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Many older Indian women have become successful businesswomen even with a late start. Learn from these amazing women entrepreneurs in India.
By Nisha Salim
If you think that all Indian women in their golden years spend time singing bhajans, babysitting grandkids or watching saas-bahu soaps, you couldn’t be further from the truth.
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On the contrary, many older Indian women are turning successful businesswomen, generating jobs, contributing to our economy and also giving back to the society in a way that most young people cannot.
Successful businesswomen with a heart for society
Padma Subramaniam, also known as Pizza Granny, is a 75 year old entrepreneur who runs Pizza Haven, which is well known among the software techie crowd of Bangalore for their mouth-watering vegetarian pizzas. Padma, along with her business partner Jayalakshmi (77), started Pizza Haven to raise funds for Vishranti, the old age home that they started building in 2003.
“I was brought up in a very conservative South Indian family. Within 10 years of my marriage I lost my husband and was left with the tremendous responsibility of raising my 8 year old daughter and 3 year old son. People may sympathize with you for a few days, but after that you are on your own. But there are also people who go out of their way to help you,” says Padma.
Padma was offered a job at her husband’s office and she retired as a Finance Manager. “I wanted to give something back to the society that has given so much to me,” she adds.
Padma acknowledges the strong support provided by her daughter Sarasa Vasudevan to start Vishranti and Pizza Haven. Now they have several outlets in Bangalore and they also operate out of the premises of many software companies. Sarasa attributes the success of Pizza Haven to Padma and Jayalakhmi, and the connection that they have been able to build with the younger generation.
I wanted to give something back to the society that has given so much to me…
“There were many naysayers, but they are all singing a different tune now,” laughs Sarasa. Vishranti is now providing vocational training to youngsters and has several other social service projects in the pipeline. “Women must think big. If you are making pappadom and pickle for the local market, why not think about exporting? Why not pack an energy bar?” questions Sarasa.
Vishranti and Pizza Haven help these entrepreneurs build meaningful connections with society and enrich their own lives.
Turning entrepreneur changes your life
Improvement in the quality of life is one of the most positive effects of starting her own business, according to Greta, 53, a nail artist who runs RVS Nail Studio FX (in pic) at Raghu Leela Mega Mall, Khandivli. Greta started her own nail business in 2005 after 16 years of being a homemaker. Her French tipping, nail piercing, artificial nails, stencils and nail tattoos are hugely popular among the well-groomed Mumbaikars. “Since I usually travel abroad along with my husband, I could learn more about nail art and source good quality materials,” states Greta.
Being a nail artist has totally changed her life, by Greta’s own admission. It has brought her out of her shell and has improved her life. She advises all Indian women to start something that they are interested in. “Of course you need a supportive family, else it is very difficult,” reminds Greta.
Family support is something that comes up time and again during discussions with these amazing women. Men have always had this support by default. It is heartening to see that older Indian women in business are also being supported in just the same way by their families.
Puspalata, 79, got married when she was 13 years old. Even in those days, her young husband used to bring home English text books to teach her. Now, with the support of her great-grand-daughter-in-law, Lima, Puspalata has launched a totally novel online store called Granny’s Love, which sells knit materials. It is more of a labour of love than a money making venture for Puspalata and the 7 other grannies who knit for orders placed via their website.
Granny Puspalata has a happiness in her voice that leaves one with a warm glow. “Don’t keep complaining and sit inside the house brooding. Learn from both the young and old.” This is her advice for a happy life.
Never too late to join the league of successful businesswomen
Women entrepreneurs in India have some peculiar cultural obstacles to overcome, when they want to start a business. Ela Bhatt, the “gentle revolutionary” who founded SEWA, couldn’t have said it better. “The way to move ahead is to focus on moving ahead as an entrepreneur and not get caught up in the limitations. What we as entrepreneurs do with these limitations is more important than how well we worked, or complaining about the limitations in our enterprise.”
It is heart-warming to see how these older Indian women are contributing to the society and enriching their lives. The way they are forging ahead as successful businesswomen is an inspiration for every young woman entrepreneur in India.
Nisha Salim is a self-employed writer and a social media junkie.
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