I was born and brought up in Mumbai. After my primary schooling I graduated in Commerce from Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning Anantapur. I continued to pursue my education post marriage and completed my Bachelors and Master in Education with a Diploma in Fine Arts. I joined a Cooperative Bank where I worked for nine years. After a good stint there, I quit to pursue my dream to help women to stand on their own feet so that they are confident to face any difficulties in life. That was the genesis of my two initiatives to empower women. I have three sons and my entire family supports my social venture.
Tell us about the Handikrafts Sourcing
Handikrafts Sourcing is a social enterprise, now developed into an export / import business. It was started in 1995 to create opportunities for employment and empower Indian women from rural backgrounds financially. The prime motive was to make India’s women financially and socially independent. The venture now supports women across geographies and locations and has spread into skilled clusters such as Varanasi in the east, to Kanyakumari in the south of India.
My vision is to build the largest network of skilled women entrepreneurs. The skills imparted range from paper products jute and banana bark products to making herbal products with more emphasis on handcrafted goods. The choice to select one area of skill development is vast.
Handikrafts Sourcing supports in creating revenue streams for women by marketing the final products to countries like the UK, Netherlands, China, Srilanka and Africa.
We have trained 30,966 women across India and overseas with more than 1,060 women having set up small scale industry in India with many innovative eco products to our credit.
I am always looking out for reliable partners who will understand my vision and mission, and support the organisation in a selfless way.
What drove you to become an Entrepreneur?
We shifted from Mumbai to Bangalore in 1993. Since I had left my job, I had no clue where to start from and not knowing the local language was a challenge. So I took a simple initiative to teach English to home makers near my house and this helped me to also learn the language, although I am still not that fluent with the language as I would like to be.
But this small gesture to teach built an affinity with the home makers who wanted to associate with me more. So I started small with soft toy making and after learning how to make teddy bears, monkeys and other toys, I thought that only teaching them skills would not help them so I used my marketing ability to market the products and thus handhold them to sustain their small business and this journey led me to establish Handikrafts Sourcing in 1995.
What has been your biggest challenge in achieving your success?
Since it’s a social venture, the profits are equally shared with the women who make the products so it’s always a big challenge to take large steps. I am always looking out for reliable partners who will understand my vision and mission, and support the organisation in a selfless way.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
Balancing my home, three sons and sustain my business, now entering its 20th year without external financial support is the greatest achievement. I have been able to skill up more than 30,000 women out of whom nearly 1,260 have set up their own small business and have also registered their companies in different parts of India and other developing countries.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
I dedicate my efforts and achievement to the Vice Chancellor of the University where I graduated. All the women who love to do something in their lives are a source of great inspiration to me.
All the women who love to do something in their lives are a source of great inspiration to me.
How do you balance your work life and home life?
There are stages in life where one has to be with family but when I achieved clarity and confidence about my goals, I prioritised my time accordingly and made my family a partner in my choices. The journey subsequently became smooth and was even immensely supported.
What advice do you have for women starting out on their own?
When women want to take up any business they should be prepared for real hardships at home as well as in their workplace. As entrepreneurs, they should continue to be at peace with fewer profits in hand and should not compare them with the fat salaries of the industries. One needs to ultimately derive satisfaction of owning your own product and being sustainable. The level of aspiration drives the scale.
I would say, always stay grounded in success and in life. Have utmost faith in your line of business and in yourself.
When women want to take up any business they should be prepared for real hardships at home as well as in their workplace.
Can you recommend any organisations or networking groups that have particularly helped you on your journey?
Organisations like FKCCI – Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industries, VTPC – Vishveshwarya Trade Promotion Council and AWAKE have helped me to grow in business and reach the success where I am standing today.
If you could ask for one thing to help propel your business what would it be?
I want to take my Brand ‘HASTH – skill meets personality’ globally so that more and more women receive the opportunity to become entrepreneurs. This can be achieved with the help of Indian and overseas partners.
What does the future hold for you?
My big dream never ends. I want to see as many women skill trained in Handikrafts, textiles, agriculture, health and hygiene.
For further information, please go to: http://www.handikraftssourcing.org/foundation.html
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This article was provided by WeAreTheCity Bangalore Committee Lead Puja Kohli.