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According to international financial wizards, by 2020, women shall be the powerful engines driving the Indian economy, finds out Vimla Patil
Surf the net and you will easily find the eight reasons why this prediction is made by economists! Here they are in a nutshell: 1. India has the largest educated workforce in the world and it will increase in the next few years to drive higher growth. 2. India will be the largest English-mastering nation in the world – even more than the USA. Indians thus will access more international jobs and projects and will be at the centre of the media industry which unites the world. 4. India will be a more powerful member of the nuclear club. 5. India will explore its huge gas hydrate deposits and be rich. 6. India will organize itself into more manageable states which will grow faster as units of a cohesive country of 1.5 billion people. 6. India’s discovery of shale gar in the Ganga plain, Assam, Rajasthan and Gujarat will make it a major gas producer and exporter. India may well be an exporter of gas. 7. The issue of Brahmaputra waters and tensions along the Himalayan border will end up in the Security Council. 8. Islamic fundamentalists may control some nations but the brunt of their actions will not stop India’s phenomenal growth, which is driven by many other, much stronger factors.
Included in these ‘much stronger’ factors is the increasingly visible, phenomenal growth of women-specific business projects and the entry of millions of intrepid and educated women into the small, private and public sector businesses which are flourishing like never before in India. Take the case of the Janki Devi Bajaj Puraskar (2012) winner Josephine Selvaraj. She lives in a small village near Madurai in Tamil Nadu. With her vision of being economically independent herself and providing a livelihood to rural women, she created a unique endeavour in which she created 30,000 honey bee projects to help women earn money after small investments. Accepting the award, Josephine said that her long term goal was to install honey bee boxes in every home in her state so as to help more households to earn money by selling honey as a wonderful ingredient for health. Josephine’s Vibis Natural Bee Farm in Vadipatti near Madurai has become an example for thousands of women, who not only to earn money but also pread the awareness on honey as a healthy tonic, to a large clientele.
In yet another women-specific project, Dhaniben Parmar of SEWA (Self Employed Women’s Association), a daily wage earning construction labourer in Gujarat, not only built her own home, a stable future for herself and her family, and even educated her son to become an engineer. She was a part of the self-help group Rachaita, a co-operative of women construction workers with a membership of 1000 workers who now execute contracts to build offices of multinational business houses. Rachaita is just one of the 3,200 self-help groups (SHGs) SEWA – initiated by Ela Bhatt in 1972 – which run in every sector of the informal economy in 14 states of India.
Additionally, a project that has received international acclaim is Jaipur Rugs/ Jaipur Foundation. Founded in 1978, by entrepreneur Nand Kishore Chaudhary, it is engaged in making beautiful hand-made carpets and rugs for a worldwide clientele. Starting with just two looms, the enterprise worked in tribal regions until it moved to Jaipur in 1999 to become Jaipur Rugs Company Pvt. Ltd. in 2006. Today, Jaipur Rugs has businesses in more than 30 countries with a turnover of over $14 million in 2008-09. Chaudhary was awarded the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for the best start-up in 2010. Jaipur Rugs and Jaipur Rugs Foundation works relentlessly for the empowerment of women by improving their income-earning capacity and teaching them self-esteem and their empowered role in the family through equal wages, decision-making, and work standards. The enterprise has channelized the efforts of poor women to connect with affluent markets in India and other countries.
Urban women, with the advantage of education and better living standards, have gone ballistic in entrepreneurship and business. For example, Poorvi Chothani is the founder/managing director of LawQuest, a Mumbai-based legal consultancy company with an all-women staff! A graduate of the Pennsylvania Law School and a qualified solicitor in the UK as well as in India, Poorvi founded her company with an all-women staff for specific reasons. “I know that to be successful, women need to have flexi-schedules,” she says, “We discuss everything in our office. There is no one-upmanship. It’s a kind of sorority where every staff member can be frank about her problems and everyone works to solve it for her. I myself travel so much across the world because we specialize in global immigration, which is our USP. We deal with transactions, property and family law in addition to other kinds of Indian and international lawsuits.”
Poorvi is just one among lakhs of women who have broken all ‘glass ceilings’ to reach the top, overcoming ‘women-can’t-be-taken-seriously’ attitudes. In fact, she belongs to a huge army of educated women – as many as 150 million – who have entered the work force of India to propel the nation’s economy at an unstoppable speed. World Bank experts say that this is equally so in China - thus making India and China the fastest growing economies of the world!
It is no wonder then that the Forbes’ List of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women for 2012 includes some of India’s leading bankers and politicians – Sonia Gandhi, Chanda Kochhar and Shikha Sharma are examples. For the first time, Fortune India ranked India’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Business in its November 2012 issue. Shobhana Bhartia, Chairperson and Editorial Director, HT Media Ltd. is one of the media personalities to make it to the top ten. Chanda Kochhar of ICICI Bank is in the first place, whereas Shikha Sharma of Axis Bank and Mallika Srinivasan of TAFE have taken the second and third place in the ranking. Kirthiga Reddy, India Head, Facebook; Lynn De Souza, Chairman and CEO, Lintas Media Group and Radhika Roy, Managing Director and Executive Co-Chairperson, NDTV Group are at number 21st, 39th and 45th spot respectively.
“This is the new India,” says Uma Shah, a top executive in a business house, “It’s a nation where women are becoming visible everywhere as power-wielders; not only in politics, but also in every business and profession. In large numbers, women are overcoming old prejudices and reaching the top in the corporate sector or starting their own businesses. They have new icons to follow. These are: Chanda Kochhar, Shikha Sharma, Naina Lal Kidwai, Renu Karnad and Meera Sanyal from the banking sector; Anu Aga, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Priya Paul of Appeejay Surrendra Group, Sulajja Firodia Motwani of Kinetic Motors, Neelam Dhawan of Microsoft India, Simone Tata and the youngest of them all – 31-year-old Devita Saraf of Vue Technologies and Zenith Computers from the corporate sector – plus literally countless others who have impacted the finance, information technology, hospitality and entertainment and media industries to become successful entrepreneurs and professionals.”
According to prominent business leaders, Indian women’s contribution to the galloping Indian economy is unique in the present gloom of recession in the Western world. The US and the UK, as well as most European countries are staggering under the burden of vanishing jobs, pay cuts and rising debts and cost of living. It will take several years before any change is seen. And yet, the Forbes List of Powerful Women has repeatedly thrown up a surprising number of women in Asian and South American countries whose career success in industry, professions and entrepreneurship proves that women can bring a new hope to their nations. The epoch-making success of Indian women is a part of this new dawn of hope. Most of them are not born to riches and have created their own wealth and success by sheer dint of hard work and their expertise to balance several roles to achieve their goals.
As the second decade of the 21st century proceeds, intrepid Indian women are hitting the headlines worldwide in every human endeavour. India has every reason to be proud of its women. They are generating more wealth than women of any other emerging economy (except China). The designers of India’s economic success understand well that helping ambitious, capable women to grow and achieve their goals can enhance national growth and that it is the surest way to bring phenomenal progress to India within a short span of time.
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