Despite having a Master’s in Marketing and work experience with multinational companies, Vandhana Ramanathan (29), a mother of two, had to shift various jobs across industries including IT, advertising and more, as the distance she had to travel and unpredictable office hours were a hindrance to sustain work-life balance. She then quit her job briefly before finally forming her own company, Let’s Shout Out Social, a Chennai-based digital agency with 25-year-old entrepreneur Jinal Patel. As time passed, they realised that it was not just them, but also a large percentage of their own women employees and other women entrepreneurs who were their clients, that was struggling to strike a balance between work, family and children, a section that is eventually forced to leave their jobs and settle for domesticated lives. While having a conversation about this on a trip to Bengaluru, the duo wondered why women could not get absorbed into their industries after a sabbatical and motherhood, and how this could be changed. That’s when the idea of WSquare came about. “There are glaring gaps in resources available to support the growth of women entrepreneurs who resume work after a maternity break. We wanted to provide a conducive work environment that takes care of everything from access to funding and mentorship to quality of networking,” explains Vandhana.
Thus, was launched WSquare or W2 in Adyar on International Women’s Day, a workspace that has all the amenities of a regular co-working space, but also takes into consideration the unique needs of women. “There was a three-month pilot project during which we had a working mother, an entrepreneur and a duo of college girls to ascertain the type of services women require, challenges faced by different age groups and other needs,” adds Jinal.
Apart from Wi-Fi, 24*7 CCTV surveillance and coffee machines, Vandhana and Jinal’s dynamic workspace includes a yoga and fitness room for women to work out or take meditation breaks. They can also avail on-call beauty services. The chairs have also been ergonomically designed, keeping in mind pregnant women and new mothers. There’s also a concierge service, which women can avail for groceries and home-cooked meal takeaways among other miscellaneous services. “We have planned a day care centre a few blocks away, and will have similar centres located right next to all our workspaces in future,” explains Vandhana. WSquare is launching its next centre in Mumbai very soon. Apart from this, there are plans to launch five to six centres within the city before expanding to Coimbatore, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Pune.
Users can reserve their spot for just a day, or a few days every month, or go for regular everyday plans. The current facility that can accommodate 30 women comes with three plans that are priced Rs500 a day to Rs 12,000 a month. There are provisions for working in open areas as well as private spaces for individuals and groups. Vandhana adds that apart from launching an app, the company is also in talks with corporates to monitor the progress of women employees and to curate data on women who quit careers mid-way, their demographics and reasons, that will help them enhance their workspace taking their needs into account. They will also hold workshops and seminars on financial planning, DIY crafts for women and kids, self-defence, entrepreneurship, organic farming, networking and more.
For the nonce though, the duo says, “The response has been amazing with a lot of enquiries and registrations coming in. At the end of the day, the main idea is to bring women back to the workforce by providing them a space where they can be themselves overcoming things and situations that hold them back.”