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Sunday Special » People

Posted at: Dec 3, 2017, 12:36 AM; last updated: Dec 3, 2017, 2:06 AM (IST)

Women’s biz world

Vijay C Roy in Chandigarh
Women entrepreneurship is yet to grow in India — a subject that was the central theme at Hyderabad’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit. In north-west India, there have been some bold initiatives .
A few days back Ivanka Trump, adviser and daughter of US President Donald Trump, was in Hyderabad for a three-day Global Entrepreneurship Summit. The theme ‘Women First, Prosperity for All’ carried an air of superficiality about it as 1,500 entrepreneurs, investors and eco-system supporters from over 159 countries were supposed to be in attendance. There was pomp, no whys and wherefores as such. Yet, for India, three key indications emerged: 

* India is the world’s seventh-largest economy at market exchange rates, according to International Monetary Fund data. The country has over 260 million living in extreme poverty, according to World Bank data.

* In 2013, the International Labour Organization presented a strange finding: Even in a period of economic growth and rising wages, Indian women were dropping out of the workforce, from around 37% in 2004-05 down to 29% in 2009-10. 

* PC maker Dell and Washington-based consulting firm Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute conducted a gender-focused global survey. Of the 17 countries surveyed, India ranks 16th, just above Uganda. Countries such as Turkey, Morocco and Egypt have outperformed India.

Kanchan Khatana, a legal & HR professional with over two decades of experience in the service industry, compiled his research work with Hitesh Kumar Gulati, another HR consultant. “Poor financial freedom, no direct ownership of property, a paradox of entrepreneurial skill & finance, a lack of interaction with successful entrepreneurs are some of the problems plaguing women entrepreneurship in India,” says Khatana.

Yet, there are success stories from northern India. Here are some of them: 

Pick a team

After completing MCA, Chhavi Firani started off as a programmer. In 2012 she decided to become an entrepreneur. She incorporated Dikonia, an IT company providing business process automation software. Initially, she worked from home for about 10 months. Then she shifted to an office space in Mohali. “It’s been over five years since I started Dikonia, and it has been a wonderful journey.” The company has plans for overseas offices. 

Her husband and brother, who is also her business partner, have helped her. “I have been a people’s person, so I want to do something where I can interact with a lot of people. Initially, I worked with an IT company for 9 years, and I was managing a fairly large team. Then I wanted to switch to managing a smaller team. That is how the idea of Dikonia emerged.” She has a 25-member team serving the overseas market. 

Her message: Be ready for hard work. Do not get bogged down by the feeling of guilt of neglecting your family. It all works out fine at the end.    

Ecotourism: Think differently

Conserving nature is a passion for Pooja Chopra. She pursued her Ph.D. in Ecotourism from Faculty of Management Studies (FMS), Delhi University. She worked on community-based ecotourism projects for gathering research data, which inspired her to go in-depth into environmental studies. She did another post-graduation from Yale University.

In 2015 she came up with Orlina Ventures Pvt. Ltd, a consulting enterprise working towards business, social and environment sustainability. It provides research-based services in conceptualizing & developing nature-based projects and environment conservation initiatives at national parks, zoos, eco-theme parks, wetlands, nature camping sites and the like with an emphasis on uplifting the local community. “We plan, execute and control every aspect of the project life cycle. We integrate information technology through interactive gears like websites, mobile applications and online advertising for increasing the effectiveness of our offerings,” says Pooja. 

About funding, she says initially she invested all her savings into the new venture. “Within a year, Orlina became self-sustainable.”

Her message: The toughest challenge is when people get insecure over a woman entrepreneur’s success. Knowledge is the key. Keep upgrading yourself. Be honest to yourself.

Stick to your roots

Monika Choudhary is daughter of an architect-mother and a financial consultant father. Entrepreneurial skills were a part of her upbringing. “Besides being an entrepreneur, I am also wife of architect Zafar Choudhary,” she says. Choudhary is director at Habitat Architects and MonaZafar Design Pvt Ltd.

Based in Ludhiana, Monika is originally from Chandigarh. She is a postgraduate in sociology and a NIFT Delhi product. She also received additional education from Ecole De La Chambre Sydicale De La Couture (Paris). She has been working in fashion and interior designing for two decades.

Monika has created her unique signature style that subtly draws from her Indian roots. She has numerous interior design projects and fashion ramps to her credit. “I have learnt the value of building a wall brick by brick. I have upgraded my understanding of start-up funds and entrepreneurial schemes through government programmes.”

Her message: Always think of the bigger picture. Persistence, continuous upgrading your skills and planning your immediate next step can be your success mantra.

The fabric of change

After three years as a brand and product manager for a fashion line, Tanvi Malik decided to start her own venture with co-founder Shivani Poddar who worked as an investment banker. Their FabAlley, an end-to-end online fashion brand for young, fashion-forward women, is incorporated. The products sold online and offline are designed and manufactured in-house. “I may never have pursued fashion per se, but the nuances of design, the play of silhouettes and minute details of fabrics inspired me,” says Tanvi.

“We started in 2012. There were only a few fashion brands in India selling globally trendy western wear for women at affordable prices. So we saw a golden opportunity to launch a fashion brand for women like us who have discerning tastes but live on tight monthly budgets,” says Tanvi. “We have seen a remarkable growth in five years: from 50 orders a day in 2012 to over 2,000 now.” The company provides direct and indirect employment to over 500 people.

Challenges & a message: “When we started working on FabAlley, it was just the two of us, in a small office, working on everything from website design, supply chain, the back-end and logistics. One huge challenge was building a vendor base. The bigger challenge was hiring. We soon realized that people think that they need to have it all figured out before starting up. This is not true. As long as you have a clear idea of what you want to do, you should take the plunge.”

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