Women entrepreneurs set the stage for social change

Namita Banka  

From helping women farmers do away with middlemen, to equipping them with vocational skills, the women participants from the city at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit-2017 are set to show that business can also mean social change. Here is a look at four such women.

Social enterprise

To help women farmers get the recognition that they deserve, Sudha Mullapudi, founder of Abhihaara, says her ‘social enterprise’ seeks to do away with the intermediary so as to boost income. Abhihaara, which began in 2015, is engaged in working towards reviving the traditional ikat art along with other handlooms.

“A lot of women farmers are dependant on intermediaries. We have been witness to profit margins increasing between 20% and 30% after these middlemen were out,” she says. From increasing the margin from an average of ₹1,400 to ₹2,000 for ikat cotton saris, Ms. Mullapudi says the emphasis is on imparting knowledge on design and markets.

“Design has largely been a male dominated area. As against the traditional methods, we are giving women weavers more exposure. This means we are connecting them to the markets and building a positive attitude in them,” she says.

Financial independence

Safa functions as a social enterprise with a focus on social impact, followed by profit. Its founder Rubina Mazhar says, has been equipping women from the weaker sections with vocational skills, thus enabling them to be financially independent.

“We started the NGO in 2008 and primarily work with the minority community. The model is that of socio-economic empowerment,” she says, adding that the idea is to maintain a cultural balance whilst ‘moving forward’. With scores of women involved, Safa is engaged in manufacturing corporate gifting items such as laptop cloth bags and tote bags, among others.

Till last year, the organisation engaged around 1,200 women and the number has been growing. The cultural balance retention approach appears to have worked. According to Ms. Mazhar, women who are interested in associating themselves with the organisation discuss their plans with their respective families. “Invariably, a vast majority return and enrol in various programmes,” she says.

Vocational skills

A producer of organic skin, hair and aroma therapy products and native games, Kalyani Gongi, managing director of Ancient Living, says since the company’s inception in 2011, the focus has remained on honing the skills of women. The idea is to bring work to their homes.

“The freedom of decision-making comes only after financial independence. We saw that apart from farming, a lot of women had other skills which could be used to augment their income. We brought work to them and then took orders,” Ms. Gongi says.

Government entities such as the micro, medium and small enterprises and its affiliates were tapped to equip women with vocational and financial skills, she explains.

The Ancient Living is also making an attempt to revive the native board games such as pachisi and ashta, among others. All these are made using eco-friendly cloth.

Sustainable sanitation

Taking cognisance of the prevalence of open defecation and the abysmal condition of public toilets, Namita Banka, CEO of Banka BioLoo Limited, formally began her company in 2012. Ever since, she has worked in conjunction with the Indian Railways, among others, to provide what she calls ‘sustainable sanitation’.

A recipient of the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award, she says, “I faced the problem myself. The idea is to have sustainable sanitation. It means that from waste generation to disposal to treatment and to the generation of bio-gas, the loop must be closed.”

Ms. Banka says in the course of her work in creating conditions for better sanitation, she has had discussions with several groups in which its long-term benefits were explained. “We met people at Choupals where we explained why it’s important to have better sanitation,” she says.

Three of these four women entrepreneurs are the alumni of the U.S. government’s international exchange programmes.

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Printable version | Dec 3, 2021 1:14:07 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/women-entrepreneurs-set-the-stage-for-social-change/article20935453.ece

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