FLO Industrial Park is a gamechanger

Shubhraa Maheshwari

Shubhraa Maheshwari


Initiated by the Hyderabad Chapter,the 50-acre FLO Industrial Park at Sultanpur, Hyderabad is a flagship project with 25 women-led/women-owned industries across sectors

Hyderabad: FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO) Hyderabad Chapter is a vibrant ecosystem of over 1,000 women entrepreneurs and professionals. This is thelargest FLO Chapter in India and it endeavors to be a dominant for women in business. It believes in encouraging women'stalents, skills, experience and energies across all sectors and levels of economic activity.

In an exclusive interview with The Hans India, Shubhraa Maheshwari, Chairperson of FLO Hyderabad for 2022-23, shares about the industry body's initiatives and activities in and around the city. She also revealed about the knowledge exchange collaboration withWorld Trade CenterShamshabad and Visakhapatnam.

Can you tell us about the FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO) and its mission?

FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO) was established in 1983, as a division of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) which is the apex body of industry and commerce in India. FLO has 18 Chapters pan-India, with over 8,000 registered members including established and upcoming entrepreneurs, professionals and corporate executives.

The objective of the organisation is to make women economically empowered by encouraging women to showcase their talents, skills, experiences and energies across sectors and verticals of the economy. It is the enduring mission of the organisation to become the dominant voice for women of India in their business and profession. It envisions being the thought leader for the working women of India, their voice for policy change, and a guardian of their interests.

What are some of the ongoing initiatives and activities that FLO is currently undertaking?

Since its inception, FLO has been consistently working towards the economic empowerment of women by promoting entrepreneurship, creating opportunities for upskilling, and facilitating knowledge sharing at all levels - grassroots, mid-level and senior level. In recent times, especially post the pandemic, the role of FLO has become even more relevant and important for the gender inclusive growth story of India. FLO adopts a multipronged approach to rendering its support services to members.

Its Industry Trade and Innovation programme includes the promotion of prospective and existing entrepreneurs by providing them knowledge, guidance and networks, and licensing with government & private organisations, financial institutions and developmental agencies.

FLO Industrial Parks is a gamechanger initiated by the Hyderabad Chapter. Within this, FLO, with the support of the respective State government, works towards establishing exclusive, green category Industrial Parks consisting of 100 per cent women-owned industries.

The 50-acre FLO Industrial Park at Sultanpur, Hyderabad is a flagship project of this kind which has 25 women-led/women-owned industries across a plethora of sectors. It has brought in an investment to the tune of Rs 250 crore and has the potential to generate employment for over 1,500 skilled and unskilled individuals. This highly successful model will be progressively replicated across FLO's chapters. We thank TSIIC, Government of Telangana for their support in establishing FLO Industrial Park.

The FLO National Startup Cell works with in-house professionals, and collaborates with leading knowledge institutions and business, sector-focused incubators to encourage entrepreneurial thinking and action. It helps new and existing startups to navigate the entrepreneurial journey by way of workshops, knowledge sessions, incubation cohorts, mentorship by FLO members and outside talent, pitching opportunities to investors, and recognition awards.

As per the government norms, all directors (independent &executive) must be certified and pass the exam conducted by MCA to be sitting on any board (corporate or NGO). FLO believes that with a large pool of capable and dynamic women, it can become a good resource for companies who are on the lookout for qualified women directors. The organisation facilitates learning programmes and opportunities to be on the board of leading companies for its qualifying members.

As a business organisation, at FLO, matters of business, policy advocacy, industry inputs, investment promotion dialogues etc. are addressed frequently to explore opportunities within India and around the globe. Regular round table meetings, business fairs, industry interactions to deliberate with diplomats, ministers, government officials, and overseas business delegations are organised.

How has FLO impacted women entrepreneurs and professionals in India?

At the grassroots level, the focus is on making women self-reliant and aware of their rights. Well-designedentrepreneurship and skill development programmes, health camps are conducted by every Chapter to make women more employable and absorbable in the job markets. At the mid-level, the focus is on helping women set up their own businesses. This is done through regular skilling workshops, facilitating the access to loan finances at better terms by negotiating with banks, and by representing to the Government. At the senior level, the aim is to promote more women in leadership and board positions.

Can you tell us about the FLO Hyderabad Chapter and its role in promoting entrepreneurship among female entrepreneurs?

With over 1,000 members and growing, FLO Hyderabad is the largest and amongst the most vibrant Chapters across India.

The annual activities of the Chapter are planned and executed by the Chairperson assisted by a Core Team, the Executive Committee and Committee members. It is a team effort through and through, and one that demands personal skills, commitment and time to be dedicated voluntarily and seamlessly. This is a unique facet that FLO has mastered in the interest of societal good. I must say, at FLO Hyderabad, it is evident at every turn!

