Karnataka has always been on the forefront in promoting women economic empowerment. This is visible as Karnataka leading on most of the Gender related indicators and is also one of the prominent state promoting women entrepreneurship. Due to Karnataka Governments’ friendly policies, it is one of the top states having women entrepreneurs. In the recently concluded Global Investors Meet (GIM), the GoK had signed an agreement with San Francisco (USA) to promote Women Entrepreneurs. This is something that is unique, paving a way for further initiatives on developing Women Entrepreneurships.

The partnership with WEConnect International is towards supporting women entrepreneurs in Karnataka. The “ThinkBig 2016” summit is providing the platform for women owned business to showcase their business, generate business leads, interact with companies, and learn from their peers.

The two day summit saw participation from 2000 delegates from 19 states. These delegates mostly consisted of women owned business, were able to interact and network with 54 companies and their procurement specialist. There has been considerable participation from other countries as well and delegates from 15 countries shared their views and interacted with the women entrepreneurs. ThinkBig 2016 brought together 300 Industry leaders, 400 businesses, and 35 top banks to develop the thriving business ecosystem in Karnataka.

The summit generated interest and participation from women entrepreneurs from different sectors. The business sectors included agri-businesses, food processing, IT, consulting, handicrafts, manufacturing, financial consulting, electronics, waste management, eco-friendly products, web design portals and websites, wellness and healthcare, fashion and grooming and social enterprises. Many of the women entrepreneurs were also from rural areas across India and the world and they were attending this kind summit for the first time.
The distinguished speakers were from corporate sector, social and development sector, government bodies, women’s associations, consulting and financial institutions.

The inaugural session was inaugurated by Hon. Chief Minister Shri Siddaramaiah in the presence of Shri R.V. Deshpande, Hon’ble Minister – Large & Medium Scale Industries and Infrastructure Development, Government of Karnataka, Smt. K. RatnaPrabha, IAS, Additional Chief Secretary, Government of Karnataka, Mr. Parul Soni, Executive Director, WEConnect International in India, Ms. Elizabeth Vasquez, Co-Founder & CEO, WEConnect International, Smt. LalithaKumaramangalam, Chairperson, National Commission for Women, Government of India, Mr. Bunty Bohra, CEO, Goldman Sachs Services (India), Dr. Priti G. Adani, Chairperson, Adani Foundation, and other prominent members of Karnataka civil services, corporates, social sector, development aid organizations, and the women entrepreneurship community.

The Hon. Chief Minister announced key incentives and programs to promote women entrepreneurship in Karnataka, including Reimbursement of WEConnect membership for the first three years, in a phased manner and building four tech parks for women owned businesses. The Chief Minister also launched WEDisplay Trade Show in the presence of an august gathering of ministers and representatives of Women’s Associations from all around the world. The two-day ThinkBig 2016 summit is organised by the Government of Karnataka together with WEConnect International in India and Thinkthrough Consulting (TTC).

“The world needs women entrepreneurs, and women entrepreneurs need all of us. The growing participation of women in our economic growth is good news for both our families and communities. ThinkBig 2016 summit is another effort of the Karnataka government to provide the support and tools to ensure that women-led businesses flourish here,” the Chief Minister said.

“ThinkBig 2016 has been designed to educate women entrepreneurs, train them with the right skills, assess opportunities and connect them with right business ecosystem,” Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said.

Shri R.V. Deshpande, Hon’ble Minister – Large & Medium Scale Industries and Infrastructure Development, Government of Karnataka, emphasized on the need for women to be self-sufficient and acknowledged how women can do a better job than men by leveraging the power and support available, taking charge and moving forward.

Smt. LalithaKumaramangalam, Chairperson, National Commission for Women, Government of India, was emphatic in her assertion that women need to take charge, stand up for their rights, move forward, that it makes sense to invest in women entrepreneurs and that it is not CSR any more. She also highlighted the need to network, to build groups, to redefine Networking by making deep connections, building relationships.

Smt. K. RatnaPrabha, IAS, Additional Chief Secretary, Government of Karnataka, highlighted the opportunity and need to grow together, the need for inclusive growth and job creation, for bringing about harmony and synergy, for the “shefolk” to come together. She also talked about how important it is to send a clear message of “at home or at work, we mean business”.

Panel discussion on access to Market
The session was moderated by WEConnect International and panelists included CEOs and procurement heads from key retail brands like Amazon, Walmart, Intel, IBM, Accenture, Shop clues, Mother Earth and Nectar Fresh Foods. Core message drawn from the session was that sourcing from women owned businesses can increase only by bringing all key stakeholders together in a meaningful manner.

