When women participate in the economy, everyone benefits!
Under the current ruling dispensation, a whole host of schemes promoting entrepreneurship has come to the forefront. Among them is the Mudra Yojana Scheme for Women, which seeks to aid individual women or collective in starting new enterprises and business without the requirement for collateral.
Depending on where these businesses are in their development, the Centre provides loans up to Rs 10 lakh, in addition to a Mudra card, which functions along the lines of a credit card.
However, these women entrepreneurs could do with some additional investment or technical support, and this is where the corporate sector comes in.
The government has mandated that major corporate players need to spend a percentage of their profits in initiatives supporting social development through their corporate social responsibility arm.
These companies can definitely consider diverting some of those funds into social development ventures led by women that are not only generating money but empowering communities.
Here are five women entrepreneurs or ventures led by them that companies could invest their CSR funds in, without feeling that they are resorting to token handouts.
Looms of Ladakh:
Started by an IAS officer and his wife, this women’s cooperative in Ladakh manufactures finished knitted and woven woollen products which are sold in the open market. They make trademark pashmina-based clothing and apparel with the raw material locally available. Among the many standout features of this initiative, what tops the list is how the cooperative has empowered once illiterate rural women in Ladakh into employing their skills passed down through generations towards making and selling products that provide them with necessary financial security.
Devi Murthy: Kamal Kisan
Even though 60% of India’s population depends on agriculture for their livelihood, being a farmer is becoming less profitable by the day. In comes Kamal Kisan, a venture started by engineer and business graduate Devi Murthy, which develops customised low-cost farm equipment for farmers. Among other products, Kamal Kisan has developed vegetable planters, power weeders, sugarcane planters, versatile mulch layers and bed makers.
Chayaa Nanjappa: Nectar Fresh
Nectar Fresh is a rural enterprise by Chayaa Nanjappa, a resident of Mysuru. The enterprise, which sources high-quality monofloral honey in vast volumes, has customers in Europe and the United States and has already earned the recognition of the Confederation of Women Entrepreneurs, which conferred her with the ‘National Best Entrepreneur Award’ in 2014. The venture has given low-income tribal communities in the Mysore and Mandya districts a decent livelihood.
Sumita Ghose: Rangsutra
Established by Sumita Ghose, this artisan collective works with 3000 artisans spread across remote regions in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and West Bengal and Manipur to sell unique handcrafted products. Some of Rangsutra’s major customers are Fab India and Ikea. Among the groups of artisans that it works with are women from Madhya Pradesh who gave up scavenging, and the Manipur Women Gun Survivors.
Mehvish Mushtaq: Dial Kashmir
In a region which is more in the headlines for civil strife and internet shutdowns, business opportunities seem terribly limited. However, a women entrepreneur, Mehvish Mushtaq, has emerged out of the ashes.
Mehvish is the first Kashmiri woman to develop an android application which operates as a ‘Yellow Pages” for the region. Her app has helped many by becoming a one-stop source for information on healthcare, education, transport, the police and various other sectors.
These are just five ventures, and there are much more making a real difference in the lives of ordinary citizens. Last Saturday, The Better India brought your attention to Chetna Sinha, a banker, social activist and president of the microfinance company Mann Deshi Mahila Sahkari Bank, who co-chaired the recent edition of the World Economic Forum at Davos. Speaking to Mint before she left for the Swiss Alps, she announced that her microfinance company in partnership with IFMR Investments would soon launch a SEBI-registered fund for women micro-entrepreneurs.
Companies could take some inspiration from this initiative.