Tamanna Dhamija, cofounder and CEO of Convosight. Image: Madhu KapparathD
ecember 2016, New York. Tamanna Dhamija was starting her entrepreneurial journey on an exaggerated note. Well, you can’t blame the rookie founder for being full of chutzpah. After all, Dhamija ticked all the right boxes. In November 2007, she made her professional debut with New York-based General Motors Asset Management. In fact, the MBA graduate in finance was the youngest woman to start as a portfolio manager taking care of $250 million worth of assets under management; she soon developed tools used for investment and risk analytics for global public markets, and over the next eight-and-a-half years climbed up the corporate ladder at a fast clip. Now at the growth stage of her career, Dhamija was poised for a bigger role.
Then came March 2016, and her confidence morphed into brashness. With a two-and-a-half year toddler to take care of, and zero experience in running a business, Dhamija decided to quit her promising job, sacrifice her cushy life and relocate to India to build a community of new mothers. In fact, her husband, who had been in the US for over 20 years, was impressed with his wife’s business plan and vision, and he too quit his job and decided to become a partner in crime. “Some people thought both of us have lost our jobs, and that’s why we are relocating,” smiles Dhamija, who was sure that she had hit on something big.
The business idea, in fact, got triggered in early February 2014. It was May, Dhamija’s maternity leave was about to end, and the new mom was all set to go back to work. There was a ‘toddler’ problem, though. Her son won’t take the bottle! The hapless mom tried every trick in the book, including ordering all kinds of expensive bottles. The child, though, didn’t budge. Then one fine day, one of her friends added Dhamija to a WhatsApp group of new moms. “Magic happened. A suggestion from another mum helped,” she recalls.
The incident made Dhamija realise the power of being in a community.
Once seeded, the ‘community’ idea started to grow. Over the next two years, on her multiple trips to India, Dhamija realised there were hundreds of moms who too were grappling with their share of problems. What if, she wondered, there is a platform that builds communities for moms around specific pain points. There was a huge opportunity, and Dhamija finally took the plunge in December 2016 by starting Baby Destination. The founder soon found her angel in Tariq Khan who handed over a cheque of $25,000. “I feel you guys will do something big,” reckoned Khan, who was Dhamija’s boss at General Motors.Also read: SuperBottoms: An army of young mothers, led by Pallavi Utagi, will defend this baby care brand
Dhamija decided to skip the baby steps in her new journey. “I was extremely over-ambitious,” confesses the first-time entrepreneur, sharing her grand target. In two to three years, she thought, every new mom would join Baby Destination and the community would swell. “I thought after setting it up in India, we would move back to the US, and expand the venture there,” she recalls.
The founder’s dream, however, had a nightmarish start in India. Dhamija’s tiny office was in total contrast to the spacious one out of which she worked in the US. The workload kept increasing, the days seemed like never-ending, and work-life balance became a thing of the past. “I was barely getting any sleep and working round the clock,” recalls Dhamija, who also ended up sparring with her co-founder frequently. “I felt that his contribution was not matching mine.”
Within seven months of the journey, Baby Destination confronted its first crisis. The gambit of building a community and integrating it with ecommerce—through discovery and sale of products—didn’t pan out well. Though the community part of the business model kept growing strong, the plan to source products and sell bombed. “The whole business idea of community to ecommerce was super ambitious,” she recounts. Building two parallel businesses—community and commerce—that got clubbed together confused the users of Baby Destination. Does the platform stand for information or is it a place to buy products were common questions asked by users. Dhamija soon realised the blunder and shut down the ecommerce part of the venture. “We decided to build the community because that was the toughest part,” she recalls.