The panelist concluded that three key areas WEs should ensure to be able to access bigger markets - domestic and international:
• Competitiveness (Cost and Quality - consistency & adherence to quality standards, unique differentiation - value addition of their product/service)
• Scalability (to meet increased demands of volumes),
• Traceability (make sure of compliance with existing laws, ensuring ethical ways of doing business)

Access to Effective Entrepreneurial Ecosystems
The panel was moderated by Mr. Anil Sinha, Chairman, Thinkthrough Consulting Pvt Ltd with inputs from Shri Pankaj Pandey (CEO, Karnataka Industrial Board), Jennifer Daubeny (Canadian Consul General), RaginiChaudhury (UK Aid), VandanaVerma (IKEA Foundation), Jenny Grieser (Walmart), Clement Chauvet (UNDP) and Kathrina Kuehn (GIZ). The session was attended by about 200 delegates. The session concluded with the understanding the largest barrier women face is inadequate information about opportunities and services. Key recommendations that emerged from the session included multilateral and bilateral organization along with the corporate sector join hand to increase focus on delivering intensive high quality skill building and training women entrepreneurs on how to make their product/service unique and work out the modalities for how to match this with market need.

Access to finance
The panel was moderated by SharmilaHardi (IFC) and supported by Vijay Ganapathy (COO, ThinkThrough Consulting), Chetna Sinha (Mann Deshi Bank), Bhadresh Pathak (Yes Bank), P.V. Bharathi (Canara Bank), Wenchi Yu (Goldman Sachs), UpasanaTaku (Mobikwik). The panelists highlighted various challenges like overcome the mindset and unconscious bias of underwriters, lack of awareness of the schemes/govt subsidies etc. and discussed the possible ways to manage these challenges.

Access to technology
The panel on Technology was moderated by Parul Soni (WEConnect International in India and TTC) and he was supported by Luna Shamsuddoha (Dohatec New Media), Monika Panpaliya (Boeing India), JitendraChaddah (Intel India), Srikant Rao (ASAP) and Adam Purvis (The Power of Youth)
The sessions witnessed some provocative questions were being asked like whether the women daunted by technology? Is technology adoption by SMEs low because of high cost? With technology being more app-driven, how can women scale their skills to access these new technologies for efficiency and better decision making?
The summit was designed to be pragmatic, resulting in linkages and business opportunities for women owned businesses. It served as a platform to bring key players like corporate buyers, government representatives and financial institutions. Also, lot of emphasis was given towards interaction and lead generation.


WE Challenge
Women owned startups were invited to pitch through online media. WEChallenge saw the participation of 30 semi-finalists based in various parts of India featuring startups offering diverse services and products including online women’s only health and wellness consultation site, one stop shop for children, tactile books for visually impaired children, organic food, green disposables, online fashion advice portal, health apps, online fashion advice.

The finalists represented diverse industry domain including online women’s only health and wellness consultation site, one stop shop for children, tactile books for visually impaired children, organic food, green disposables, online fashion advice portal, health apps, online fashion advice. Five finalists: MeghanaSaraogi (styledotme), Pooja Kumar (jogo) ,Roli (veins), Kruthika (oowomaniya), Ankita (tactile books for visually impaired) were selected for cash prize and WE Challenge Awards.

The winners now hope to raise funds, focusing on customer acquisition and get mentors.

Some of the critical outcome of the summit includes initiation the dialogue between the corporate buyers, banks and women entrepreneurs. Most the enquiries were around access to finance. The SIDBI and KSFC stalls handled queries from 300 women entrepreneurs on different State Government schemes like Mudra, Start-Up, Stand-Up India and other state government initiatives to promote women entrepreneurs in Karnataka. Around 300 women entrepreneurs were also keen to explore opportunities for starting franchises for companies like Udupi Ruchi and supply to other organizations like KSSDL and KMF. This summit also encouraged the potential women entrepreneurs to start their own business as it is evident from enquiries generated at the KUM, NSIC and KSSDC, which was able to answer queries of 250 potential women entrepreneurs. Many of the women entrepreneurs were keen to know more about capacity development and technical assistance.

The summit provided opportunities to women business association to interact with their peer groups from other states. The summit saw participation from 45 business associations, who discussed the potential of this kind of summit for generating business leads for their members.

The uniqueness of the summit was the interaction of the women entrepreneurs with the companies in a focussed buyer-seller meet and discussion. Separate sessions were organized to help women entrepreneurs to connect with companies like Walmart, Amazon, Shopclues, and Goldman Sachs. These companies provided practical information to the participants on how to associate with them, the process to be followed and requirements. These separate buyer seller meets helped around 400 women entrepreneurs in decoding doing business with large companies and utilizing the opportunity to sustainability engage with these companies. . The corporate were optimistic about partnership and they collected the necessary information from the women entrepreneurs.

The summit involved participation of 2000 delegates, and 1973 business visitors to the 213 exhibition stalls primarily managed by women entrepreneurs. This event has created an ecosystem for women entrepreneurs for the first time and this network will grow larger year by year and throw up many opportunities for women to improve their business, networking bases and their marketing skills, and contribute to the state economy leading to several intangible benefits.

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