Friday, August 13, 2010

Dr Vanita Viswanath @ XLRI: Building Rural Women Enterprises

Jamshedpur (August 12, The Pioneer): Vanita Viswanath, the CEO of Udyogini, in an interaction with the students of XLRI on Wednesday said that to make the ventures of the women entrepreneurs sustainable, it is more appropriate to focus on helping the women enterprise groups to systematise and innovate business processes for efficiency and cost-cutting, than on merely increasing the “turnover”.

She also discussed the challenges in developing rural women entrepreneurs. She shared that scale and making the products available in large volumes is a major challenge. The key to overcome this is to create and target intermediate level markets (e.g, markets at block or district levels), rather than markets with large volume buyers.

Low education, illiteracy among the women, and dependence of professionals (who come at a high cost) are some of the other challenges. Viswanath described Udyogini’s initiative in Jharkhand, and specifically talked about the Udyogini School of Entrepreneurship which is being started in Bundu on Jamshedpur-Ranchi highway. The School will be supported by Intel.

After the interaction with the students in the class, Vanita Viswanath, who was accompanied by two of her colleagues from Jharkhand field office, also discussed possible collaboration with the students and faculty of XLRI in terms of research, internship and involvement in the Udyogini School of Entrepreneurship.

Vanita Viswanath also shared Udyogini’s experience with various initiatives such as formation of women’s trade-based enterprise groups in various parts of country, e.g., workingVanita Viswanath is a PhD from University of Texas at Austin (USA), and has worked for more than 20 years in the field of women’s issues and micro-enterprises. Before joining Udyogini has served as consultant and advisor to many international agencies. She was also micro-enterprise consultant with the World Bank in early 1990s. She has also written many books and articles on gender issues in development, micro-enterprises, and poverty alleviation.

Udyogini was founded in 1992, and works to empower poor women in secluded rural areas through helping them to create their own micro-enterprises, provides them with training and capacity building, credit and market-linkages.

At present, Udyogini works in seven States of the country (Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and Assam). Though started recently, its Jharkhand field-office has become the second largest, after Madhya Pradesh.

Udyogini works with a target of 6-8 years support to the rural women who want to become entrepreneurs during which time they must become sustainable ventures, and become entrepreneurs in their own right. It does so by promoting women enterprise groups to achieve scale of produce (e.g., textiles, crafts, agriculture produce, NTFPs, etc.)

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