To provide momentum to the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, Action for India (AFI), a non-governmental organization, launched its first ever business accelerator program WISE. It aims at high potential women in social entrepreneurship, who are on their scaling journeys to becoming the next impact unicorns. AFI-WISE ignites the minds of the women social entrepreneurs through exploring, networking, funding opportunities, partnering and building new endeavours with AFI. The program offers extensive mentoring and handholding with choicest of leaders, through critically-designed learning spaces to grow their businesses through mentorship sessions, webinars and podcasts.
Considering the spurt of COVID-19, the program was successfully launched virtually, in presence of esteemed guests and panelists – Mr. Sanjay Kadaveru, Founder & President, Action for India was the event moderator; Ms. Shanti Mohan, Founder & CEO, Let’s Venture graced the occasion as the keynote speaker along with Mr. Ashish Gupta, Head-Legal, eBay India as Partner speaker.
By reflecting upon the journeys of women social entrepreneurs in the past, AFI aims to bridge the gaps of opportunity of investment and accelerate through tailor-made interventions. In recognition of relentless support to women entrepreneurs, AFI IS now backed by the eBay Foundation USA to scale its mission to newer heights.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Sanjay Kadaveru, Founder & President, Action for India said,”Despite passing through a challenging year, it was one of the most active and successful years for AFI. We launched quite a number of initiatives and programs, pooling in the right resources bridging the gap for the social entrepreneurs. We are thankful to receive the grant from the eBay Foundation enabling us to get this into action. There are a lot of accelerators around the world, but women in particular face unique challenges specific to them. Something that we endeavour to do is to design customized interventions that address the challenges faced by women social entrepreneurs to help them accelerate on their scaling journeys. India, being a test-bed for social innovations, and with global support of eBay Foundation, with the WISE program we intend to be able to produce some robust solutions that could be amplified for larger solutions.”
Discussing the landscape of women entrepreneurship in India, Ms. Shanti Mohan, Founder & CEO, Lets Venture said: “Looking at the Indian ecosystem today, there are about 30% probably fewer of them are women founders; less than 5% are funded and around 1% are in the investing spaces. Seeing the macro scenario, we must address the fact rather than fight it, that there is a gender disadvantage. It has been a learning for me, that you must spend less time fund-raising and invest more time in building your business. We as women founders must take away the fact that we are going to be discriminated, when we go fundraising. As entrepreneurs we must be okay making mistakes and not always try being perfectionists. I believe that this is the best time to be an entrepreneur in India. As the next decade will belong to the Indian Founder – there is much capital awaiting to be deployed, there is much openness and acceptance of you being a founder trying to solve problems and there is a lot more of a better ecosystem. Going by my mentors’ learning; Pick up a problem, you will really understand, you will relate with, be excited about solving everyday when you wake up as it is a long journey finding solutions to those problems.”
AFI welcomed its first cohort of five WISEpreneurs from across verticals – Education, Health, Technology and Livelihood. Ms. Shveta Raina, Founder, Talerang, a platform that gets India’s most ambitious students and young professionals ready for their careers through high quality training, mentorship and access to internships and jobs with 350+ corporate partners; Ms. Neha Kirpal, Co-Founder, InnerHour a mental healthcare platform looking to disrupt the psychological wellness/mental health provision; Ms. Akshita Sachdeva, Co-Founder, Trestle Labs an initiative focussed towards empowering the blind and visually-impaired community towards inclusive education, employment and content accessibility; Ms. Janhavi Joshi, Co-Founder and Forbes India 30 Under 30, Bleetech Innovations, works towards inclusion and accessibility for the deaf through different design and technological innovations. Ms. Pooja Rai, Founder, Anthill Creations, the organization is making sustainable playgrounds and bringing play & learning home to children who are missing school due to COVID.
Mr. Ashish Gupta, eBay India said: “I want to congratulate all the social entrepreneurs and the AFI who have been encouraging social entrepreneurs. Specifically women social entrepreneurs by providing the necessary support on their scaling journey, eBay remains committed towards economic empowerment of women entrepreneurs and their commitment towards growth of business in India. Gone are the days, where women were confined within the walls, now, women are actively stepping up in all spheres of life by showcasing their talent and providing their worth. At eBay we strongly abide by the fact that women empowerment is crucial for economic development and eBay since long has long supported women entrepreneurs. Greater participants is the only way to create an environment for inclusive growth. Partnering with AFI, we believe that harnessing women entrepreneurs can promote innovation, economic growth and job creations.”
The AFI programme strives to give impetus to women social entrepreneurs thereby positively adding to the social and economic development of the society to create a larger global impact.