‘You don’t have to choose, you can do all of it’: WOOP CEO’s message for women entrepreneurs

“Women empowerment has a long way to go at a grass-root level, but for the urban-entrepreneur, it might just be a great way to get attention from those looking for diversity”

WOOP is an all-women startup founded by Rashi Mittal Nair. The platform not only rewards women for engaging with brands online but helps in the education of less-fortunate girls in India. For the same, it has partnered with a charity organisation called Nanhi Kali.

On the International Women’s Day, Startagist talked to its Co-founder and CEO Rashi Mittal Nair to know more about the business and her entrepreneurial journey.

You have more than a decade’s experience working with several MNCs. When did the entrepreneurship bug bite you? What was the trigger to launch WOOP?

During my tenure at Procter & Gamble, I used to handle their influencer marketing as well as their CSR program Shiksha that helped educate children. I knew from studies P&G had conducted several years ago, that the social-cause women in India felt most strongly about was the education of the girl child. What was surprising though, was that very few women (in their individual capacity) were actively doing something about it.

Behavioural science tells us that the best way to motivate someone to do something they want to do, is to make that task easy, fun and instantly rewarding.

That’s how WOOP was born. We wanted to make ‘doing good’ easy, fun and rewarding.

What women have is time. They spend hours online chatting and sharing, anyway. What the cause needs however, is money (funds to help educate more girl children).

So we thought to ourselves, who is willing to pay money in exchange for more time with women consumers?

Being a part of P&G I knew there were so many big companies that are spending millions of dollars trying to reach, and engage deeper with women consumers.

The dots were just waiting to be connected. WOOP is just an enabler of this unique value exchange.

Women spend time engaging with Brands and in exchange for their time they get rewards and good karma.

Brands get deeper engagement with consumers that leads to authentic brand advocacy at scale with reviews, referrals, recommendations and more.

The girl child cause gets funds for girl child education via our charity partner Nanhikali.

Who are the brains behind WOOP and what is their background? When was the product launched?

The co-founders of WOOP are Asit Gupta & Rashi Mittal Nair – both ex-marketers from Procter & Gamble with over 40+ years of collective experience in Marketing. Both Asit and Rashi, after their corporate careers, have also run their own word-of-mouth marketing companies and have perfected the art of getting consumers to recommend products. They are also experienced and well versed at running and building a company- keeping a hawk eye on cash flow, while attracting more customers and the right talent.

WOOP is the culmination of their years of marketing experience, and their belief in the power of Word of mouth marketing. The traction with consumers as well as clients is evidence of their domain expertise as well as credibility within the market.  WOOP was launched in India on July 25th 2017. We are less than a year old.

WOOP is a unique product. Where did you get this idea from?

Given our collective expertise in the ‘word of mouth marketing’ space, we knew the gaps that existed and needed to be filled.

Consumers trust recommendations from friends and family 2.5 times more than brand advertising. Brands are aware of this, but struggle to find a scalable and measurable way to get authentic word of mouth for their brands.

Our knowledge of what we knew marketing leaders were struggling with, got us to find a solution that we knew would not only be scalable, but also meaningful.

With WOOP, we want to make Marketing, a force for good.

We are energized by the potential to make a difference on multiple fronts. We can make marketing more authentic, we can give consumers a tangible as well as fulfilling return for the time they spend online and we can also help educate more Girls so that India as a society is on a positive path.

Five billion WOOP points can create 10 million school days and educate 50,000 girls, while generating 10 million advocacy actions for brands and rewards for two million consumers. This inspires us.

Can you walk me through the product? What are the key USPs of WOOP?

WOOP is a gamified platform where women after profiling do a series of missions (or actions) for brands, to Learn, Share, Create and Refer. They earn points for every mission completed in proportion to the effort & can redeem them for exciting rewards. For every 500 points earned by them we donate Rs.8 to Nanhikali, which funds 1 day of school for a young girl going to primary school.

How many global brands have you partnered with so far? What kind of a partnership do you have with them?

