Neha Juneja, co-founder and CEO of Geenway Grameen Infra, has combined her passion for the environment with her talent for product design to bring a monumental change to rural households. With Grameen Infra, Neha has designed a Smart Stove that burns biomass with incredible efficiency, reducing smoke emissions by 80% and fuel consumption by 65% compared to traditional mud cookstoves. (Full story on SocialStory)
Neha’s innovation has gained the attention of innovators around the world. Last year, the Greenway team won the Grand Prize at Intel Global Challenge at UC Berkeley and went on to be featured as one of Fast Company’s “Top 14 Design Stories of 2012” in December. Greenway was also recently selected for the 2013 Unreasonable Institute, where promising entrepreneurs pitch to potential funders and receive intensive consulting support over a six month period. We decided to catch up with Neha to get her insights on women entrepreneurship and her own journey as one. Excerpts.
Q. Why did you start Greenway Grameen Infra? What was your motivation?
Honestly, this was something that needed to be done. After traveling and seeing how women prepare meals three times a day on dangerous stoves, we knew we needed to do something. We did the market analysis later. We knew we wanted to work on products that have an immediate and high positive impact on rural lifestyles, which is how we developed the Greenway Smart Stove.
Q. Do you think they are any advantages or disadvantages to being a woman entrepreneur?
I would say there are advantages and difficulties. An advantage is our primary consumers are women, and building a relationship with them is much easier for me. Especially in rural oriented businesses there are difficulties with very simple things, like there are not enough toilets for women in this country, so it’s tough to travel and it’s often unsafe for women. In some parts of the country it is still actually very difficult for women to do business because people don’t expect a woman to do business or conduct any kind of business deal.
Q. What would be your piece of advice to aspiring women entrepreneurs?
Even though I haven’t experienced this personally, I would say that a lot of women have trouble managing home and work together. I think it’s important for them to set expectations right in the beginning at home. Often the Indian woman works in the 21st century, but your house life is still in the 20th century. So women should be clear enough to set expectations with their families and set limitations and don’t make and keep promising because it’s not possible to work and do everything at home.
Q. Who inspires you?
Honestly, in our line of work the most inspiring individual or group of individuals is the women we meet or sell to that manage their homes, work, and manage to do so many great things. It’s inspiring to see them live their lives while doing so much hard work, still do so many great things, and still have so much joy.
Q. What change do you think needs to be made in India to make it more conducive for women to become entrepreneurs?
We need some simple things, and to make it more conducive there needs to be better sanitation facilities for women to be able to travel so that many more women can go out, retain jobs, and get an education. It’s the simple things that people don’t care about as much. I would like to mainly highlight the above point.
Q. What motivates you?
Our work keeps me motivated because you see results and you see something building. Being able to create something is highly motivating. Fortunately ours is a business where it’s quite easy to be motivated because the results and impact that our work or product have is so positive. If I was still in a start up and doing some other business, which really didn’t contribute to women as much as this one does, I don’t think I would be as motivated.
YourStory wishes its readers, Happy Women’s Day!