Triggering a Grassroots Revolution

Participants of the National Entrepreneurship Network’s Faculty Development programs are making a change where it matters the most – among grassroots entrepreneurs.

Going beyond their classrooms and campus walls, NEN Faculty Leaders are driving socio-economic change by working with low-income or marginalized woman entrepreneurs. Madhavi Lokhande of Bangalore's Welingkar Research Centre, Anita Priya Raja of Vellore Institute of Technology Business School and Rosy Fernando of MOP Vaishnav College for Women in Chennai are three such examples.

Madhavi Lokhande

Welingkar Research Centre


25 women in a low income slum in Bangalore resolved to change their lives. Making pickles or tailoring blouses looked like a good way to start. However, even these home-run businesses required capital – but these women had none. A bank loan was the only resort, but with no bank balance, credit history or collaterals – many banks turned them away.
Madhavi Lokhande, a Financial Accounting professor at Welingkar Resrach Centre, Bangalore, is committed to not only help these women get bank loans but also ensure that the money is managed well and they successfully grow their ventures. Madhavi has helped 13 women get bank loans and worked with 12 others with their business models.
A participant of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Program – Tools for Growing Your Business, organized in association with the National Entrepreneurship Network, in November 2009, Madhavi is inspired to put her learning into practice with grassroot entrepreneurs. 
“The tools stay the same, whether it is applied to high-impact startups or small businesses. These women are vulnerable – an unpaid bank loan can ruin them. A structured approach to their ventures can help them grow their business, rather than lose it,” says Madhavi.

Anita Priya Raja

Vellore Institute of Technology Business School

When Vellore Institute of Technology’s NEN Faculty Leader Anita Priya Raja met Sangameshwari, one of Vellore’s oldest and most successful woman entrepreneurs (She started an apparel business in 1962) last month, little did she know that they were kicking off a quiet revolution in this conservative, small town of Tamil Nadu.
According to Anita Priya, entrepreneurship is not a desirable career option for women in Vellore – a fact that is forcing many woman entrepreneurs to remain small scale and low key about their business. Limited access to resources, both financial and physical; lack of communication and marketing skills; barriers to operating in a male dominated environment along with familial opposition are gnawing sharply at their chances of success.
To help Vellore’s woman entrepreneurs overcome these constraints, Anita Priya, supported by Sangameshwari and her colleague Sherlie Jaykumar, is working on a two-pronged approach: developing skills and facilitating networks among the woman entrepreneur community.
Applying the tools and learning she picked up at the National Entrepreneurship Network’s Foundation Course on Entrepreneurship in July, 2009, Prof Anita Priya designed and conducted a workshop, that focused on empowering these women with

Rosy Fernando

MOP Vaishnav College for Women

Over a 100 small-scale woman entrepreneurs in Chennai have a reason to thank NEN Faculty Leader, Rosy Fernando, professor at MOP Vaishnav College for Women. She is working with these women to build their small ventures ranging from food to catering to laundry.

About a 100 women engaged in the laundry business are adopting Rosy’s ideas—transiting from manual to power washing; offering additional services of dyeing and darning, and producing their own detergents for washing. Rosy is not only mentoring them but also organizing skill-building workshops for them. She has also appealed to the Chennai Municipal Corporation to support these women.

Meanwhile, five low-income women are shifting their catering business from their homes to a kiosk, located right in the heart of Chennai’s bustling Nungambakkam, with the acrive support and mentoring by Rosy. She trained them in hygiene, maintenance and attractive packaging, and is now working with civic authorities to obtain required permissions for operating the Kiosk. She is also developing their marketing strategy using attractively painted pushcarts for lunch box delivery. Rosy estimates that these changes will triple their revenue from Rs. 500 to Rs. 2000 per day.

Rosy belongs to the first batch of NEN-Stanford-IIMB Entrepreneurship Educators Program and became a certified entrepreneurship educator in 2009.

“Working with marginalized self-help groups has given me a meaningful way to apply my knowledge on entrepreneurship. Partnering with me are 300 students from the E Cell of MOP Vaishnav College. Together, we identified groups that need our support and helped them find solutions to scale up their businesses,” she elobrates.