As Hyderabad lit up to welcome Ivanka Trump, America’s first daughter, for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) 2017, the emphasis of the summit rests upon the theme Women First, Prosperity for All. It aims to focus on different ways to support women entrepreneurs and in the process, nurture economic growth across the globe.
Being a large and diverse country, India has its share of women entrepreneurs who might not have as vast a global presence and reach that Ivanka has, but have become trendsetters and change-makers in their own right and sphere.
Here are ten lesser-known women entrepreneurs from the four corners of the country, who have broken the glass ceiling and made it big:
1. Mehvish Mushtaq, Srinagar
The first Kashmiri woman to develop an android application, Mehvish broke all stereotypical and entrepreneurial barriers with her brainchild of a Kashmir-centric ‘Yellow Pages’ equivalent, Dial Kashmir. Providing users with detailed information such as addresses, phone numbers and email ids of various essential services and relevant government departments in Kashmir, her app has helped scores of people in the region by becoming a one-stop source for information on healthcare, education, transport, the police and various other sectors.
2. Pabiben Rabari, Kukadsar
The founder of one of the first women artisan enterprises in the country, Pabiben Rabari stands as a true brand ambassador of the colourful Kutch district. With the aim of expanding the tribal legacy of Rabari embroidery, she joined a Rabari women’s group and ended up crafting unique styles of embroidery, including Hari Jari and Pabi Jari. Currently, her eponymous business based in Kukadsar employs over 60 women making more than 25 designs, and her website is quite popular across the world.
3. Tamanna Sharma, Delhi
Founded by Delhi-based Tamanna Sharma, Earthling First Private Limited is a sustainable event and event waste management service provider and a one of its kind venture. Backed by a small team of five, the housekeeping staff employed by the company always comprises an equal ratio of men and women and aims to empower more women through the process. The company is making waves in the waste management sector for its pioneering initiatives.
4. Sobita Tamuli, Telana
From directly manufacturing and selling kesuhaar (organic manure) to customised japis (traditional conical hat from Assam) without the involvement of middlemen, Sobita Tamuli from Assam’s Telana village quite literally brought along a tide of entrepreneurial revolution by paving the way for other women in her town to become self-sufficient. Forming a self-help group by the name, Seuji, Sobita has made it possible for the farmers in the region to access organic manure, which is now in high demand.
5. Hemalatha Annamalai, Coimbatore
Ampere Electric, a company that locally manufactures electric vehicles like e-cycles, e-scooters, e-trolleys, special-purpose vehicles for waste management and differently abled people, was founded by Coimbatore-based Hemalatha Annamalai. Emerging as an innovative technology creator in India’s nascent e-vehicle industry, Hemalatha has made a name for herself in a field that was strictly limited to male entrepreneurs.
6. Thinlas Chorol, Ladakh
The only Ladakhi woman to be trained to work in the mountaineering field, Thinlas Chorol founded the Ladakhi Women’s Travel Company in 2009 with the intention of encouraging more women to take up travelling and mountaineering, besides promoting ecotourism in Ladakh. The company is Ladakh’s first travel company wholly owned and operated by women with over 30 working staff comprising female guides, trainee guides, porters and office staff.
7. Neha Arora, Delhi
Planet Abled was conceived in 2016 by Neha Arora after she realised that differently abled people found it difficult to travel around India. With tour packages that include special portable ramps for easier accessibility, Neha has managed to successfully conduct a 17-day tour that spread across two countries, five states and 13 cities, with many differently abled people, and aims to plan many more such trips. The venture employs dedicated moderators and tour guides who help the differently abled pursue their dream of travelling without any barriers.
8. Sumita Ghose, Bikaner
A community-owned business comprising 3,000 artisans from remote villages and regions across India, Sumita Ghose established an artisan collective that sells a range of handcrafted products to Fab India and IKEA. Starting on her own with a seed fund of ₹ 10 lakh, through investments by 1000 artisans, Rangsutra today works with over 35 groups of artisans in UP, MP, Rajasthan, West Bengal, and Manipur. The list includes the Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network and women from Madhya Pradesh who have given up scavenging to become artisans.
9. Chayaa Nanjappa, Mysuru
Awarded the ‘National Best Entrepreneur Award’ in food processing by the Confederation of Women Entrepreneurs of India in 2014, Mysuru’s Chayaa Nanjappa spearheads a rural enterprise which sources high-quality honey that is bought by people from as far as Europe and the United States. Today, Nectar Fresh, which produces monofloral honey, is one of the largest bulk suppliers and packers of honey in the country and provides a livelihood for not just illiterate communities in Mysore and Mandya districts, but also tribal communities across the state.
10. Lakshmi Menon, Ernakulam
Founded by ecopreneur, Lakshmi Menon, in 2012, Pure Living (Products Upcycled Recycled and Economised) offers an eco-friendly alternative to plastic pens and wooden pencils that grow into trees when they are disposed. The venture has helped empower the elderly and differently abled women in the region and uses up-cycled paper waste from printing presses to manufacture the pens.
It is time we start celebrating the women entrepreneurs in the country, who broke all barriers by establishing a pedestal for themselves in fields previously not forayed by women and have emerged as role models for other women and girls.