New Delhi : “These women are like fireflies that can light up the sky when they all work together and they can do it in a sustainable manner”, said Dilip Chenoy ,Secretary General FICCI at 6th PRME International Conference on ‘Reimagining Sustainable Futures – The SDG Framework’ which was held at and orgnaised by IILM Institute for Higher Education, Lodhi Road a leading Indian B-School committed to the Principles of Responsible Management Education (PRME) envisaged by UN Global Compact.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a collection of 17 global goals set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015, are the cornerstone on which this conference was envisaged.
This 3-day-conference witnessed a series of thematic sessions that urged its speakers, participants and audience to think, look and visualize the future with sustainable development. The Conference endeavoured to compel its presenters and listeners to think beyond the present and imagine the future not as an extension of the current but as a transformation emanating from it.
At the Annual Meeting of FICCI Ladies Organization in 2013 Malvika Rai, Chairperson IILM, in her capacity as FLO President was inspired to showcase the success achieved by many unsung women entrepreneurs from different states, cultures, and socio-economic strata who have achieved success against all odds. The objective of showcasing their achievements is twofold – the first is that these women would act as an inspiration, as role models for others form similar backgrounds and the second is to provide a platform for these women achievers to help build their business through various avenues such as access to banking facilities or venture capital and to new markets for their goods and services.
This year IILM identified 50 women from rural areas who have become entrepreneurs despite adverse circumstances and have made a difference in their family, community and village. And of these 50, seven women with an indomitable spirit of enterprise were felicitated at IILM who were able to scale up their business to newer heights and worked beyond themselves to create social impact.
An introduction to these women of grit:
• Chetna Mehrotra from Malihabad Uttar Pradesh, who began her business in 2017 makes pickles without oil and preservatives. Appropriately called Achari, she began her venture equipped with her mother’s recipes and her family’s support and was surprised to find huge appreciation received for her product when it was first launched. Now she has successfully made Achari into a brand with 40 people working for her in pickle making and her daughter helping her with marketing and her son with production. She is truly and inspiration for women who want to start their own enterprise.
• Padmavati : Padmavati from Hissar, Haryana who now lives in Hyderabad. She began her business of stitching curtains and bedsheets in 2008 when she was looking for means of economic survival. Now she has 50 women working under her across Hyderabad and her business is registered under GST. While she still faces many challenges, she continues working hard to ensure that her employees continue getting work and become economically independent.
• Marjeena: This story began in the slums of Lucknow when Marjeena began her chikankari, embroidery and stitching work 14 years ago. Initially, the purpose of the business was her own economic need but now with 70 women working under her whom she has trained to complete orders she gets from boutiques, she believes in providing livelihood to needy women and making them economically independent.
• Simran Kaur is a well-educated lady from Barabanki district of UP who entered the farming business 10 years ago with her father. Producing sugarcane, bananas, guavas and mangoes using organic manure, she also aims to produce fruit at lower cost by using solar power instead of electricity. She advertises her product by conducting Kisan Unions and Kisan Goshtis. With 25 women farmers working for her currently she aims to provide more employment to women farmers and boost farmer rights.
• Sushila, Sushma and Tara: This is a story of three women Sushma, Tara and Sushila of Abhyapur village near Gurugram who collaborated to create a Doll making business by overcoming several challenges. Initially, they began by supplying dolls to shopkeepers who provided them the raw materials but their hard work and skill was noticed by a non-profit organization Navjyoti that helped them expand their market to wider audiences and now they have clients in not just in India but also overseas in countries such as Australia.
These stories of grit, determination and innovation are so inspirational not just for women but society at large.
The last day of the Conference had an exciting beginning with IILM’s Alumni session on Sustainability and Future of Work where the Alumni, now working in different industries, spoke about their work experiences and the changes they foresee and how to assimilate the value of sustainability as an essential piece of the story.
The concluding session of the Conference was a significant one called ‘Entrepreneurship Against All Odds – Recognising Unsung Women Achievers’. In a path breaking initiative by IILM to recognise and showcase the achievements of women entrepreneurs from different states, cultures, and socio-economic strata who have succeeded against all odds, 50 women were identified from rural areas who became entrepreneurs despite adverse circumstances. IILM recognised seven of these women of indomitable spirit and enterprise who were able to scale up their business to newer heights and work beyond themselves to create social impact.
In the Closing Plenary of the Conference , Malvika Rai, Chairperson IILM, and Dilip Chenoy, Secretary General FICCI, honoured the ladies. Dilip Chenoy spoke about how India needs to improve women participation in the industry and workforce.
Anurag Batra, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of BusinessWorld, said, “We tend to mostly recognise urban women and this initiative to recognise women at the grass root level is really good.”
Other luminaries on the dais which included Sunil Marwah, CEO, Food Industry Capacity Building & Skill Initiative, Krishan Dhawan, CEO Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation, Kamal Singh,Executive Director,Global Compact Network India and Dr.Bhaskar Chatterjee, former Director General IICA and Member Board of Governors IILM , wished the women awardees well and expressed their pride in being part of the event. IILM expressed its commitment to identifying and recognising such women entrepreneurs every year.
The 6th IILM International PRME Conference by bringing together various conversational threads on and around sustainability and weaving them together to create an agenda for the future was a great success.