, etc. You need to make sure your voice is heard.
5. Your thoughts matter. Often times, the points you make will actually be the most profound. Don’t hide them.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Sara Blakley…. Need to explain why
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
Female Founders: Amrita Saigal of Kudos On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.