Beating economic blues amidst pandemic


Undaunted by job loss, three women diversify from their core areas of expertise to launch new ventures and make success stories out of them for others to follow.

Seeing an opportunity in every crisis is the defining characteristic of an entrepreneur. Most successful entrepreneurs use crisis to their advantage by repurposing their business to changing circumstances.

COVID pandemic has posed a challenge of epic proportion to entrepreneurs. Especially, women entrepreneurs who have to multitask – care for the family members, do household chores as well as manage their business.

While many women-owned enterprises are struggling to survive amidst the pandemic, there are inspiring examples of women who have used this crisis to pivot their business model. This article presents the success stories of three enterprising women who have turned a crisis into an opportunity.

Chitra Kambli, a Thane district resident found a business proposition in supplying vegetables to households as people had apprehensions venturing out amidst the pandemic. She was running a day care facility for infants and children below the age of seven for the last eight years. The day care facility had to be closed following an outbreak and the three women who used to work in the facility lost jobs.

In April 2020, Chitra decided to home-deliver vegetables in her neighbourhood. She employed two men for procuring vegetables in bulk from Kalyan wholesale vegetable market. She had the mobile numbers of the parents who were the clients of her centre. Every day, she would send a Whatsapp message to them informing about the vegetables available along with the price. She started receiving orders on Whatsapp. She also opened a Google Pay Account to enable buyers to make online payment for their purchases. On an average Chitra receives around 70 orders. After meeting all expenses, she made a profit of Rs. 600 every day.

Mumbai-based clinical dietician Kanchan Patwardhan too had to re-invent her business following the lockdown. She is the founder of Kanchan’s House of Health & Nutrition. Her diet products cater to the specific health concerns of pregnant women, children and people suffering from diabetes, hypertension and other ailments.

In order to expand business, in December 2019, she had launched a food processing business to manufacture and supply premium health and diet products under the brand Dr. Nutree. With the lockdown, her clinic had to be closed for face-to-face counseling. Realizing that digital technology could navigate her through this crisis, she along with her team of three dieticians switched over to online counseling and consultation to their existing clients. The team also conducted free online webinars for educational institutions and corporates on healthy diet, workout and lifestyle management for sound physical and mental wellbeing.

In order to create large-scale awareness about healthy food habits and boosting immunity amidst the pandemic, she shared recipes of nutrition food on YouTube. That attracted significant number of viewers and she began receiving business enquires and new orders. Her brand of healthy food products gained considerable popularity and her wise counseling earned trust among prospective clients.

Orders for health mix products were received through Facebook, Whatsapp and other digital platforms and these orders were fulfilled by hiring a courier services company. Even though the input cost had increased because of supply disruption during the lockdown, Kanchan did not increase the price of her products, nor did she compromise on quality.

Kanchan has a piece of advice for women entrepreneurs.She says women should not allow their entrepreneurial flame to be doused under any circumstances. They should take challenges head-on and revive their business through product and process innovation. Kanchan is also happy that she could also spend quality time with her family during the lockdown.

Thane-based Vibhuti Karnik Kulkarni, Proprietor, Career Vision is yet another fine example of a successful entrepreneur. Career Vision conducts skill development programmes in English speaking, foreign language, personality development, child skill development and pre-school teacher training courses through its 51 franchisees across the country. Around 100 women trainers are employed in these centres.

Before the pandemic, these skill centres catered only to the local areas through physical classroom lectures. Following the pandemic, Career Vision adopted digital technology to provide online training classes to students even outside India. Her organisation trained more than 500 women across India on various skill development courses so that they could start their own business and be financially independent. The certified skill training programmes offered by Career Vision are recognized by Government of India and also other countries. Recently, Career Vision partnered with the Centre for Career Guidance, Mauritius to impart pre-school teacher training to interested candidates.

In yet another initiative, Vibhuti launched Pakhi Foods to supply ‘ready to cook and frozen foods’. She obtained franchise from large, reputed organizations for supplying vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. This initiative provided employment to around 15 distributors for supplying food items across the country.

Vibhuti is also the Director of Anjali Doors Pvt. Ltd., which manufactures metal and fire-safety doors for hospitals, industries, schools, and other establishments. The demand for sanitising products grew manifold during the pandemic. To meet this demand, Anjali Doors started manufacturing automized sanitising tunnels and pedestal hand sanitizer stands for which she received overwhelming orders from banks, offices, hospitals, industrial establishments and residential complexes.

Vibhuti strongly feels that women can use their multi-tasking skills to excel both at home and at business. Her deft handling of family and business responsibilities has motivated her 16-year old daughter to assist her in managing the digital platforms of the business. According to her, married women should not drop their career aspirations under pressure of family commitments. Instead, they should try to strike a right balance between work and life.

Role of MVIRDC World Trade Center Mumbai

MVIRDC (M. Visveswaraya Industrial Research and Development Centre), World Trade Centre, Mumbai reaffirms its commitment to stand by thousands of women enterprises in Maharashtra and across India during this challenging time. Through workshops and other online programmes, we are educating women entrepreneurs and other small business owners on adopting digital technologies to sustain their business.

On 7 June 2020, with the help of veteran management consultants, we conducted a special online programme to guide women entrepreneurs on ways to overcome technology challenges. Recently, we organised a workshop on Digital Content Management that focused on how small business owners can use digital tools to promote their products and services. In July 2020, we organised a webinar with the world’s leading online retailer Amazon on how our micro entrepreneurs can showcase and sell their products through its website. World Trade Center Mumbai is also creating awareness about the e-trade desk, a unique initiative of World Trade Point Federation (WTPF), to enable local MSMEs access world markets in 70 countries.

No doubt, the epic proportion of the crisis is testing the survival of enterprises. But this is the moment to stay motivated and demonstrate perseverance as this is just another episode in the long entrepreneurial journey of a woman. The crisis of today will only strengthen our resilience and self-confidence. WTC Mumbai stands committed to mobilise resources for the revival of women-owned enterprises. Together, we can conquer this crisis through courage and conviction.

Rupa Naik

Rupa Naik is Senior Director MVIRDC, World Trade Centre, Mumbai. She is well travelled and has extensive knowledge and experience in trade promotional activities. She has been responsible for the active participation of the Government to support MSMEs and build a platform for women entrepreneurs in India, among other things.