Hyderabad being the hub of higher education, it has enabled us to collaborate with some of the top knowledge institutions. Our tie-ups with their business incubators such as i-TIC at IIT Hyderabad, CIE at IIIT Hyderabad, IKP Knowledge Park, NarseeMonjee Institute of Management Studies, NSRCEL of IIM Bangalore Innovations help us bring learning programs, workshops and incubation cohorts to our members. We have most recently tied up with World Trade Center, Shamshabad and Visakhapatnam and are most excited about the gateway to overseas business opportunities that it will open up for our members. WeHub, Government of Telangana's startup incubator for women has been most helpful in the past few years in facilitating cohorts and pitching sessions for our members.

This year, we chose to focus on financial literacy as our pan-India initiative in order to make women from all walks of life more financially independent and secure. We brought tailormade learning sessions and workshops for white collar women, college and school students, and women at the grassroots. It makes me proud that we were able to impact 19,508 women and girls across India, including 1933 from Telangana State. This initiative is particularly close to my heart as I head it at the all-India level.

What are some of the challenges that FLO Hyderabad has faced in its mission to promote entrepreneurship and professional excellence among women in Telangana?

A Nasscom report says that the women-led startups in India have gone from 8 per cent in 2014 to 14 per cent in 2022. Though the increase in figures is heartening, the question is why are we lagging so far behind the men?

The on-ground reality is that very few - about 3 per cent only - of Indian women have access to banks or microfinance institutions. We have practically seen that lack of access to capital is a significant barrier to entrepreneurship whether it is at the grassroots level or otherwise. Then there are the socio-cultural issues that we cannot afford to ignore. Joint families, the sole responsibility of managing the kids and household, lack of family support, a patriarchal society and mobility constraints are all holding back promising women from realising their entrepreneurial dreams. FLO is steadily working towards carving out a collaborative and supportive ecosystem for women entrepreneurs and professionals, not least by creating successful role models they can draw inspiration and help from.

How has FLO Hyderabad adapted to the changing business landscape in India, especially in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic?

FLO's resilience came to the fore during the Covid-19 era. Across the country, Chapters came together seamlessly to align their vision to suit the demands of a nation that needed its citizens to step forward and offer support in ways big and small. While technology adoption helped us keep our members engaged throughout the year, what really mattered was how we wove ourselves into the fabric of the support ecosystem. At FLO Hyderabad a dedicated Covid Support Cell was formed to help members and citizens with information regarding availability of hospital beds, supply of oxygen cylinders, sanitizers and masks. Sessions were held for entrepreneurs about making their workplaces Covid-safe and managing their business and finances in the wake of the shut-down.

What are some of the future plans and initiatives that FLO Hyderabad has in the pipeline?

FLO Hyderabad will continue to work towards becoming an organisation that promotes business and professional excellence, and entrepreneurship in women. We are confident that our collaborations with knowledge institutions and incubators will enable more and more women to pursue their dreams and reach their goals. We are hopeful of increasingly contributing to government policymaking in the context of women and a more equitable society.

How will your recent collaboration with World Trade CenterShamshabad help your members?

Trade is the engine of poverty reduction. With the right policies it can also become a vehicle for reducing the gender gap. New trends in global trade, especially the rise in services, global value chains, and the digital economy, are all opening up important economic opportunities for women.

With its wide reach and global network, we are very hopeful that our collaboration with WTC Shamshabad and Visakhapatnam will open up trade and investment opportunities, access to networking and collaborations with business houses, education and knowledge creation, and more for our members.

What advice would you give to women entrepreneurs and professionals who are just starting their careers?

From my experience, as a professional, entrepreneur and as a member and leader at FLO, I have understood that thebarriers for women in business, and at the corporate workplace are real. So the first step is to clearly enunciate to yourself about what matters most to you. Surely, your career is important, but what exactly do you want to achieve? Is it financial freedom, or recognition for your skills? Is it a social impact, or to leave legacy for your family? Once you know for sure what motivates you, you must unwaveringly focus on making it happen.

As part of an organisation that believes in supporting, motivating and inspiring, I have seen the value in cultivating a cohort of individuals who can inspire you and hold your feet to the fire of ambition. Believe that it is you who is the most powerful change agent in your own journey, however, it is never intended that you travel alone. Allow your cohort to be your superpower in getting the support you need to shatter the glass ceiling.

(This is the first article of WTC Shamshabad-FLO Hyd Series, a collaborative effort of World Trade Center - Shamshabad and FLO Hyderabad Chapter to highlight the achievements of women enterpreneurs and professionals)

Show Full Article
Print Article
Next Story
More Stories