Over a year later, came another crisis. This time it was more serious and threatened to derail the journey of the fledgling startup. There was just one month of runway left, and immediate funds were needed to tide over the cash flow crisis. Though the startup had a decent pipeline of business, the money took time to show up in the bank. Dhamija panicked and called up her former boss. Khan, who was in Mecca for a pilgrimage, came to the rescue again. “After 15 minutes of conversation, he decided to transfer $100,000,” recalls Dhamija. In 2018, Baby Destination raised its first institutional funding led by Aditya Gupta, who is chairman of micro fund GEMS Partners.Also read: Ahana Gautam's Open Secret: Be unapologetic and fight for your dream
In the same year, 2018, came a turning point in Dhamija’s entrepreneurial innings. Baby Destination, which was reaching out to over one crore moms every month, got selected for a Facebook community leadership programme. During her second set of interaction with 115 global community leaders at Facebook’s office at Menlo Park in California, Dhamija sensed a much bigger opportunity. She called up her co-founder and shared her plan. “We need to scale this up as soon as possible,” she said. The light-bulb moment was a realisation to build a platform where existing communities could be aggregated. This would serve a twin purpose. First, the brands would get an opportunity to tap into millions of members of such communities. Second, it would open up a revenue stream for community administrators. “That’s how Convosight happened,” she says. Finally in April 2020, Convosight started operations.
Fast forward to March 2023. The double engine of Baby Destination and Convosight has been roaring full steam. Dhamija shares some numbers. Convosight has over 1 lakh communities with over 900 million members across the world. “We train community admins. Around 70 percent of them are in India, and about 75 percent are on Facebook,” she claims, adding that so far, around 2,500 admins have earned close to $3 million through Convosight. “And this is all in India. In fact, 60 to 70 percent of community admins happen to be women,” she says. Baby Destination, meanwhile, now has some 3 million members.Also read: Why ApnaKlub Shruti doesn't mind being an angry young woman
Meanwhile, Convosight has managed to grow at a furious pace. It has raised around $19.6 million so far; counts IvyCap Ventures, Qualgro, Unilever Ventures and Sequoia among its backers; and the platform is used by over 150 brands, including Reckitt, Unilever, Nestle and ITC. Convosight, contends Dhamija, helps these brands drive organic customer engagement, and adoption through community marketing. “We are the pioneers in community marketing,” she says, adding that at times it becomes tough for outsiders to understand the business.
Vikram Gupta, founder of IvyCap Ventures, had no such problem, though. “Convosight has an interesting model,” he says, adding that online communities have become valuable over the last few years. The creators of such communities, he lets on, bring people who share the same values, hobbies or interests. Convosight, he contends, is a first-of-its-kind global community management platform that helps these creators monetise their content, build valuable relationships with their members and increase their online presence by collaborating with global brands. “Tamanna’s ability to remain focussed in the face of obstacles gives us a lot of confidence that she has what it takes to get to the finish line,” he says.
The challenges, though, remain. Gupta points out one of the pressing ones. “Being disciplined and focussed on only one thing is hard,” he says, adding that the co-founders have to keep exhibiting both the qualities consistently. Another challenge stems from the rapid scale of the startup. “A high level of commitment does make her vulnerable to taking on more than she can handle,” he adds.Also watch: Diversity is not just women, it's about embracing the community: Dipali Goenka of Welspun India
Dhamija, for her part, tells us what she can and has handled admirably so far. “I have been very comfortable in my skin,” she says, adding that she has never faced any direct instance of gender bias or discrimination in her journey so far. Women, she reckons, are mentally stronger than men. “Probably, that’s why they can go longer and harder,” she says. In terms of her role as an entrepreneur, Dhamija believes that she has evolved over the last few years. During the formative years of her journey, she just used to introduce herself as a co-founder. Things changed after a few years. “Now I introduce myself as co-founder and CEO,” she says.
Commenting on gender stereotypes and perceptions, Dhamija outlines her take. Though there has to be a level-playing field between men and women, the latter need to keep in mind that consumers are diverse. If the product is made for all, then viewing things from the lens of gender doesn’t work. “I just want girls to be comfortable in their skin,” she says. “This gives us the confidence to go and take over the world,” she says.
(This story appears in the 24 March, 2023 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)