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Technology to empower women

Nishtha, CEO of Hunar Online Courses
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Nishtha, CEO of Hunar Online Courses

Highlights

With over 148 million literate but unemployed women in Urban India, Nishtha, a passionate woman entrepreneur who has a vision to help homemakers in India achieve financial independence by upskilling them

With over 148 million literate but unemployed women in Urban India, Nishtha, a passionate woman entrepreneur who has a vision to help homemakers in India achieve financial independence by upskilling them.

The difference in opportunities for men and women and the financial inequality became apparent to Nishtha, at a very early stage in her life. Nishtha also realised that most women in India are determined to work and earn.

Nishtha, an entrepreneur with a dream to use technology and education to empower women across the country. Coming from a Chartered Accountancy and business background, she was determined to utilise her skill set for what she had always believed in: Empowering Indian Women through education to earn recognition, respect and financial independence. She started working during her late teens, and understood what the sense of independence and skills can bring to any Indian woman.

She shares, "With over 148 million literate but unemployed women in Urban India, Hunar Online Courses was established in 2018 with the sole purpose of providing a unique and convenient learning platform for Indian women. The creative courses by Hunar are designed to reskill Indian women, thereby enabling them to start their own businesses and earn recognition as well as financial independence. Hunar provides access to over 30+ courses like garment making, fashion styling, embroidery amongst others, in vernacular languages with 24*7 faculty support and certifications. Many students who completed their fashion design course with Hunar Online have started their own online or home boutique."

Post course completion, they work with students through their 'My Boutique' Programme. This programme is designed for students who want to start their own business after completion of their course. Among their students, many of them have already launched their own business and hundreds of students are now financially independent.

They plan to introduce numerous courses this year, enhance the learning journey of their students and give them even more platforms and support to use their skill to start their own businesses. The inspiration for Hunar came from watching her mother educate numerous women with creative skills.

"When I was younger, I watched how these women changed the course of their lives with the help of these skills. With Hunar, we wanted to make learning creative courses accessible to the entire country. I have always wanted to build businesses. When I was 12 years old, I started interning at local enterprises. I started my first business when I was 22 years old. And after all this, when I felt like I still had more to learn, I got a master's in entrepreneurship from Babson College in Boston. I don't really know when and why I decided to become an entrepreneur, but the process of finding a problem, solving it and building a business while doing that, has always had my interest and heart

Hunar (meaning skill with dignity in Urdu) offers more than 30 skill-based courses, including embroidery, garment making, fabric designing, fashion illustration, jewellery designing, boutique management, and bag making among others. After completing a course, Hunar Online assists the women for two to three months to build their collection and market them through its My Boutique programme. Hunar has trained more than 10,000 women. The courses are certified by NSDC and approved by four-time National Award-winning fashion designer Neeta Lulla, who has worked on more than 300 films in India.

"Being a creative educator for Indian Women, our biggest challenge is helping our potential students overcome inertia to re-skill. Most of our students are Indian homemakers (some students and professionals), hailing from Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities of India. While they have a deep desire to be independent, build a home business or gain recognition, they have their fears of learning online. But through our success stories, it encouraged, motivated and inspired women of all ages to believe in themselves more and turn their dreams into reality with simple and small steps," adds Nishtha.

Today, with over 10 lakh app downloads and thousands of students who've learnt a certified skill, started their own home businesses and gained financial independence, they have learnt that with their product and the right guidance have given a choice and chance to all of their students who have the potential and desire to learn and create.

The Pandemic For Hunar, the pandemic had a silver lining: the acceptance of online education. One of their struggles has always been getting students to believe that they can learn creative skills online, the pandemic made it easier for them to try.

She adds, "Further, since our product was built to service, educate and skill in a virtual format, we were better equipped to train and deliver than other businesses. During the pandemic, we supported our students in learning the most out of their courses and encouraged other students to start building skills too. The outcome was amazing as a lot of our students learnt garment making and started creating their own supply of masks, for both commercial and charitable purposes. Entrepreneurs face a myriad of challenges raising capital, getting access to good mentors and the right talent, to name a few. Women face these challenges but apart from these, women face additional challenges in managing work and personal life, finding the personal and professional support required to become entrepreneurs, amongst others - mainly stemming out of societal expectations. Better access to capital, more support systems by way of advisors and more support from your peer group and family etc. will do wonders to change the face of women entrepreneurship and women participation in businesses."

Women who stand on their own feet

A 36-year-old homemaker and mother to two kids, one pursuing degree and the other in Intermediate, Manju felt it was now time for her to pursue further education too. That's why she enrolled in Hunar Online's Boutique Management course, a year and a half ago, and then became a part of "My Boutique" Programme which supported her in creating her own collections and selling them online. She takes online and offine orders for the past 2.5 months and planning to set up a store now.

Manju Pillalamarri

As a dentist and mother of two kids, joining a college for a fashion designing course was not an option for her. She stumbled upon Hunar Online Courses, which gave the luxury to learn the course sitting at home, at her own pace. After finishing courses with Hunar, through Hunar's 'my boutique programme', she started her own business and created a brand 'ethnic closet'. She promotes and sells most of her collections on Instagram and other social media platform.

Dr Namrata M

A home maker and being married to a farmer from Andhra Pradesh, she did not want to get into farming, as was expected of her. Instead, she started a course with Hunar. Initially, she started with stitching for her friends and family. With them she designed a collection using Ikat fabric. Seeing the appreciation of her designs, by her existing clients, she started to expand her product line. She owns a successful business, where she sells ikat fabric and also creates apparel.— Sandhya Datla

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