Solid, inspirational stories from women entrepreneurs in rural India – and when those stories are beautifully presented in visual graphics and dialogue – what’s not to love?
“WE mean business – 20 women entrepreneurs, 20 stories”, On Saturday 15 October 2022, a graphic novel with 20 real stories by women entrepreneurs of the project Her&Now of the German development organization GIZ India was presented at Triveni Kala Sangam in New Delhi. The Hindi version of the novel, entitled Mera Business, Meri Kahaani, has also been launched.
Published by GIZ, co-edited by Yoda Press and printed by Fortune Print Services, the stories were written and illustrated by Vishwajyoti Ghosh, Shrutika Mathur, and Nishtha Vadehra.
Julia Karst, The leader of the project Her&Now, GIZ India, said at the event: “This book is a tribute to women entrepreneurs in India. This graphic anthology showcases the unique and diverse reality of women entrepreneurs across all industries, geographies, ages and social groups. By highlighting the success stories of well-known role models, we hope this book stimulates conversations about the role of women in business and encourages many more young women across the country to take up entrepreneurship!”
Also on stage were the artists behind the book – Vishwajyoti Ghosh, the illustrator; Shrutika Mathur, the author; and Nishtha Vadehra, the editor.
“This is a book of conversations with female entrepreneurs that immerse us in their worlds and journeys. In each of these stories we have distinct visual opportunities to articulate their familiar challenges in unfamiliar territory and to see the inspiring opportunities to make things happen on their own terms,” Shrutika said.
Vishwajyoti, who is credited for the popular political graphic novel Delhi Calm, remarked that working on the novel was a lesson for him and his idea of what a “successful” business meant was thoroughly challenged by the experience . “The kind of impact that upstate entrepreneurs have had in creating jobs, education and livelihoods for other women in their area shows that the success of a business isn’t just about the financial numbers, as we’re often led to believe, but,” he said.
Brave stories from the hinterland
The female entrepreneurs featured in the novel are mainly from Tier II and Tier III cities and rural areas of Northeast India, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Telangana. They all belong to different lines of business and different backgrounds, and no two of their struggles are the same.
Although all 20 women entrepreneurs featured in the novel were unable to attend the event, five women made themselves felt. Among these were Ishu Shiva, Founder, Sanitree, Rajasthan; Saka Shailaja, Founder, Roja’s Industries, Telangana; Hemlata Mishra, Founder, MADNext Advertising, Rajasthan; Dilu Sharma, Founder, OMG (OMG) Zindagi, Sikkim and Neerja Palisetty, Founder, Sutrakaar Creations, Rajasthan.
“I haven’t been recognized for 30 years, but I feel really motivated and happy to be standing here and being part of this launch. This is really a good platform for me and it will help me to encourage so many women. I have supported and trained 30,000 students in my life so far, but I promise here that next year I will support and motivate 20,000 more students and change their lives,” said Saka, a Dalit entrepreneur who founded a beauty school and eventually got started to train other women in running salons. In 2019, Saka started making beauty products under her own brand, Synnove.
Ishu Shiva, founding member of Sanitree, a social enterprise, said: “I still can’t believe I’m standing here and holding a book that features my story. It’s an overwhelming feeling for me. My parents will be very proud of my achievements and that is the biggest achievement for me. Thank you, Project Her&Now, for supporting us and bringing our stories to the world through this book.” Sanitree fights period poverty and works to end the stigma of menstruation in rural Rajasthan.
Dilu Sharma, who launched OMG Zindagi, a digital platform showcasing young and emerging talent from North East India, hoped her story would inspire other women in India to embrace entrepreneurship as a viable career option. Dilu’s Gangtok-based media platform has managed to establish a sustainable revenue model and has over 17,000 subscribers on YouTube and 75,000 followers on Facebook.
The book is available in select bookstores across the country and will soon be available on Amazon.