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Rashmi Bansal’s Follow Every Rainbow is a collection of inspiring, real life stories of some strong women who’ve charted their own paths.
By Sandhya Renukamba
More and more women have been moving away from the mere ‘having a job’ to having a career. That includes being entrepreneurs. It could be a natural extension of educational qualifications. It could be financial necessity, a hobby that metamorphoses into a profession, or the growth and diversification of a nascent venture. I personally know of a few success stories, as well as some that didn’t quite realize their potential.
Starting off on your own, with or often without the support of family and friends, with just your dreams, your vision, your skills, your hard work, and your grit to fall back on – it can be frightening and exhilarating all at once.
Traditionally, the home has been considered as women’s turf, and consequently, they often wrestle with guilt if they are unable to fulfil these expectations – of being the perfect wife, mother or homemaker. This is more so when they take their flight in the face of disapproval or non-cooperation.
It is obvious that when an individual goes the way of entrepreneurship, many compromises have to be made, by the individual, their family, and other dependents. It should not matter, then, if it was a man or woman. I recently had reason to speak with two women who tried their hand at an entrepreneurial venture. They got fairly large orders quite early in their partnership. The problem arose when one partner’s husband created trouble over her work ‘spilling over’ into what he considered was time she should be devoting to him and their children. This state of affairs skewed the workload in the direction of her business partner, who then began to face similar problems with her family, as they began considering themselves the disadvantaged party over her increasing involvement in the business. Needless to say, the joint venture was soon shelved.
As always, women have to go that extra mile if they have to be as successful as their male counterparts – this is the unfortunate truth about our society. Every woman entrepreneur featured in Rashmi Bansal’s Follow Every Rainbow has been there, done that. The stories here have been placed under three broad categories: Lakshmi – those who had great business ideas and supportive families actively involved in the business. Durga – the militant ones, who rose from difficult personal circumstances and often despite resistance. Saraswati – those whose businesses were a natural extension of their education, as a matter of course, and weren’t fettered down as a function of their gender.
The entrepreneurs featured cover an entire spectrum of possibilities. A small sample here might give you a foretaste of what can be expected. There are those dealing with handicrafts like Neerja International as well as pharmaceuticals like Murli Krishna Pharma; designer clothes like Biba as well as farming products like Vivam Agrotech; service apartments like Swan Suites as well as a women’s co-operative like SEWA that has shown how women-power can be harnessed for the upliftment of a whole community. There is Premlata Agarwal who had been an ordinary homemaker till her late 30s, when an encounter with Bachendri Pal inspired her to try mountain climbing, becoming the oldest Indian woman to set foot on the Everest at 48 years of age. There is Shonaquip, that started with one mother’s ceaseless quest for creating a wheelchair customized for her cerebral palsy affected daughter, providing her with a better quality of life – which has morphed over two decades into an enterprise that has benefited more than 65,000 differently-abled persons, with the World Health Organisation now taking the program global.
I have to admit that I began to read this book with some reservations. I have not been overly enamoured of the writer’s style, having read some of her earlier works, which didn’t really work for me. I picked up this book purely on account of its premise, hoping to learn more about these women, some of whose work I was already in awe of. As I had expected, I plodded on through chapter after chapter, trying to extract these gems from among the often banal and gossipy narrative. It could have been presented in a better way, without somehow seeming patronizing – and a tad belittling to their achievements.
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In her role as the Senior Editor & Community Manager at Women's Web, Sandhya
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