WOOP Co-founder and CEO Rashi Mittal Nair
WOOP Co-founder and CEO Rashi Mittal Nair

WOOP has already expanded to four more countries including Russia, the Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia.

Brands on WOOP include Philips, Kimberly Clark, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Cipla, Glenmark Pharma, Kaya, Eureka Forbes and many more.

WOOP already has over 12+ clients.

These brands have partnered with WOOP to try and identify their real consumer advocates, and leverage them to drive authentic brand conversations.

Can you share the details of the charity organisation you are currently working with?

Project Nanhi Kali was initiated in 1996 by the K. C. Mahindra Education Trust (KCMET) with the aim of providing primary education to underprivileged girl children in India.

The World Bank has acknowledged that there is no investment more effective for achieving the millennium development goals than educating girls. “According to the World Bank, some of the benefits associated with girls’ education include reduction of child and maternal mortality, improvement of child nutrition and health, lower fertility rates and improvement in economic production”

Till date, WOOP has helped generate over 79000+ school days and counting. We have an official agreement with our charity partner Nanhikali as part of which we make a quarterly donation to them and they share details and stories of the girl children helped through WOOP funds which motivates our members to do more missions.

WOOP is all about helping the ‘Women of Opinion’ today, create the ‘Women of Opinion’ tomorrow.

I understand WOOP is all about sharing experience and thus getting rewards. While rewards are a big attraction, people are still lazy to share their experience. How do you make people share their experience/write reviews, etc? 

WOOP is a gamified platform that uses game elements to leverage a participant’s sense of challenge, competition and reward to educate, change behaviours and inspire action.

Gamification as a concept is very effective in ensuring consumer participation in programs.

And WOOP is about more than just writing reviews. WOOP can help drive actions for brands that range from ‘learning about the category, learning about the brand/product, Sampling/Trying it, Visiting a Store, Referring friends, Creating content like images and videos and much much more.

Are you a bootstrapped company? Are you seeking investments? Please share your plans.

We are currently a bootstrapped company. We are seeking angel-investors that can help take WOOP to the next level with a stronger team, stronger product and stronger consumer community.

What is your business model? What is your marketing strategy? 

Brands pay a one-time listing fee on WOOP. Post that, they pay per engaged user or per conversation/action.

The same user is monetised multiple times as many brands are interested in engaging with the same consumer.

How has been your entrepreneurial journey so far? Do you think women entrepreneurs face more challenges than their male counterparts in India? What has been your biggest challenge in the start-up life? 

My entrepreneurial journey has been very enriching. What I value most in this journey, are my failings. Learning’s that I have gathered over the years from mistakes I’ve made, give me the confidence that I am far better equipped at what I’m doing, than others playing the same game.

I know the statistics show a lack of women entrepreneurs in the start-up domain. However, I feel the tide is turning. Women empowerment has a long way to go at a grass-root level, but for the urban-entrepreneur it might just be a great way to get attention from those looking for diversity.

The biggest challenge for me in the start-up life would be finding the right talent. We are constantly looking for people that have the hunger for intellectual growth and at the same time, are open to getting their hands dirty in everyday operations.

Do you believe that there is gender bias in the startup world like any other industries in India? What has been your experience? 

I recently went to an investor event where over 40+ start ups were pitching to a panel of angel-investors. From a glance around the room, I could tell that less than around 10 per cent of the startups present there, had a female co-founder. So yes, there is lesser representation of women in the startup world.

But I don’t think there is a gender bias. I don’t believe that any of us that pitched that day, got any different treatment (positive or negative) from our male counterparts.

What is your message for the budding women entrepreneurs in India on the Women’s Day?

If I had one message I would like to send out to all women entrepreneurs out there, it would be “You don’t have to choose”.

I’ve often seen women say they find it hard to choose a career over their family, or the other way around. I personally feel you don’t have to make a choice. You can do all of it!

I am a mother of four (an 18-month-old daughter, a 4-year-old Labrador, my husband who can be a baby sometimes, and WOOP).

Running a business doesn’t make me a bad mom, it actually helps me be an even better one!