While there have been many concepts developed and implemented to empower women, there are only a few that can manage to leave a lasting impact. Ujjwala, a social incubator is one such Social Impact Company that was started to encourage would-be women entrepreneurs and provide them with the tools and skills for their entrepreneurial journey, especially in the service sector of Bangladesh.
Ujjwala is a “Social Impact Company” that aims to address the gender gap in the economic landscape of Bangladesh. The economy has been growing at a fast pace and the increase in per capita income of the consumers means that there is an opportunity for several sectors to flourish. At the same time, for the economy to sustain its momentum, it is essential to maintain the gender parity.
The initiators are aiming to advance the agenda of women empowerment by delivering a holistic set of transformative experiences to women entrepreneurs and professionals in growth-oriented sectors. The objective is to enable them to create sustainable enterprises and significant job opportunities for women.
Ujjwala has identified a few sectors that will perform much better for GDP growth. These are beauty & grooming, hospitality, retail, and health care. Currently, they are providing women with energizing opportunities to excel and to prove their entrepreneurial skills in these sectors. This, in a nutshell, is the concept or idea behind Ujjwala.
They have decided to begin the journey in the “Beauty & Grooming” sector before embarking upon others. In this context, Ujjwala conducted a qualitative research with 100+ parlour owners/professionals across Bangladesh, and the findings showed that entrepreneurship among women, especially in the rural areas was not encouraged by the family members nor was it an option that the women themselves considered much since they lack the confidence and the skills for the starting out on their own.
They have developed and designed their offers at Ujjwala to address this gap-apart from well-researched and relevant training modules, their students continue to receive support and encouragement from the larger community of those that have been associated with Ujjwala-their fellow students as well as professionals.
They not only share theoretical aspects with their participants, but also present them with adequate hands-on learning opportunities at their Learning Center in Niketon. All their training programs include valuable insights on developing soft skills such as business management, customer management, marketing and psychological skills like behavioral management, stress management, etc.
Moreover, their modules help the participants address the question of balancing their professional and personal compulsions and help them to effectively achieve a positive work-life balance. Through these multiple interventions, they help their participants gather a comprehensive understanding of their business and ways to grow and excel.
In addition, the fact that their curriculum has been certified by the Karigori Shikha Board of Bangladesh renders a significant degree of credibility and confidence to the participants.
Additionally, their experienced faculty continues to provide support to the participants beyond the training period as part of the larger Ujjwala community.
As on date, their operations are a little beyond 180 days old. During this period, they have conducted more than 25+ batches across 5 locations and have had participants from 15+ different districts. In addition to this, they have organized workshops with 5 organizations and have already touched 600+ professionals. For Year 1, they plan to touch more than 1000 women entrepreneurs and professionals, reach participants across 20+ districts and record a satisfaction score of 80%+. They believe that they are very much on track against each of the milestones.
They have already taken steps towards providing seed funds for participants. Currently, they are in the process of tying up with multiple banks and financial institutions which can provide this facility. In the long run, their plan is to set up their own fund which can assist worthy aspirants once they achieve a critical mass.
They have a robust review mechanism, whereby at the end of each programme, they objectively track their satisfaction scores. Currently, they are clocking 92 per cent satisfaction scores against their benchmark 80 per cent. On this count, they are doing much better than planned.
However, their ultimate aim is to be able to partner with the maximum number of women professionals. As mentioned earlier, they have already been able to partner with 400+ women professionals and as planned, they hope to connect with at least 1000+ participants at the end of Year 1.
If Ujjwala can bring about long-lasting and transform the lives of even 10 per cent of the people they have worked with, they will be that much closer to achieving their core objective.