“You don’t have to choose, you can do all of it”, pat came the reply when asked what message she wanted to give to the women entrepreneurs in India on the International Women’s Day.

And this message, she believes, will resonate not just with young and aspiring entrepreneurs, but also with all the married women in the world, who are afraid of taking the plunge due to societal pressure.

“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,” said Rashi Mittal Nair, Co-founder of WOOP, a tech startup which spends a part of its revenues on a social cause.

“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,” she quipped.

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WOOP — which stands for women of opinion — is an online platform that connects women with brands. It enables women to engage deeper with their favourite brands, learn more about them and perform actions like writing reviews, inviting friends, sharing recommendations, and creating content.

In exchange for their time and actions, women earn WOOP points, which can be redeemed to win rewards such as coupons and unique experience. In the process, they indirectly contribute to the education of young girls from the deprived background in India.

“In a nutshell, WOOP is a value-exchange programme, where women get information, recognition, rewards and a chance to do good. At the same time, brands get deeper consumer engagement that transforms into authentic word of mouth from real consumer advocates at scale. Above everything else, India gets more sponsorship for the education of girls in need. For every 500 WOOP points earned by women by engaging with brands, we donate one day of school for a girl child via our charity partner Nanhikali,” Nair explained.

The story behind WOOP

The idea for WOOP occurred to Nair while working for P&G, where she managed Influencer Marketing and Corporate Social Responsibility. During her tenure, she came across a research conducted by the company amongst women in India, which had found that the social cause women 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,” she said. “However, from my several years of observation, I had noticed 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.”

But she learnt it the hard way that making education of a girl child easy, fun and rewarding for women was quite a daunting task. There were a lot of dots to be connected, but her network and experience came in handy here.

“Having been a part of the digital-marketing industry for a while, I knew that over 20 million women in India were spending more than an hour every day on social media like Facebook, sharing their views and updates with friends. So, I thought to myself ‘what if merely doing more of what women already love doing helps donate to their favourite cause?’,” Nair said.

But then came the most challenging aspect of the entire concept: who will pay money in exchange for the time that women spend on social channels?

The answer to this question hit Nair while talking to some of her college friends, who were now marketing directors with top MNCs. They informed her that brands spend more than INR 200 million (US$3.08 million) every day on digital ads alone, trying to reach out to and engage with their consumers.

“And guess what? More often than not, the consumers were women!,” she said. “We decided to exploit this opportunity. WOOP is 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 more.”

Since its launch in July 2017 by Nair and Asit Gupta (the only male in the 7-member team), WOOP has on-boarded 15-plus brands, including Philips, Kimberly Clark, P&G, Unilever, Cipla, Glenmark Pharma, Kaya, and Eureka Forbes. According to Nair, WOOP has to date helped generate 79,000 school days via its charity partner Nanhikali.

The platform, which is also available in Russia, the Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia, has ready access to 8.3 million women via its partners, claims Nair.

“By 2020, we hope to generate one billion engagement points on WOOP, which will create two million school days and educate 10,000 young girls. 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,” she said.

The revenue model

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.

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As for competition, Nair said WOOP is the only player in Asia delivering high-value actions at scale in the manner that it does.

“In that sense, we don’t really have a competition. If we had to define competition, it would be organisations offering brands more traditional influencer-marketing services like blogger-reach programs, celebrity endorsements or micro-influencer based programs,” she shared.

“However, there is a difference between WOOP and these organisations, who mostly use paid influencers to drive conversations. On the other hand, we use real consumer advocates. After all, people trust recommendations from their family and friends more than anyone else. In fact, people are more likely to trust even strangers on review sites, than they would bloggers and social media celebrities, which often seem paid to make recommendations,” she elaborated.

WOOP, the community for women, is run completely by women. Starting from its recruitment head, brand acquisition head, community engagement leader to project head, all the staff are women.

Bootstrapped to date, the firm is currently in the market, seeking angel investment to take WOOP to the next level with a stronger team, stronger product and stronger consumer community.

Nair feels that although the statistics show a lack of women entrepreneurs in the startup domain, the tide is turning. Women empowerment has a long way to go at a grass-root level, she believes. But for the urban-entrepreneur, it might just be a great way to get attention from those looking for diversity.

“We strongly believe that WOOP can make a difference and inspire more women to take up entrepreneurship as a career. After all, WOOP is all about helping the ‘women of opinion’ of today to create the ‘women of opinion’ of tomorrow,” she signed off.