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It's woman power on the Internet

Last updated on: January 9, 2012 10:55 IST

It's woman power on the Internet

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M Saraswathy in Mumbai

Shaifali Aggarwal, a single woman in New Delhi, always found it difficult finding people to carry out household repairs.

Even if she had to get a door-lock repaired, she often waited for around one-and-a-half months, as she, being a working woman, never got the time to get them fixed.

It was then that an idea clicked in her mind, and she decided to start a service for renting a carpenter, plumber and electrician.

Her plans took shape when she launched a portal, easyfix.in, in March 2011, and since then she has never looked back.

Now, her portal receives about 30 calls a day from the initial 5 calls a day, and the number of calls is growing.

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Mallika Sreekumar, Founder of Waves Hair, found her calling in the business of Indian human hair exports when she had gone to Brazil.

There, she saw buyers purchasing human hair from India, via the Internet, and she immediately registered herself on the online portal of Alibaba.com.

"After interacting with the women buyers in that country, I understood that as a woman I would be able to understand their preferences better," says Sreekumar.

Her business is export-oriented, and she is using Alibaba.com as a channel to run the business. Today, Waves Hair is managed entirely by a team of women, and it has close to a $1 million turnover.

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Personal experiences and financial stability and growth through e-commerce route have prompted Aggarwal, Sreekumar and a few other women to start their businesses using the Internet.

Shanaya Modi of Mazda imbibed the entrepreneurial spirit from her family, which is into the engineering business.

"For me, being a Gujarati, it is the most natural thing to do. And what other markets (could I have chosen) than the e-commerce space, where buyers and sellers are in abundance and the transaction is cheaper," said Modi.

Sreekumar informs that the number of prospective customers, whom she is able to contact, is tremendous.

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Site analysis on Alibaba.com recently showed that its women membership base has seen a healthy growth of 71 per cent year-on-year basis.

Modi, director of Mazda Ltd, is in the business of food processing and conducts her business almost entirely on the internet.

"The most critical benefit that I have derived from the internet and e-commerce is that it removes gender bias as the online medium gives us a layer of invisibility.

With such platforms, we can break the socio-economic barriers prevalent in our society," she says. E-commerce has facilitated her in getting customers from Russia, UK, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and the US.

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Modi branched out to start a new business, BCool, from the typical heavy engineering business, Mazda Ltd.

From a plot of unused factory land, she ventured out into manufacturing and exporting premium instant powdered soft drink mixes, food colour, flavouring essence, rose-syrups and jams.

She started the F&B division of her business through Alibaba.com in 2005, and since then her business has grown by 125 per cent.

Almost 100 per cent of her business comes through Alibaba.com, and by March 2012 her company's annual turnover is expected to touch Rs 6 crore (Rs 60 million).

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Tags: , Mazda

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"Women entrepreneurs in India are faced with the dual task of managing their home as well as their business.

"Since they have to manage their homes, they have less time for business development.

"With e-commerce, women entrepreneurs can save time in every step of their business cycle, including identifying business opportunities, purchasing raw material and finding sale leads online," said Sandeep Deshpande, country manager, Alibaba.com, India.

At eBay, women consist of 10 per cent of its seller base. Theresa David, an entrepreneur dealing with digital cameras and handicams, got into the profession to take her family business online.

From beginning from a store in a mall, David managed to bring growth to her business through online, and now she generates average monthly sales of Rs 20 lakh (Rs 2 million).

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For Preeti Arora, 'work from home' was the most logical proposition when she gave birth to a baby girl.

Since she was a regular shopper at eBay, she decided to go to the other side of the platform.

"I loved jewellery, and hence dealing in artificial jewellery and kundan was the most obvious choice for me," says Arora.

The portal has not only helped her in attracting buyers, it has also assisted her in achieving financial stability.

Has it been a smooth journey for these women?

No, not for most of them.

Entrepreneurs like David and Modi had to face the wrath of the men-dominated e-commerce space in the initial phases.

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"When I started off at the age of 22 and I being the only women dealer in this business, I was not taken seriously.

"Now, the situation has completely changed in our favour," informs David.

She, however, explains that though the scenario has changed today, people still are a little uncomfortable with women.

"But this cannot underestimate the reach and benefits of this medium. E-commerce as a concept is revolutionary for us.

"This is because it helps us identify the serious customers from the others.

"Even if 20 per cent of the enquiries get converted into sales, it is good business for us. It is definitely a cheaper, quicker, cleaner and easier medium for entrepreneurs like me," concludes Modi.



Tags: Modi , David

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