I had a vision to make women successful entrepreneurs and financially independent, but no funding was in place. What I had was a strong vision, mission and a plan. 4 eminent industry leaders came forward as Ambassadors and backed me with Rs 5 Lakh contribution each in 2016/2017 and we registered Catalyst for Women Entrepreneurship.
When I was planning this in 2016, some sceptics said: “Business is gender agnostic. Why do women entrepreneurs need special handholding?” So we did a study with 400 women/men entrepreneurs, policymakers and investors. Our study “Accelerating Women Entrepreneurship in India” identified 5 major challenges – Access to Finance, Access to Markets, Access to Enabling Technology, Access to Information and Network, Access to Business Skills. In addition, lack of Access to Mentors and reliable and professional services for registering their business, legal, financial, other professional services, was expressed by women entrepreneurs as a significant challenge.
So I decided to go ahead and build CWE as a platform of transformational change agents, enabling women overcome these Access hurdles to start up and scale successfully.
The Journey So Far
CWE is a non-profit organization focused on promoting women entrepreneurship across India. CWE is a complete ecosystem, a nurturing platform to enable women to start up their businesses and scale them successfully. CWE currently works with 4100 women entrepreneurs through online and offline support, business skills training, mentoring, and access to finance, new markets and enabling technology. CWE is industry agnostic and supports women in any industry sector, manufacturing, or services.
Today we have a deep pool of 21 industry leaders as Mentor Catalysts with diverse industry experience as angel investors, finance, marketing, team building experience. They guide CWE and deliver the best inputs and mentoring to our entrepreneurs.
Partnership with Specialized Organizations
Partnership is key to CWE’s success in delivering our services to women entrepreneurs.Using my network built over decades, we built valuable partnerships with 23 local, national and global organisations who saw CWE as a valuable partner to help them find and fund, open market channels in other countries, and help them achieve their mission to promote successful women in business. They include Stanford Seed, International Trade Centre. Niti Aayog, TiE, Govt of Karnataka and the trade missions of US, Israel, France and Germany.
First Incubator for Women Entrepreneurs in Karnataka
In 2018, CWE partnered with K-Tech Innovation Hub and NASSCOM, to set up the first Incubator for tech women startups in Karnataka. The employment generation data we have from these incubatees in Bangalore is indeed heartening. Our ten incubatees of the First Cohort reported a total employee strength of 95. Of this total, 57 employees were added during their incubation period.
We have incubated 20 successful role model entrepreneurs, who have been funded, won patents, and reached global markets.
Some Success Stories we have Incubated
Radhika Patil, Co-Founder Cradlewise, https://cradlewise.com
CWE Incubatee whose baby cradle with smart sensors has won patents; launched in the US market; received USD 7 million seed funding. CWE gave her access to a Mentor in the US, enabled her product launch, set up a unit and got funded in the US.
Shrilakshmi Desiraju, Founder Triphase Pharmaceuticals, www.triphasepharma.com
Revolutionary patented probiotic product has won awards, received patents in 6 countries, and secured global customers; secured series A Funding and is on Series B funding path.
Fathima Benazir, Founder, Azooka Lifesciences, www.azooka.com
Patented biotech innovations addressing Covid and lab test processes; has won awards (including Elevate), funding and global customers. Received patents in India and has applied in the US.
Sucharitha Dasireddy, Founder, Kriyo, https://ikriyo.com/
CWE supported this Incubatee to manage her pregnancy and childbirth along with her startup. The Kriyo platform enabled schools to go digital; has received 1 cr seed fund and has customers in 10+ countries.
Sumana Iyengar, Founder, Goavega Solutions, www.goavega.com
Goavega combines the latest technologies, best practices, and global talent as a product and innovation centric engineering and design centre. Her business has been resilient to the pandemic, growing more than 22% in 2020-21 with a new product in the AI space.
Janani Venkatraman, Founder, Biomoneta, www.biomoneta.com
CWE Incubatee, whose device destroys microbes including Covid 19 in hospital, lab, home environments; has won patents and series A funding.
We have a virtual incubation model that involves online support and mentoring, combined with 21 days of in-person workshops spread across the year. Highly successful startups Triphase Pharmaceuticals and Azooka Life Sciences have benefitted from this model
Over the last few years, I have seen many incubators and accelerators coming up in Metro cities – Bangalore, Mumbai, NCR, Chennai etc. I also saw a large number of skilled and experienced women who are aspiring entrepreneurs based in Tier 2/3 cities in India where there is no equivalent support infrastructure. I wanted to help them fulfill their aspirations.
This year, my aspiration came true. The Karnataka Government stepped forward and CWE launched the hybrid incubation program – SaShakti for Women Entrepreneurs in Tier II cities. Currently 19 startups from Mysuru region are being incubated who are into innovative healthtech, edutech, travel, food, wellness businesses, led by women entrepreneurs from Mysuru, Coorg, Belgaum and Dakshina Kannada.. They are going through virtual and physical business skilling workshops, 1to1 mentoring support by senior CWE Catalysts, and will be connected to financing institutions and corporates. This pilot will be completed in Jan 2023.
I am really excited about this as we plan to use this model to scale to smaller cities across India.
What’s Available on CWE Platform
- Mentoring * Connect to Funders *Advisors *Corporates *Service Providers *business pIpeline *Global Markets.
- Business Series training workshops *Mentoring Roundtables *CWE JAMS – peer learning/networking and role model meeting *Founder’s Cafes – peer learning and support
What is my dream vision?
- Equip 50,000 women pan India to start up and grow successfully
- Select 500 women-led businesses to accelerate and create global success stories
- Promote 100 role models to inspire thousands of women entrepreneurs.
What This Means To Me
It lights me up when I think of the difference this will make to India and the world!
- Every entrepreneur employs on average minimum 5 employees, and women tend to employ more women. That means employment for 2.5 Lakh persons!
- These women are creating innovative and sustainable products and services which will make a huge difference to the environment and population.
- Studies show that women spend the majority of their income on family and community. That means India’s development indicators on education, health and livelihood will increase dramatically.
- With 50% of our country’s population coming into the mainstream, India will see significant GDP scaleup.
With the inspired CWE Team and our high powered Ambassadors, Catalysts and Partners – together we are out to make this happen.