Eighteen women learnt the ropes of starting a business, at a workshop conducted by the FICCI Ladies Organisation and WOBEDA

FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO), Coimbatore Chapter, supported by Women Business Entrepreneurs Development Association (WOBEDA) conducted a 15-day course for women wanting to start a business. From identifying a viable project, to executing it and sustaining it, 18 women were introduced to the nuts and bolts of start ups. “It is an attempt to empower women, especially those from middle and lower income groups, and help them turn entrepreneurs,” said President FLO, Lakshmi Ramachandran. She said that this was the first time in 20 years of FLO in Coimbatore that they had conducted such a course. They plan to make it a yearly affair.

The programme included sessions on communication skills, book keeping, documentation, the loans available to women and special government schemes. Financiers, bankers, psychologists, auditors, management professionals and successful entrepreneurs spoke to the women to give them a clear idea of the world they were planning to enter. The 18 women who enrolled for the course also went on an industrial visit.

Thirty-six-year-old Aarati Sivagnanam, a software engineer who came to Coimbatore after marriage did not find a suitable job here. Just out of curiosity, she decided to attend this course. She now plans to hone her skills in Tanjore paintings and mural art and turn her love for art and craft into a business opportunity. For 29-year-old Karthika Pradeep who makes chocolates, her dream to expand and run her business more professionally, seems doable after the workshop. “I know how I can better market my chocolates now,” she said. Waheeta, 32 years old, plans to put her knowledge of tailoring to set up a unit to tailor nighties and underskirts. Rani took up tailoring while she was waiting to land a government job. In the meanwhile, she decided to attend this workshop. Now she is inspired to start her own tailoring business.

“The dreams and aspirations are already there. The course gives them the courage to take that leap,” said Lakshmi. The course helped the participants see how the ideas could turn into a workable business. Former school teacher, Shobha Senthil Kumar wants to convert her jewellery-making hobby into a business. “I understand now that just making things and keeping them at home is pointless. I have learnt that I need a structured set up. I know who my target audience should be. I also want to hire someone and train them.”

Shared learning

The more promising outcome of the workshop was that a number of women wanted to share what they had learnt. V. Padmavathi, a lecturer in finance, said her immediate goal was to create awareness about entrepreneurship amongst women from the lower income group. “I first want to start in my own area. If I become an entrepreneur after this course, it will be all about only me. But if I reach out, many more will benefit,” she says. Her long time goal is to start an NGO and an old age home.

Mr. Swaminathan, a faculty member from PSG IM explained about how the different qualities each woman had could be used as a business tool. There were the shapers and teachers, (business was not limited to bringing out a product. E-tutoring, mentoring, Research and Development, training others, etc, all fell into this category) visualisers who had great ideas and were good at giving advice. And then there were some who were excellent at networking and resourcing. These were all strengths that come to their advantage.

Summing up their experience, participants said they now knew about controlling their environment, bringing honesty and integrity into their business, setting goals, managing time, raising funds and preparing project reports. They described the two-week programme as a turning point in their lives. They were more confident about venturing out into the world to do business, whether it was selling maavu and rasam podi, or dealing in stocks and shares. Lakshmi Ramachandran said she was glad the course did what it had set out to do — bring home to the women that even a small business could empower them. “Even making a few thousand rupees more a month could help them go a long way and improve the quality of their lives,” she said.

For those interested in enrolling for similar programmes, contact: Lakshmi at 94433-38935, or email lakshmi.gvraman@gmail.com