Workshop on Development of Business Models for Women Entrepreneurs in Rural Communities
Ms. Jayalakshmi Thirugnanam – Director & COO of Ascenders Technologies Pvt Ltd and Joint Secretary – eWIT participated as a Resource Speaker in a Workshop conducted by the Asian Productivity Organization and implemented by the National Iranian Productivity Organization in Tehran, IR Iran. The workshop was held from 24 – 28 January 2015.
The objectives of the workshop were to enhance the knowledge of participants of different business models and essential features of successful businesses initiated and managed by women, to understand the critical enabling environment and support systems that contribute to the success of enterprises initiated and managed by women; and also to enhance knowledge of participants of critical managerial functions in different business models for women, especially in rural communities.
Several reports in the literature show that women are better poised to improve their welfare and their economic status when they are able to establish their own businesses. This enhances their security and standing in the community, and more importantly, they are able to provide or augment family incomes. Replicating such outcomes on a wider national level could empower more women to become stronger leaders and contribute more to society and their economies. However, the success of women entrepreneurs could be influenced by many factors such as their level of education, knowledge and skills in managing an enterprise, time they have to manage an enterprise on top of their domestic chores and community social obligations, access to critical resources like capital and technical assistance, and the sociocultural environment where they live. It is therefore important to familiarize women with various business models that could fit in their situation and the established best management practices for each of those models.
The participants were from India, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Republic of China, Indonesia, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines and Thailand. The Indian representation consisted of a participant from Karnataka and a resource speaker (Jayalakshmi). The other three resource speakers were from Thailand, Philippines and Iran.
The modules covered in the workshop were Emerging Opportunities and Challenges for Women Entrepreneurs in Asia; Different business models for women entrepreneurs (agri-based models, home-based models; e-based models; etc.); Successful programs supporting women’s entrepreneurship; Basics of business management and enterprise development; Product development and innovations; Identifying markets and marketing; Case studies of successful business models by women entrepreneurs; and Applications of ICT in business planning, management, and marketing. The Workshop also consisted of theme presentations and sharing of country specific case studies, individual/group exercises, and field visits.
The sessions held by Jayalakshmi Thirugnanam were:
- Participation of women in labor force and in business
An assessment of the status and trends of women participation in the labor force, in governance and in businesses in selected countries/ Asia/Global; illustrative cases of prominent/leading women successful in business, their basic philosophy, and factors for their success were discussed; and global initiatives and international organizations supporting national efforts to address gender issues and to improve the status of women in society and business organization were also touched upon for the sake of general awareness.
- E-based Business Models and Use of ICT and Social Networks in Marketing
This session was all about the concepts and principles of e-based business models; the trends in e-based business globally and within the Asian region or selected countries were suitably highlighted; how e-marketing is organized in general; some successful cases of e-based businesses by women were illustrated; and merits of this model through appropriate analytical tools like SWOT were analyzed.
- Basics of HR Management and Challenges for Women CEOs and Managers
In this session, the important concepts, principles and tools in HR management in SMEs were discussed; and also common gender issues in the workplace were and how women CEOs/managers can address them.
Country papers were presented by the participants. The papers of each country basically focused on the current trends in female participation and employment; the ratio of the urban and rural population; the ratio of male and female population; the percentage of the female labor force; the percent of males and females in the labor force that are unemployed and which sector/s are females mostly employed.
Issues and challenges faced by women were discussed in detail. The major problems of women who want to engage in small business enterprises in each country e.g. lack of access to capital, lack of knowledge and skill in starting and managing a business, limited access to training and support services, socio-cultural reasons, gender discrimination or other reasons too were highlighted.
The various government policies and program supporting women were discussed with regard to which government ministries or agencies are responsible for supporting women in the participating countries; specific government policies, programs and/or projects providing support to women to engage in business or development of women entrepreneurship were also highlighted.
Basically the most critical emerging needs of women, especially in rural communities, in each participating country in order to be gainfully employed or to be able to start a small business enterprise were discussed in detail.
23rd January marked the arrival of almost all participants and resource speakers. Each was met and received at the Khomeni International Airport in Tehran, IR Iran by staff of the National Iranian Productivity Organization. The warmth of the Iranians’ hospitality, their general soft-spoken natures, helping tendencies and their enthusiasm for life itself was inspiring. Strong friendships were made and cemented and Whatsapp groups were instantly formed to keep in touch. Being a primarily women’s group, the laughter and camaraderie was infectious.
All the participants were put up at the Parsian Evin (a sophisticated 4 star hotel) where the workshop took place. The Asian Productivity Organization hosted the welcome dinner on day two whereas the National Iranian Productivity Organization hosted the farewell dinner on the fourth day.
The Workshop started on time and as scheduled and we were all welcomed by a show of snow. The Director of International and Scientific Cooperation who was an integral part of the workshop happily concluded that the snow was a symbol of an excellent start that the workshop would be a grand success. He was absolutely right. The workshop was conducted in a formal manner and all participants as well as resource speakers were prepared and well informed. Each session of the workshop, indeed the country papers as well as the site visits were full of knowledge sharing. There were plenty of takeaways for each participant.
Day One: Snow in Iran
Scenic snow filled landscapes in Tehran, IR Iran
There was also a Group workshop on Product development and marketing based on the learning and takeaways from the sessions held for the participants. All the participants were grouped into four teams and were given a typical Iranian produce to develop and market.
Product Development & Marketing Strategies by the groups
Apart from the learning, there had been other fun filled moments as well such as the inevitable shopping sprees and the sightseeing.
The Iranian wedding gowns
In all, it was a very fruitful and enriching event for each participating country member.
Some of the fascinating sights like a beautiful sunset over Tehran
Traditional Iranian breads being baked. The aroma is awesome and so is the taste!