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Increasing opportunities for women-led businesses in India

Sunday March 11, 2012 05:43:28 PM, Arun Kumar, IANS

Washington: An American organization that connects women-run businesses to multinational corporations around the world plans to help women business owners in India to sell their solutions, create economic prosperity and deliver jobs.

"Our plan is to continue to work with our members and our partners to increase opportunities for women business owners in India," Elizabeth A. Vazquez, CEO and Co-founder of WEConnect International, a Washington based corporate-led organization told IANS in an interview.

The non-profit that since its founding in 2009 has been connecting women entrepreneurs to other women entrepreneurs in markets as diverse as Peru and China, plans to continue to work with Ernst & Young to expand the number of Indian cities where it can offer certification.

In India, the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA), the UN International Trade Centre (ITC), the World Bank and WEConnect launched a grassroots programme designed to develop the skills of SEWA Gitanjali waste-pickers, the majority of whom were poor, illiterate and vulnerable female labourers.

With the objective to improve their livelihood prospects and sustained income, the project partners trained SEWA members in the production and marketing of office products made from 100 percent recycled paper, Vazquez said.

"Still underway, the project has already resulted in a 200 percent increase in productivity, increased earnings by 10 times, reduced input wastage by 88 percent, and made SEWA Gitanjali a competitively priced supplier to Accenture, a WEConnect founding corporate member," she said.

WEConnect also plans to continue working "with Accenture to build on the pilot project we did with SEWA and the amazing women they serve at the grassroots level," Vazquez said.

Besides Accenture, The WEConnect corporate network representing more than US$700 billion in annual purchasing power includes Apple, Google, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Cisco, Pfizer, Marriott, and founding member, Ernst & Young.

"Most of our international corporate members are present in India and looking for Supplier Diversity in their supply chain," and "Indian corporations are also looking to implement Supplier Diversity," Vazquez said.

"As they look to WEConnect to connect them to women owned suppliers and vendors, we are rapidly expanding our network of women owned businesses across a wide variety of sectors."

In India, WEConnect has worked with a number of partners including Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), ITC, Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, NASSCOM, World Bank, and women's business associations like AWAKE, Confederation Of Women Entrepreneurs (COWE), EMerg and Mahakaushal Association of Women Entreprenerus (MAWE).

"There's a growing demand for corporations to reach out to diverse suppliers that better reflect specific markets, to increase shareholder value and enhance competitive advantage," said Parul Soni, Executive Director at Ernst & Young in India, a founding corporate member of WEConnect International.

"Our partners help to promote the concept of inclusive sourcing in India and they work together to encourage women-owned businesses to think big and compete for larger contracts," said Vazquez.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at




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