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Gargi Gupta in New Delhi | June 23, 2006
Nidhi Singhania had a problem -- she couldn't quite follow what her husband would say about his silk export business, or even his relatively casual mutterings on the day's news in the pink papers. Married at a young age, Nidhi had taken her BCom exam after marriage and then settled for a life of motherhood.
It's a familiar story, especially so in family settings where higher education is considered a must for girls, but not necessarily a career. The result: one's skills begin to atrophy, engagement with the wider world nosedives, and confidence slides.
Millennium Mams, set up in 1994 by Bishnu Dhanuka, a Kolkata businessmen, and Sanjay Bhuwania, a chartered accountant, is meant for just such women. In essence, it's a study circle designed to keep the wives of businessmen/executives informed of the world of business.
Through a series of classes, they are brought up-to-date on the economy, capital markets, accountancy and the like. There are no books: only business papers and magazines, apart from the odd investors' journal -- to ensure a degree of investment savviness.
And best of all, Millennium Mams, a registered non-profit trust, charges no fee for the classes (not that affordability would be an issue for the "students", well-to-do as they are).
Till date, there are already more than 600 "Millennium Mams" who have done the two-year course. There's a qualifying exam at the end.
As with any institution, its alumni are its most compelling recommendation. Take Aruna Dhanuka, one of the earliest "students".
Married at 15, a mother at 17, so innocent was Aruna of the world of business that before signing a cheque she would call up her husband to ask if it was alright. Today, Aruna takes decisions on the portfolio of investments for her husband's company and the various trusts the family manages.
The other indicator of Millennium Mams' success is the rush of students. Last year, it got over 150 applications for the 35-40 seats on offer. It opened its Delhi chapter last year, enrolling women from eminent business families.
Inquiries are coming in from Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai, but Dhanuka says it'll be difficult to give the kind of "personalised service" that is its forte.
Millennium Mams has been using its core competence to widen its expanse of activities, though. Millennium Youth, for example, holds summer camps to expose young students to money matters.
Mam's Forte is a forum for applicants who couldn't make it to the classes that invites business personalities to talk about business. Interest levels are soaring.
Business education, if this can be described as such, is fast losing its male predominance, and that's good news for Indian business per se.