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Shikha Mittal built Rs 1.5 cr awareness enterprise Be.Artsy after being sexually harassed at workplace

Shikha Mittal

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Shikha Mittal built Rs 1.5 cr awareness enterprise Be.Artsy after being sexually harassed at workplace

Shikha Mittal left her corporate job after experiencing sexual harassment at her workplace. She then built an awareness enterprise called Be.Artsy that clocks a Rs 1.5 crore turnover.

Shikha Mittal was not fleeing in fear, but rather planning to fight back when she quit the corporate world as she was suffering continuous sexual harassment at her jobs. She built an organisation to educate women about sexual harassment and to make workplaces safer for women.

Shikha explains, “I had changed jobs eight times to avoid workplace harassment.” At every organisation I worked for, I was subjected to sexual harassment. So, one day in 2010, I decided to resign my job and form an organisation to raise awareness about workplace sexual harassment prevention.”

She can look back with satisfaction after twelve years. Her for-profit organisation, Be. Artsy, has carried out over 3500 street theatrical programmes in both the public and private sectors. She has delivered programmes for American Express, Air India, the National Stock Exchange, Volvo, Pepsico India, Tata Motors, Asian Paints, Reckitt Benckiser, and other companies.

The best aspect is that she has developed a company plan that is self-sustaining. “Our first-year revenue was Rs 4 lakh. It was Rs 11 lakh in the second year. But, the average turnover over the last three years has been Rs 1.5 crore “Shikha, 38, says.

The company, which began with just Shikha, now has 16 regular employees and a network of 800 nukkad natak (street play) performers in 14 languages who are engaged on an as-needed basis.

Shikha was 21 when she became a victim of sexual harassment during her first internship at a radio station. She recalls how she had no idea what her employer was up to when he offered to drive her home in his car.

“Some supervisors told me that if I wanted a promotion and a raise, I had to sleep with them,” recalls Shikha, who comes from a low-income household.

Her father did minor construction work, and the family struggled to make ends meet with his meagre earnings. Shikha’s older brother is now a fashion designer, while her younger sister is working on a wig project for cancer patients.

Shikha attended Cambridge School in Srinivaspuri, Delhi, and graduated from Khalsa College with a degree in history. She later earned a PG diploma in Mass Communications as well as a diploma in Entrepreneurial Studies from IIM, Bangalore.

Shikha founded Be. Artsy in 2010 and completed her first POSH programme in 2011 for PepsiCo India.

Shikha says, “I received a financial help of Rs 4 lakh from Vodafone and haven’t looked back since.”

So far, she has conducted awareness campaigns at 14 renowned organisations in India, reaching out to over 25,500 people.

“It was difficult. I approached over 5000 organisations and was only able to execute my programmes in 14 of them, despite the fact that at least 95 percent of women encounter sexual harassment at work in some form or another,” Shikha claims.

She believes corporations are hesitant because they do not have a proper system in place to deal with sexual harassment incidents in their workplaces.

“Companies lack a credible body to which women can turn to file complaints about sexual harassment.”

She raises awareness about what constitutes sexual harassment and how to report occurrences of harassment to the company’s Internal Complaints Committee through her programmes (ICC). She believes that any firm with more than ten employees should have an ICC, and that women can contact it via email, in person, or via phone.

Speaking of the feedback from all of the companies where she had done her programmes, she said, “However, in many organisations, employees are unaware of the ICC body, and if they are aware of it, they are unsure how to file a complaint. Though the firms that accepted our programmes were concerned about workplace harassment, our programmes helped them grasp the matter better and broke the social stigma among the employees regarding the subject,”

Shikha cited Kevin Cox, American Express, as saying, “In 22 years of my HR profession, I have never seen such an impactful training and communication campaign for such a delicate topic as POSH (Prevention of Sexual Harassment).”

Shikha, in addition to POSH, has devised a programme called ‘Be Your Own Lakshmi,’ which teaches women about money. It is a 40-hour programme in which she helps people understand where they stand financially and then teaches them how to better manage and increase their finances.

The fees for POSH and other programmes are vary.

Shikha Mittal say, “The rates vary from client to client due to the size of the staff with whom we communicate and other factors. However, the charges for the online POSH programme begin at Rs 25000, while the charges for physical sessions begin at Rs 85,000.”

But, for Shikha, the money is secondary to the bigger objective of empowering women and safeguarding them in the workplace.

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