A new initiative by the FICCI Ladies Organisation aims to create more business and partnership opportunities for women entrepreneurs in India and China. Nivedita Singh reports.

 

The FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO) recently took a delegation of Indian businesswomen to meet the Chinese ambassador to India, Luo Zhaohui, as part of an ongoing campaign aimed at creating new opportunities for women entrepreneurs in India and China.

The prime objective of this initiative is to facilitate business tie-ups and joint ventures between women entrepreneurs of the two countries. According to FLO president Harjinder Kaur Talwar, who has conceptualised and is spearheading this campaign, making the business environment more enabling from women is the need of the hour in the developing world. This is something that can be built upon the existing foundation of thriving bilateral relations between Indian and China.

On 23 May, a seminar was held at the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi with a special focus on this issue. It was attended by Talwar and other FLO members, as well as by women entrepreneurs and dignitaries from the two countries. The day’s agenda included keynote speeches on women in business, interactive sessions with business and political leaders, and cultural performances—a fashion show, a martial arts performance and a traditional Chinese “flower picking” dance—by Chinese artistes.

“It was a very meaningful and interesting session,” Harjinder Kaur Talwar said about the day’s proceedings. “We were touched by the hospitality shown by His Excellency Luo Zhaohui, the Chinese Ambassador to India, and his wife Dr Jiang Yili. While both the countries have had their share of issues and challenges along the way, it is also my belief that the relationship between these two countries will have positive and unprecedented benefits in time to come.”

Women’s empowerment is a global issue and fostering the spirit of entrepreneurship among women takes us one step closer to gender equality—this was the message one took away from Talwar’s speech at the Delhi event.

“I completely identify with what our honourable Prime Minister had said at the Shangri-La dialogue in Singapore last year, that Asia and the world will have a better future when India and China work together in trust and confidence by being sensitive to each other’s interest,” Talwar said in her address.

The keynotes were followed by a presentation, on economic and trade relations between the two countries, by Ji Wenhua, first secretary, commercial division of the Chinese embassy. He spoke about the trade deals between China and India, and about the benefits of strengthening the economic ties between the two countries. Wenhua said, “Bilateral trade is growing very fast, especially in the last two years it has had a robust double digit growth.”

FLO delegation at the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi.

The two emerging economies have grown at a historic pace over the last few decades, and with new Chinese investment being directed to India’s electronic, IT and hardware sectors, the growth figures are set to rise further in the near future, according to Wenhua.

Today, China is India’s largest trading partner. Trade between the two countries, which was less than $200 million few years ago, touched US$89.6 billion in 2017-18. So it’s all the more necessary in our time to encourage women to come forward and actively participate in helping construct sturdier financial bridges between the two countries.

But for that to happen, we need a more supportive ecosystem in place for women entrepreneurs in both the countries, just as we need many more initiatives of the kind launched by the FLO.

Female entrepreneurs account for one quarter of the total number of entrepreneurs in China, and about 55% of new Internet businesses there are founded by women. A survey on the social status of Chinese women shows that the participation of women in secondary and tertiary industries grew by 25% in the last decade.

For its part, India is making similar headway in terms of creating a hospitable space for women entrepreneurs. Saloni Mehta, a national governing body member of the FLO, said that in contemporary India, there are many support systems available for women who wish to set up their own businesses. “It is very easy for a woman in India to set up a business. From the government’s side, there are thousands of schemes meant for women entrepreneurs. And at FLO, we have the SWAYM scheme, another initiative to help women entrepreneurs,” she said.

Over the coming weeks, FLO is planning to organise more such meets and events at different centres across India. Besides these, plans are also afoot for workshops on digital marketing and social media tips for women entrepreneurs.

 

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