Three women entrepreneurs from across India will be selected as part of a fellowship program that will allow them to visit the U.S. and get hands-on experience on the working of a globally successful start-up in that country, officials said.
As many as 450 entrepreneurs were selected as part of the All India Roadshow on Women’s Economic Empowerment through Entrepreneurship (AIRSWEEE) 2.0 this year and 125 from its previous edition in 2016.
The AIRSWEEE is TiE Global’s marquee women’s entrepreneurship program, supported by the U.S. Embassy in India, that seeks to not only economically empower women but also promote gender equality and boost their self-confidence.
“A pool of 575 women entrepreneurs drawn from 125 Tier-II and Tier-III cities of India have been trained by mentors from both the countries as part of the two editions of AIRSWEEE, spanning nearly 20 states. From this pool now, 30 candidates would be selected to shadow a successful start-up in their respective regions to gain exposure in the industry,” Seema Chaturvedi, chairperson of Project AIRSWEEE, said.
A former TiE Global Board member, Chaturvedi said, from the group of 30, eventually three women entrepreneurs would be selected to visit the U.S. on a sponsored trip, and they would experience from close the workings of a globally successful start-up there.
She was speaking at the opening of the two-day ‘Women Entrepreneurs Conclave 2.0 – Engaged and Empowered’ held at the India Habitat Center, in New Delhi, where 25 candidates selected from stage two of the AIRSWEEE 2.0 participated.
The two programs — AIRSWEEE Scale-Up Fellows and AIRSWEEE Global Fellows — were launched Monday by TiE Global in partnership with the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi and its four consulates in Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai, and Kolkata, the Embassy said.
MaryKay Carlson, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy, in her keynote address, said, U.S.-India ties are “24×7, 365 days and 360 degrees.”
“If there is a big pie chart, and we divide it into every realm of human endeavors and put a spin dial to it… the dots on it may represent combating tuberculosis or combating terrorism, or entrepreneurship and women empowerment, security collaboration, education, environmental issues,” she said.
“And, no matter where that dial lands, for U.S.-India, every field is important. We never get to that point where we have to say, spin it again, we are such strong, natural allies,” Carlson said.
On AIRSWEEE, the deputy chief of mission said the U.S. government supported programs that promoted women entrepreneurs because these programs “benefit both our countries.”
She added Indian entrepreneurs were not only solving problems in India but also in the U.S. and around the world.
“What I find so impressive about entrepreneurs is the motivation, the vision, the guts to break stereotypes, break mold, get out there and try new ideas to improve the world,” Carlson said.
Chaturvedi said most of the entrepreneurs were in the age bracket of late 20s and 30s.
“There was one 60-year-old entrepreneur too, selected from Coimbatore, who had worked on organic products. And, a young 22-year-old from Bhubaneswar participated in the event as well. A woman we had earlier selected had suffered domestic abuse and entrepreneurship became a way out of it. So, our aim is to not just economically empower them but also promote gender equity and boost their self-confidence,” she said.
The event also hosted an ‘elevator pitch’ session for 25 AIRSWEEE 2.0 mentees, chosen from cities, including Lucknow, Patna and Bhubaneswar. The 60-second pitch was judged by Erik Azulay, director of NEXUS program, a business incubator housed at the American Center in New Delhi.
“Funded by the U.S. State Department, AIRSWEEE Scale-Up Fellows program will provide mentorship to 30 young, innovative women from across India to scale up their enterprises through hands-on industry mentorship. The top three Scale-Up Fellows will be sponsored for a visit to the U.S. as AIRSWEEE Global Fellows and will be mentored by a host U.S. organization that will provide them a window to global best practices,” the Embassy said.
Chaturvedi said, the process for the fellowship program is likely to be announced early December.
Anna Roy, adviser at NITI Aayog, urged women entrepreneurs to join the Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP) that was launched on the International Women’s Day (March 8) to realize their entrepreneurial aspirations, scale-up innovative initiatives and chalk-out sustainable, long-term strategies for their businesses.
She said the NITI Aayog was open to lending support to the AIRSWEEE, but added, “We need to have deliverables chalked out, which should be timely monitored, before committing to having any entity as a partner onboard.”
“We are also working on a chatbot and an app for the WEP,” she said.