Grooming women entrepreneurs

Bhaktee Deodar, a budding entrepreneur, broke new ground when her creative crafts done in resin and wax started selling like hotcakes after she implemented some key management and marketing strategies that she learnt through Project NAWNI, a mentorship programme of RC Pune Pride, RID 3131. She has now joined this club as a member.

DG Manjoo Phadke (3rd from L, second row), RC Pune Pride president Sudhir Bapat (3rd from R) and Avinash Joag (R) with women entrepreneurs at the launch of Project NAWNI 2.0 in Sept 2023.

Project NAWNI (Nurturing Atmanirbhar Women with Novel Initiatives) was launched in 2021 to mentor nine women with entrepreneurial instinct to be successful in their line of business. “We chose highly enthusiastic and committed women entrepreneurs with businesses across engineering, cosmetics, corporate gifting, ready-to-eat and fresh food segments, fashion and interior designing, and matched them with appropriate mentors whose role was to facilitate business growth and success for each woman,” says Anuja Kolhatkar from the project team led by Avinash Joag. The mentors were either club members, Anns or other successful industry professionals with vast knowledge and experience.

After a year’s pause, the project was revived last year (2023–24) under the leadership of club president Sudhir Bapat. This time 32 women signed up for the programme. “We covered topics such as social media and digital marketing, legal aspects, government schemes, collaboration, marketing and pricing through a physical session every month,” says project chair Joag.

The programme has helped all of these women to scale up their business, make it more lucrative and productive. Bhaktee says, “Although I had the creative skills and people around me appreciated my products, I did not know how to take it to the next level.” Her mentor Sampada, spouse of club member Ujwal Kunte, taught her how to get and process bulk orders, understand the market, position her products for corporate gifting and apply for bank loans. Even as she was undergoing the training, Bhaktee was happy to get her first corporate order, and she is all set to expand her business. This includes manufacturing wardrobe fragrances, scented candles and décor products “handcrafted with passion,” she says with a smile. The trophies that she had designed for the district conference “received good reviews and I got more business with other Rotarians.” Ultimately NAWNI made her become a Rotarian!

Bhaktee Deodar, a participant, at a session.

Another mentee, Girija Rao who is into overhead tank cleaning, “considered a male-dominated business” is happy to have found her feet, thanks to the programme. Ratnawali Ingale, who runs a chain of cafes, says, “The business model which I thought was tried and tested was turned on its head, and now the results are amazing. NAWNI mentorship has shown me a new way to look at the business and it is working out well.”

The selection process was elaborate starting with scrutiny of applications, followed by interviews and psychometric assessment.
“We received 75 applications from which 32 were shortlisted. Women running unique and ethical businesses, either solo or with employees, and with a passion and commitment for growth, were given priority.”

Sharda Rao from the 2021 batch is planning to sign up for the programme’s third edition this year. She produces cold-pressed oil. The club intends to begin the third edition in August with more business modules and ideas based on the four pillars of business —
finance, marketing, operations and legal. “The youngest applicant this year is a 25-year-old doctor who wants to establish a market for her patented lab testing product in addition to her medical practice. We have a couple of women interested in toddler/babycare and eldercare. It is interesting to note the diverse variety of businesses one can pursue if one has the acumen and passion to succeed,” smiles Anuja.

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