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WEE stirs up the entrepreneurial spirit in women

New Delhi: Priyanka Prabhakar has created STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math based) toys and board games managing to engage young minds during the COVID 19 lockdown and clocking a sale of Rs. 40 Lakh during the period. Meghna Gandhi worked with underprivileged women in Vadodara during the same period and created natural textiles and COVID 19 related accessories and touching a sale of Rs. 25 Lakh during the period. Snehal Verma worked with the fishermen of Chhattisgarh, Telangana, and AP and helped them improve their yield of fishes during the COVID 19 outbreak by helping them deploy their Internet Of Things (IoT) machine that helps improve water quality and fish harvest. They are three women entrepreneurs working with S&T entrepreneurship.

What binds them is that all three are winners at the Women Entrepreneurship and Empowerment (WEE) 5 cohort initiative that helps women ranging from college going students to a middle-aged housewife to embrace entrepreneurship as a viable, fulfilling career option. It is India’s first of its kind initiative to strengthen women’s ecosystem at IIT Delhi, supported and sponsored by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India. The cash awards in the form of a grant totalling Rs 25 lakh were presented to 11 Women entrepreneurs for their excellence.

Kalpana Arora, a Ph.D. in wastewater management from IIT Delhi, won Silver award for her products like sanitizers from wastewater. The second silver winner was Shivani Gupta (Ph.D.), who has developed a patent applied wound healing technology that is now under clinical trial at AIIMS (New Delhi). The product has already received acclaim from doctors from various hospitals, and pre-orders for the products have already been booked.

The bronze award winners were Neeta Doshi (Ph.D.) for creating a machine to convert air particles to rain, Rashi Verma who is working in the field of AR for farmers, MomySaikia working in field of domestic waste management, Ms. Abhishree Arora  (the youngest entrepreneur from IIT Delhi) who is working on simplifying mathematics for kids.

Two promising star awards were also given to Nitika Sonkhiya and Ritika Amit Kumar for demonstrating extraordinary entrepreneurial skills and creating business models that generated revenues even during the COVID 19 lockdown period.

The cohort was coached and trained by very eminent mentors from various fields. It was participation from women entrepreneurs coming from 16 different states all across India (from Himachal Pradesh to Vadodara, to Mizoram to Aurangabad, to Bangalore). The group trained consisted of women who were specialists in their specific fields, which ranged from STEM toys to Fish Farming to creating products from wastewater, to supporting micro-entrepreneurs in their business to healing physical wound technology. Three Patent filings have been initiated through this cohort.

The WEE Demo day was held virtually on 19th June 2020, and an eminent jury with international participation decided the winners. The Group was addressed By Prof. Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary DST, and Prof. Ramgopal Rao, Director IIT Delhi. The process was led by Dr. Anita Gupta, Scientist G/Advisor & Head- Innovation and Entrepreneurship, DST. WEE Founders Dr. Sarandeep Singh and Aparna Saroagi presented WEE journey and WEE vision to make the world more inclusive and sustainable.

Other eminent jury members were Dr. Anil Wali, Managing Director, FITT, IIT Delhi, Dr. Anita Lal Tripathi, Head, Entrepreneurship cell, FORE School, Anand Rohatgi, COO, Synergy Consulting and Yogesh Andlay, CO-Founder: Nucleus and Virtusa, Board Member, School of Inspired Learning as well as Prof Soumitra Dutta, Management Professor, Cornell University, New York and Spencer Lloyd, Global Head and Managing Director, Natwest Markets, Credit Risk.

WEE Foundation is India’s First of its kind social, national initiative by IIT Delhi and supported by DST to strengthen women entrepreneurship in the country and promote an ecosystem that enables creation and sustenance of such enterprises by women. The mentorship programme by WEE Foundation connects women entrepreneurs from all across India to potential investors and buyers for their products so that they can take their business idea to a financially sustainable enterprise.

“Broadbasing our pyramid of innovation needs, focus on diversity and inclusion, which need creating a level playing field and empowerment through mentorship, networking, informational resources, financial support, and policies. The models for enhancing the participation of women, such as the platform offered by WEE Foundation, are now being developed to reach the unreached, to leverage the latent,” said Prof Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, DST.


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