Starting a business in India poses significant challenges, especially for women. However, with Visa's dedicated support for women-owned ventures, a new wave of female entrepreneurship is emerging, enabling women to overcome barriers and achieve success.
Shankutala and Suma A Kalagoudar are two such entrepreneurs who, while transforming their own lives, are also becoming catalysts for change within their communities. Their journeys highlight the transformative power of women’s entrepreneurship and the crucial role Visa's program ‘Empowering Women Entrepreneurs (EWE)‘ is playing.
Empowering Communities Through Job Creation
Shankutala, a 36-year-old resident of Gilaula, a small town in Shravasti District, Uttar Pradesh, embarked on her entrepreneurial journey about five months ago with ‘Shankutala Tailor Master,’ a business in tailoring machines. Community norms in these regions discourage women from engaging in economic activities, however, Shankutala was able to overcome these obstacles using the financial literacy training provided by the Empowering Women Entrepreneurs (EWE) project by Visa and United Way Mumbai, which has already mobilised and educated 8,000+ beneficiaries until now. Visa’s efforts in identifying and addressing the needs of women entrepreneurs nationwide, by offering them educational resources, financial literacy training, and mentorship support, exemplify a larger commitment to enabling financial inclusion and community empowerment.
With the support of Visa and United Way Mumbai, Shankutala was also able to extend a helping hand to Rekha, a woman within her community, when her husband was struggling with a critical illness. Shankutala's role as a mentor and employer speaks about her potential to empower more young women.
Familial bonds lie at the heart of 25-year-old Suma A. Kalagoudar’s entrepreneurial journey. Suma started her bangles business in the picturesque village of Mugad in Dharwad, Karnataka. Her story is distinguished by the symphony of family and entrepreneurship that thrives in her household. Her daughter recently joined the business, and together they bring energy and innovation to the enterprise. Visa and United Way Mumbai are committed to nurturing the enduring spirit of entrepreneurship within them, one that transcends generations.
Enhancing The Local Economy Through Collaboration
While collaboration with local businesses and organisations is on the horizon, the potential for collective growth looks promising. Visa's efforts to foster collaboration among women entrepreneurs and local stakeholders are poised to amplify the impact of businesses like Suma's, creating a network of support and opportunities for sustainable growth. Visa goes beyond transactional business; it’s dismantling gender barriers in small towns and empowering women in Tier II and III areas to achieve financial inclusion.
Cultivating Entrepreneurial Drive Through Visa's Mentorship And Empowerment Initiative
Shankutala and Suma actively engage with other women in their communities, sharing their experiences and connecting them with self-help organisations to nurture independence. Through Shankutala and Suma’s success stories, fellow women have gained confidence in pursuing their entrepreneurial dreams.
As Shankutala puts it, "Prior to the launch of the Empowering Women Entrepreneurs (EWE) Program, the village women were initially skeptical, but after attending the meeting and training, they obtained the Saksham kit from Visa and United Way Mumbai." The Saksham Kit, a comprehensive resource package, is designed to empower women entrepreneurs, enrich their business and financial literacy skills, and equip them with the necessary resources to start their businesses, customised to their skill sets. This initiative has provided support to 800+ women with Saksham Kits.
Fostering Collaborations For Development: Catalysing Positive Change And Assessing Impact
Shankutala and Suma’s active participation in community-oriented projects, like the National Rural Livelihoods Mission’s (NRLM) community investment fund, has inspired fellow women to grasp available opportunities for empowerment, igniting a sense of empowerment within them.
Through their monthly market participation and engagement in fairs, Shankutala and Suma have chipped away at gender barriers and become living examples of women's empowerment and equality.
Harnessing Training And Mentorship: Empowering Women Entrepreneurs And Advancing Inclusive Business Growth
Visa's commitment to upskilling women entrepreneurs has played a pivotal role in building more inclusive and successful businesses. Suma shares her experience, stating, "The guidance of UWM, particularly the Entrepreneurship-Development Program (EDP) Training and diary management insights, has been pivotal, steering my journey towards inclusive success."
Continued Efforts For Change: Future Plans
For this program, which spans over three years, Visa pledged an impressive US$1 million to United Way Mumbai (UWM) to empower women-owned and women-focused businesses. The project is being implemented in over 240 villages and wards across four states, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Maharashtra, and Karnataka–far exceeding the initial target of 170 such communities. The program aims to develop sustainable, long-term skills, and entrepreneurial skills among participants and the project as a whole.
With ongoing support from Visa's initiative, Shankutala and Suma plan to conduct needs analysis within their communities, provide information about registration and chosen employment, and receive further entrepreneurship development training.
As Shankutala eloquently puts it, "Embrace the opportunities that lie within your grasp. With determination, resilience, and the right support, your business can spark a powerful wave of transformation in your community." Visa's support for women-owned businesses is not only fostering brighter futures but also giving them decision-making power, forging a path towards empowerment, one entrepreneurial journey after another.