Sundeep Bhutoria

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Marwari women – unshackling the entrepreneurial spirit

The business acumen of Marwari men is well known and an established fact. Strangely, the Marwari women, traditionally confined to the four walls of their house carrying out family chores, have been conspicuous by their absence in this matter. In fact, the Marwari women have along been branded as being among the best homemakers – a reputation which they actually live up to.
But times are now changing and I find it very encouraging to see that more and more Marwari women are stepping out of the confines of their homes to unshackle their entrepreneurial spirit in very new and surprising ways that is full of promise.
I have had interest in the subject because of my mother Late Dr Prabha Khaitan, who was one of the first among Marwari woman who stepped out of the inner confines of household to become a successful entrepreneur through her sheer grit and perseverance and without any family backing. In the 80s, she even adopted and successfully nurtured a line of business – leather products – which many traditional Marwari families would consider a taboo. She was much ahead of her times and had espoused the cause of women empowerment.
The trend started when the Marwari women, who are a very talented lot, started taking baby steps years back to move into the professional sphere. At first, the daughters and wives of big established industrial and business families started engaging in either jewellery or fashion designing or flower arrangements.
And then there were the likes of Manjusree Khaitan, Jayashree Mohta, Shobhna Bhartia and others who cut the mustard with the corporate world by taking up top positions in the companies run by their families and spearheading it. Their families also supported them and this was a good start for these women which also lifted up the spirit of homemaker Marwari women in general.
The recently launched psychological and cognitive welfare centre AddLife Caring Minds by Minu Budhia reflects this change and empowerment of Marwari women. The centre clearly reflects a serious corporate and entrepreneurial intent of Minu who has so far been in the background. Also, Madhu Neotia’s brainchild, the GENOME Fertility Centre in Kolkata and Siliguri and two more centres in Kalyani and Midnapore on the anvil, is yet another example of Madhu’s entrepreneurial zeal.
So it feels great when I see this change taking place all around me now at a scorching pace as Marwari women step out of their households to take on the world with their entrepreneurial zeal just as their men folk had done.
I think it is a matter of time before we find the Marwari competing with their men folk and others in business and the corporate world. Already there are young Marwari girls like Ridhi Agarwal who chucked her job to set up her own start-up. There are many others who are refusing campus placements to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.
The trend of women making it to the top echelons in high finance and corporate sector has already begun, led by the likes of Indra Nooyi, Chanda Kochar, Naina Lal Kidwai, Jyoti Naik, Dr Kiran Mazumdar Shaw and others. The Marwari women, who have been late starters, I am sure, would soon burst into the scene.
This is indeed a very positive and encouraging development.
ess bee

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