Women are sparking a revolution in the sphere of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship gives women an opportunity to bring their creative ideas to action, and at the same time, manage a work-life balance without being dependent on a company or a partner with an income. Many ambitious women dream of starting their own businesses, rather than rising through the corporate ranks.
Increasingly, we see women emerge as changemakers and founding social businesses aimed at bringing an end to social and environmental problems. With a mindset free from profit-making, the efforts of these women entrepreneurs are incredibly commendable, interweaving their talent and experience with societal impact.
Here are some of the stories of these wonderful women leaders who made it big in the social sector:
Make A Difference (MAD), Gloria Benny
Moved by the plight of the underprivileged, Make A Difference is an Indian non-profit organisation that aims to develop fluency in written and spoken English in institutionalised children. It was started in 2006 to open up new avenues for these children and curb the inequality that exists in education. MAD expanded further with the help of Founder Jithin Nedumala’s friends, including Co-founder Gloria Benny, to provide learning opportunities, effective mentoring and training to children in shelter homes cared by NGOs.
Hailing from an affluent family and after working with Google for some time, she left her corporate career to take up teaching the economically disadvantaged after a visit to an orphanage in 2003. She succeeded in inspiring the youth to channelise their energy through education to improve the lives of thousands of children. MAD received recognition and commendation when the United States’ First Lady Michelle Obama visited the centre in 2010.
SHEROES, Sairee Chahal
Sairee Chahal is a mentor, occasional writer, and Co-founder of Fleximoms, which is the largest community of women professionals in India. She also founded SHEROES, a platform that enhances the potential of women to find mentors and engage in a community for women jobseekers.
Sairee worked as a Senior Editor at Newslink Services and a consultant at the Confederation of Indian Industry, and Heidrick & Struggles. Frustrated with the gender disparity at workplaces, she founded a digital platform for women to provide employment opportunities, leverage their potential, and maintain an active network. She is a TED motivational speaker, the finalist for the Cartier Women’s Award Initiative for 2012, and has been voted one of the Most Powerful Women in Indian Business, 2012.
Menstrupedia, Aditi Gupta
Menstruation has remained a taboo topic in India for centuries, with women facing restrictions on entering temples and even the kitchen at home while they’re on their periods.
Aditi Gupta, an entrepreneur from the small town of Garwha in Jharkhand, and a graduate of the National Institute of Design, decided to spread awareness about menstruation among young girls and women. She came up with the novel idea of a comic, Menstrupedia, which explains everything about menses in illustrated stories, making it easy to understand for young girls. Her innovative solution highlights the various problems faced by women during the menstrual cycle, starting from puberty to menopause.
Shanti Life, Sheetal Mehta Walsh
The poor often find it hard to make ends meet and resort to taking loans. They get trapped in a vicious cycle of debt and find it impossible to repay with higher rates of interest enforced by unregulated financial institutions.
To help the financially oppressed and enable sustainable living, Sheetal Mehta Walsh started an innovative initiative called ‘Help Us Flush It Forward’. It gives the gift of a toilet for a healthy business setup. The facility is given in the form of a low-interest loan to the poor, and upon repayment, another woman can have access to the toilet.
Sheetal was Director of VC relations at Microsoft and is the UK Deal Maker for the UK Trade and Investment’s Global Entrepreneur Programme. She co-founded Shanti Life with her husband, Paul Welsh, to help the poor open a bank account, take micro-finance loans at low-interest rates and train them for financial literacy. She has received several awards including Asian Women of Achievement - Social and Humanitarian, Award for Entrepreneur of the Year by Asian Woman Magazine, and many others.
Samhita Social Ventures, Priya Naik
Several Indians are willing to make a positive change in the lives of people across the country. But their efforts are scattered, and they do not have the required resources to connect and make a large-scale impact – a gap that Samhita Social Ventures bridges.
Priya Naik worked as a researcher at the Poverty Action Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, USA. She was part of two startups – Aerovax and Kalpataru, which created safe, inhalable aerosol vaccines and delivered innovative, low-cost technology to increase the efficiency of microfinance institutions, respectively. Her interest in social entrepreneurship stemmed from her work as a researcher at MIT. She founded Samhita Social Ventures, an impact facilitation company which builds collaborative ecosystems and helps individuals, corporations, NGOs, donor agencies, and others create a social impact on a big scale.
(Edited by Kanishk Singh)