How Walmart’s Vriddhi programme is helping women entrepreneurs explore new avenues amidst COVID-19
With the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting businesses worldwide leading to loss of jobs, profits, and productivity, the need of the hour is to innovate and pivot during tough times. Entrepreneurs need all the support and backing, as they get back on their feet after months of restrictions.
The Walmart Vriddhi programme was launched by Walmart Inc. in December 2019 with the aim to empower 50,000 Indian MSMEs to ‘Make in India’ for domestic and global supply chains. Following the COVID-19 outbreak, the programme was reshaped to emphasise digital experiences, and this allowed it to be rolled out to more MSMEs. In the future, it will offer a mix of digital and in-person training, mentoring and network experiences via physical Vriddhi Institutes when conditions are favorable.
The e-institute-based Vriddhi Programme provides MSMEs an easy-to-use interactive learning experience through online modules with a blend of teaching and assessment tools. Participants receive personalised feedback through virtual classrooms, formal assessments, and one-on-one advisory sessions. To prepare MSMEs to sell through new online and offline channels in India and abroad, the programme will also offer advanced training that includes personalised mentoring and the opportunity to work with service providers and peers.
Kalyan Krishnamurthy, Chief Executive Officer,Group, said,
“As India adjusts to the ‘new normal,’ digital transformation is a path to resilience for businesses. In concert with the government’s Digital India initiative, we want to help Indian MSMEs digitise, so they can react to market trends and challenges with speed and agility, better serve their customers, and grow their business. Flipkart and Walmart are working together on Vriddhi and other programmes to make a real difference for MSMEs and to contribute to sustained economic growth for India.”
In line with this initiative, Walmart is also actively working with women entrepreneurs, offering best practices for business realignment and continuity during these challenging times.
HerStory spoke to two women entrepreneurs who, after a total shutdown during the lockdown, have resurrected their business with the help of Walmart’s Vriddhi programme and are now making profits.
Mala Awasthy, Director, Kesri Transcontinental
Mala Awasthy runs Kesri Transcontinental that offers a wide range of cushions, home furnishings, luxury beddings, and linens to hospitality and large retailers in the country, under the brand name Homescapes. It is managed by Mala and her husband Amitabh, along with the support of 75 employees.
In 1998, Mala left her teaching job as she relocated to Panipat from New Delhi. “It was a tough for me to manage commuting to work and looking after my children, simultaneously. But my urge to continue working was still intact. After my children grew up, I decided to join my husband’s business,” says Mala.
Presently, Kesri Transcontinental is engaged in direct and indirect sales of the products to domestic and international markets such as the Middle East and other Asian countries.
“We were growing everyday, catering to our hospitality and retail clients across the country. We have witnessed a total turnover of Rs 12 crore in the last fiscal (2018-2019),” says Mala.
The lockdown implemented in India and the world following the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the business as well.
Mala explains, “When we were shut down for the initial three months, it led to challenges like managing finances and supporting our employees. We had already made payments for the raw materials for many orders that were cancelled. As the government announced relaxations, sales started to pick up and we have now recovered up to 40 percent (Rs 4 crore) of pre-COVID levels. We are hopeful to recover 100 percent of our business during the ongoing festive season.”
With the help of the Walmart Vriddhi team, Mala has started selling around 15 products on Flipkart and hopes to expand this portfolio.
On the partnership, she says,
“The user-friendly app includes training modules regarding several aspects of managing a business such as access to finance and increasing revenues among others. I have even recommended my friends to enroll for the training under Walmart Vriddhi’s e-Institute and are looking forward to completing the e-learning modules.”
Babita Gupta, Sarangi Creations
As part of the first batch of Walmart’s Women Entrepreneurship Development Programme (WEDP) in 2015-2016, Delhi-based Babita Gupta learnt a lot about different aspects of business.
She had newly started Sarangi Creations, moving away from her husband’s Rs 100 crore family business, Jute Palace. Twenty years ago, she employed her domestic help who was looking for additional work in her family business. Soon, she had 20 women working in the business and Babita struck upon the idea to have an independent business, also concentrating on domestic markets.
“My family was not very supportive of my ideas, so I had to break away and start my own. Fortunately, my husband offered his complete support and joined me,” she says.
The WEDP programme taught Babita to navigate different aspects of the business - right from finance, interaction with buyers, premises, compliances, hiring dispatch, and many others.
She says that she faced challenges at every step but took them as learnings to move forward in her business. During the pandemic, with the help of Walmart, she received an order of 80,000 masks and more and was also able to place orders with an elastic manufacturer.
“The coming together of Walmart, Sarangi, and another manufacturer turned out to be a win-win situation for us,” she adds.
The pandemic has further encouraged Babita to digitize her business by adopting the ecommerce channel. "With the help of Walmart Vriddhi team, we have recently started supplying our products on Flipkart. We were able to supply 125 rugs within a month of our onboarding."
Babita says she has already made a 70 percent recovery in revenues while some issues like logistics still remain, which she is sure will be ironed out in no time.
“I employ around 20 women full-time and contract other women when I have big orders. My biggest success is that I have been able to change their lives for the better. My goal is to expand by business to a level where I can employ more than a thousand women,” says Babita.