Networking open doors to markets and money: Sriparna Baruah

SRIPARNA BARUAH, Head, Centre for Industrial Extension, Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship, Guwahati speaks to The Thumb Print on the aims and objectives of the Women Entrepreneurs’ Conclave in Guwahati

What is the objective behind holding this conclave?

The main objective behind holding this conclave is to create platform for learning the best practices, knowledge sharing, promoting business and building connections. The conclave will help both existing & prospective women entrepreneur —

To generate innovative ideas across different business sectors

In different business sectors introducing innovative ideas can help to get improve efficiency and productivity with less cost that increase turnover and improve profitability which build the value of the brand in the era of competition.

 To scale up business ideas

Scaling can refer to more employees, new geography, more equipment or facilities, increasing the online presence or any combination of those things. Not only that, but growth has an impact on the size of the business and ultimately the value of the business. Scale up business makes it more likely that one will be able to build a business that has some inherent value beyond the time that one put into it.

 To get mentorship on different aspects of business planning

A mentor is someone with extensive business experience and knowledge who can advise and guide on a range of business matters. Mentoring can be delivered one-on-one or in a group environment. Whether one has just started out or want to expand business, it’s always a good idea to extend business support network.

 To build networks

In an ever-changing business  climate  it  is  important  to  keep  up  with  the target market conditions as well as overall trends in industry. The purpose of business networking is to increase business revenue – one way or another Business. Networking is a valuable way to extend the business support network that provides with a great source of connections and new clients.

What are the highlights of the conclave?

  • Getting Inspired from successful women entrepreneurs
  • Learning the basics of starting a business
  • Take Leverage and understand various government schemes and interact directly with bankers about women specific schemes.
  • Boost business with branding and marketing strategies.
  • Panel discussion on various sectors in relevance to the region.
  • Two days Exhibition promoting innovative creations of the entrepreneurs.

How can institutions like IIE incubate micro enterprises?

Incubation support acts as a facilitation support for Micro & small enterprise creation. An aspiring entrepreneur needs a lot of support from the time he/she decides to start a venture to actually starting the enterprise and incubation centre often provides technology, infrastructure and mentoring support as they are the key drivers facilitating enterprise creation.

IIE through two incubation centres — One on readymade garments and the other Jewellery and Gem Stone cutting and polishing has been incubating aspiring entrepreneurs for the last 3 yrs. Through these centres, post skill development training, handholding support for market access is provided. Ability by itself is not enough to start a business. What is need is further support on market access, validation of the business plan and credit linkage. The gestation period between applying for a loan to getting it sanctioned and many aspirations go back to their comfort zone. It is at this juncture that IIE through its incubation centre plays the role of an enabler for the entrepreneur to sustain. There are examples of school and college dropout from remote areas of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Assam who have incubated in IIE and are now self-employed.

Do you think women entrepreneurs have different needs as opposed to men?

Multiple factors restrain women from starting their own enterprises. Most prominent, are social norms, which dictate that often make women put home, family and kids before their own aspirations .There are no doubt of signs changing – husbands willing to play second fiddle, when the wife has a smart start-up or a support system for children when both parents are at work but Indian women still battle prejudices and stereotypes that their male peers don’t have to endure. In case of a married women she has to strike a fine balance between her business and family.

Women generally do not have property in their names to use them as collateral for obtaining funds from external sources, their access to external funding is often limited. Although banks are mandate to give collateral free loans, yet the percentage of women entrepreneurs having access to formal funding is limited. Banks also consider women less credit worthy and discourage women borrower on the belief that they can at any time leave their business. Women enterprises often fail to scale up due to shortage of finance.

Do you think women entrepreneurs in northeast India confined to certain conventional sectors?

Entrepreneurship is all about innovation and risk – taking and with abundant opportunities offered by the land, North East India can be a haven for entrepreneurs. No doubt, women entrepreneurs are taking great advantage of the plethora of resources and opportunities available and glass ceilings are being shattered by women entrepreneurs today. But it is seen that most of the women entrepreneurs from Assam are mainly engaged in conventional sectors like Handloom & Handicraft, Food Processing and Beauty & Wellness. Exposure is necessary for our women entrepreneurs to other sectors as well so that they can cross barriers and open their minds towards different business ideas apart from the sectors traditionally believed to be for women. Today, Northeastern women have also move beyond the known and have ventured into the less traversed sectors in entrepreneurship but it is not a uniform process in the region.