Two years ago on International Entrepreneurs’ Day, several small womens’ groups were called for a meeting by the Karnataka government to forge partnerships and suggest a way forward for women entrepreneurs to strike out on their own.
This small seed proved to be a huge movement for women which culminated in preparing a policy for women entrepreneurs, additional chief secretary K. Ratnaprabha told YourStory.
The movement to empower women was championed by Ratnaprabha who has always been in the forefront to empower women. Soon, the state government started to identify exclusive Womens’ Industrial Parks within Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board industrial townships.
By the time the first such exclusive business park came up at Harohalli, near Bengaluru, which is on the verge of being inaugurated, there were demands from women entrepreneur groups in Mysore, Hubli, Bellary and Gulbarga to set up such units.
While the government incentivises and helps women entrepreneurs, Ratnaprabha found another huge opportunity which they could tap into.
The Karnataka government is organising ThinkBig 2016, a summit for women business owners in association with WEConnect, a mega event that focusses exclusively on women entrepreneurship on November 14 and 15.
With over 4,000 women entrepreneurs from various sectors signed up to participate, it is touted to be Asia’s largest women entrepreneurship and economic empowerment platform, which intends to connect women-owned businesses with public and private sector opportunities.
The event, to be held at Bangalore International Exhibition Centre (BIEC) in Bengaluru, features over a 100-power-packed speakers, 400 companies, 58 women associations and delegates from all over the world.
A galaxy of speakers are expected to light up the stage. Among them are Nirmala Sitharaman, Union Commerce and Industries Minister, Chanda Kochchar, MD and CEO, ICICI Bank, Arundhati Bhattacharya, Chairperson and Managing Director, State Bank of India, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, Kiran Majumdar Shaw, CMD, Biocon and R.V. Deshpande, Karnataka Industries Minister.
Former Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan is also one of the star speakers along with Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Union Minister for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Naina Subberwal Batra, CEO, Asian Venture Philanthrophy Network and popular bureaucrat Amitabh Kant, CEO of Niti Ayog, will be among speakers Ratnaprabha said.
Among others invited are the irrepressible Kishore Biyani, Founder and CEO, Future Group, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Founder and CEO, PayTM, Binny Bansal, Cofounder and CEO, Flipkart, Kunal Bahl, Cofounder and CEO, Snapdeal, Vandana Verma from IKEA Foundation, Bhaskar Pramanik, Chairman, Microsoft India, Ashok Madaravally, Director, NASSCOM 10,000 Startups Initiative, Priyank Kharge, Karnataka IT, BT and Tourism Minister, and others.
The two-day event provides a lot of opportunities for women entrepreneurs to connect and seek mentorship. It is primarily targeted at women-owned businesses, she said.
Karnataka Industries Minister R.V. Deshpande said, “The ThinkBig Summit is being promoted as Asia's largest platform for multinational corporate buyers, government officials, multilateral organisations, investors-VC and PE executives and industry thought leaders to connect with women-owned businesses in Asia. The event aims at introducing women business owners to public and private sector opportunities and encouraging corporations to build up a buyer and customer base of women-owned businesses.
More than 150 industry thought leaders have been invited to deliver keynote speeches at the conference. The Tradeshow at Thinkbig2016 will feature 500+ stalls of women entrepreneurs, industry associations, strategic partners, companies, as well as corporate procurement desks.
A WEPair mentorship programme that helps women entrepreneurs to be business-ready is also being planned. This programme will target women-owned MSMEs and help them become self-sustainable and provide growth opportunities. This six-month-long programme will be an excellent opportunity for women-owned business participants to focus on their capability, challenges and connections. The programme aims to further their knowledge base and skill, help develop capacity building skills through workshops, connect them with business leaders and enhance their network.