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Updated: August 31, 2013 20:31 IST
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Bend it like Chahal

Teja Lele Desai
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Sairee Chahal, entrepreneur, workflex evangelist and occasional writer.
Sairee Chahal, entrepreneur, workflex evangelist and occasional writer.

Sairee Chahal wears a lot of hats with elan. She’s serial entrepreneur, mentor, workflex evangelist, occasional writer and mother to a six-year-old. She’s also founder and CEO of Fleximoms, a career shop that works towards creating and enhancing work flex options for women.

Chahal woke up to the need of flexible options for women when she became a mother. Unwilling to give up a fulfilling career, she realised that rigid work formats are hurdles that most working women face at some point in their life. “I realised that there’s a definite need for flexible formats at workplaces,” she says.

She went on to start Fleximoms to bridge the gap between professional women and the companies that employ them.

Fleximoms today is a large women-centric community that offers a flexible employment model, placing women in organisations that understand the value of an experienced and qualified workforce. The company also offers programmes such as career guidance, interview preparation, resumé guidance and workplace coaching among others.

Chahal, a finalist for the Cartier Women’s Award Initiative for 2012, is extremely vocal and driven about the need for flexibility at the workplace to make it inclusive to women. “A large number of companies now want to connect and tap this demographic,” she says.

Chahal has a chequered career graph. She acquired a Master’s degree in Russian language from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and went on to work for Central Asian countries opening their embassies in the national capital. She also worked on a magazine. But the seeds of entrepreneurship were sown early and in 1999, she and a couple of friends set up News Link Services, India’s first magazine for mariners.

In 2006, Chahal was consulting for small and medium businesses. “I found that the number of women seeking jobs was far greater than those we could employ,” Chahal says. “We also found a huge disconnect between women employees and employers.”

The idea was born and it was fleshed out slowly. It started operations with about 22 companies on the rolls; the number has soared to 600 since. Till date, Fleximoms has found placements for over 2,000 women across the country. Apart from being an aggregator of flexible jobs and providing guidance, Fleximoms runs Second Chance, a back-to-work programme for women who have taken a break from work.

Fleximoms also organises online teaching, coaching and classroom training for long-term interventions in New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Pune. It has tied up with several incubators and accelerators to provide support.

Fleximoms may have started out as a “mom’s” work helpline, but has now grown into a portal where any women can look for employment options. “We have grown through word-of-mouth and are looking to build on this,” Chahal says.

Chahal agrees that there can never be a one-size-fits-all solution to any problem. She says that the right flexibility format can be a mix of flexible days, flexible weeks and part-time work, all of which combine to create gains in productivity, cost savings and engagement.

“With the right technology, regular communication and a disciplined attitude, a company and employees can find the right fit between remote and office working,” she says.

Chahal, a TED speaker and named one of the Most Powerful Women in Indian Business 2012, isn’t content to rest on her laurels. An industry influencer shaping the future of work conversations, she recently launched Sheroes, a website for professional women.

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