The association today stands tall in pride as its women for women and entrepreneur volunteer approach has paid a definitive dividend with lakhs of women across the state setting up their own enterprises.
In an exclusive interaction with SupportBiz, Dhanvanthi Jain, President, AWAKE shares her views on the association, its mission and vision.
How would you explain AWAKE and its nature of business?
AWAKE was formed in 1983 and today, after nearly three decades of commendable service, the organization has more than 4000 direct members and innumerable indirect members across Karnataka, all women entrepreneurs. AWAKE is a two-faceted organization. It is an industrial association on one side while on the other, it is a rural developmental organization. As an industrial association, we are part of all the policy making bodies at both the state and the central governments and on the rural developmental side, our sole focus is to create entrepreneurs.
We have several requests coming from many other states and so, we are contemplating on growing out of the state. We might open AWAKE centers in other states, may be five years down the line.
How do you create entrepreneurs?
We create entrepreneurship through training programs. Our programs are open to anyone who wants to set up an enterprise regardless of their economic status, religious views, castes etc. Anybody can walk into our programs or to our centers where our certified business counselors will guide them on the right direction. The programs include entrepreneurship awareness, entrepreneurship development, skill development and will be counseled on how and what it takes to set up and successfully run an enterprise.
How do you design your programs?
Our training program is designed by industry experts and it is a tried and tested module which undergoes necessary changes to suite the new situations. The program is designed in such a way that the attendee will return with an initial draft of the business idea at the end of the program. The process can take as short as 15 days to up to two months depending on the business idea. The program happens throughout the state in various centers. We do follow up support, mentoring support, refer them to the banks for financial assistance, and we work with them in the process.
How far the programs helped AWAKE in achieving its stated objectives?
Our motto is not just to empower women, but empower the youth and create jobs for the youth in the rural areas. The association has helped to create more than one lakh employment directly and indirectly ever since its creation. We have counseled more than 40 lakhs women through business counseling and awareness programs; created market linkages through exhibitions, buyer seller meets for over 75000 women entrepreneurs; created a network with over 200 organizations, institutions of regional, national and international level; reached out to over 50 lakh women in rural and urban areas across the state.
How do you help in getting financial assistance?
We do a lot of credit reference. It makes the banks to take decision quick. We also help the budding entrepreneur fine tune their project report. Majority of our trainees gets funded.
How do young women respond to your initiatives?
There are a good number of young women coming forward. Almost 30 per cent are young ones and in the rural areas they are the majority. However, women-owned MSMEs still remains to be as low as just 10 per cent in the country and we are working hard towards making it at least 25 per cent by 2015.
What are the major industries women venturing into?
Service industry is the favorite choice because it does not require big investment. Of late, women are also getting into big time businesses like biotechnology, pharmaceutical, IT etc. We have people from food processing, textile, handicraft even to high-end engineering sector. The top five would be food processing, textile, services, engineering and IT/biotechnology.
What are the major challenges AWAKE is faced with?
Finance of course becomes a concern at times for the capacity building of the organization. We do not get any grants and we do not take any. We work on a project based funding system. So the major problem is the admin cost of the organization. Creating awareness is also a challenge. Access to finance, marketing and developing infrastructure are some of the major challenges.
What are the key future initiatives?
Our key projects are:
- Sector Specific Clusters across Karnataka
- ARISE - AWAKE’s center for entrepreneurial excellence at Bidadi on a 5 acres of land whereby we propose to develop a center that can offer everything for women entrepreneurs under one roof.
- AWAKE’s Industrial Estates for women. We are planning at least three and are in the process of identifying locations.
- AWAKE’s incubators centers across Karnataka for various industries including food processing.
- We are also planning to set up our own Mahila Co-operative Bank and Awake Marketing Society to make it easier for women entrepreneurs to get financial assistance and to better market their business projects.