We are at Abira, a business set up by one of our alumni- Priyanka Khandelwal. Abira creates fashion jewellery, but more importantly, creates independent, confident craftswomen. We are received with great enthusiasm by the Abira team- Abiras as Priyanka calls them.
Priyanka, tells us about how she began her enterprise. She was working with Anju Bansal in a jewellery-making business that sourced products from China. Priyanka, wanted to create this high quality jewellery in India by training women from lower economic backgrounds and with no previous experience. This was a big challenge, which she overcame by working together with the women she hired and trained. When Priyanka hires her Abiras, she looks for nothing more than the desire to work hard. The year-long training program builds on inherent skills and channels the women into jewellery-making, quality-control, marketing, accounts etc. But what is unique is how Priyanka develops the women’s personalities by teaching communication skills , teamwork and leadership. This for-profit organisation has the soul of a social enterprise.
The work areas are clean and cheerful. The walls are full of professional shots of the Abiras, modelling the jewellery they have created . They look stunning. The photographs too, are taken by one of them- an Abira training to be a photographer. There are 25 women working with Priyanka today and she plans to grow her business by also training women to be carers for the elderly as well as for children.
Priyanka invites the Abiras to speak. Each is surprisingly articulate and confident. They speak emotionally about how financial independence through jewellery-making is just a part of what they have gained at Abira. They have found a voice, they have found companionship and they have found the ability to live their dreams. We are moved by their heartfelt words. The impact Priyanka’s enterprise is creating is obvious.
I am reminded of the solar engineer grandmothers of the Barefoot college at Tilonia whom we meet during the Yatra. It’s the same joyful spirit and confidence that we see here. No coincidence, as the Barefoot college was a great inspiration to Priyanka when she joined the Jagriti Yatra in 2013 as a Yatri, and again in 2015 as a voluntary organiser – a part of the engine room club ERC.
The Jagriti Yatra, is an intense experiential program that inspires future young entrepreneurs to build India through enterprise. It takes the form of a 15 day pan-India journey of learning and inspiration. Each year at least 40% participants are women and 65 % from tier 3, 4 districts. After the 15 days, we organise mentorship workshops to sustain and build on the Yatra learnings. In March, we organise the Jagriti Sakhi Udyogini – events to promote women-centric enterprise, as well as networking and mentoring among Yatra alumni.
The audience today is mainly composed of Yatra Alumni and interestingly, there are more men than women. An informal discussion begins and I see networking in action. One Yatri recommends the latest NSDC programs to Priyanka. Another suggests mentors for her next horizon- training women for senior- care. Yet another puts her in touch with a potential investor. Many ask questions to understand her financial model and growth strategy and share lessons from their own ventures. All are energised by what Priyanka has created.
The event ends with delicious wada- paav, the Yatri Geet and a feeling of joy. The Yatra spirit is rekindled. I congratulate Priyanka on what she has created and wish her luck. Her response is simple – “ It’s all the effect of the Yatra”. The effort of hundreds of selfless volunteers that make the Yatra, is validated once again. The journey goes on.