EMPOWER – ‘Enabling Marketing of Products of Women Entrepreneurs’ is a unique initiative of GMR Varalakshmi Foundation to enable marketing of hand-made products of women Self-Help Groups (SHGs). The products sold by Empower are either made by SHGs associated with GMRVF at its various locations or other non-profit groups in different parts of the country.
The GMR Hyderabad International Airport Limited (GHIAL) as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility has provided two shop spaces to host this initiative at the airport. EMPOWER products are also available on major e-commerce stores like Flipkart, Amazon, Snapdeal, etc. Empower also organizes office sales and takes bulk orders from various corporate and individual clients.
Foundation believes that Self-Help Groups (SHGs) help empower women and improve their social status. It organizes various capacity building programs for members of SHGs besides facilitating bank linkages and marketing. The regular savings and repayment pattern of the SHGs prompt others to extend lending support to these Groups and several SHGs have accessed loans from formal Financial Institutions to initiate micro-enterprise activities.
With a membership base of over 3500 women, 300 SHGs supported by the Foundation offer a platform for providing skill training, help establish enterprises and set up market linkages.
The SHG members are utilizing the financial support facilitated by Foundation to diversify their livelihoods portfolio by enhancing their present livelihoods and / or by investing in newer livelihoods.
With Foundation’s support many women are taking up micro-enterprise activities confidently and are augmenting their families’ incomes.
The skill training programs for women on handmade products at Hyderabad led to the formation of ‘Srujana Mahila Abhivrudhi Society’ (registered under Mutually Aided Cooperative Societies Act).
EMPOWER sales have shown an uptrend year on year, and the number of women earning steady livelihoods have also increased.
In Mangalore, GMRVF has been actively working with Self Help Groups for long. There are 42 SHGs active for the last several years. Nisha was a member of one of the SHGs. At that time, Nisha’s economic condition was rather precarious. She solicited GMRVF’s guidance for starting some new innovative microenterprise which would enhance her income. GMRVF put her in touch with a few entrepreneurs and possible businesses. She was comfortable with mushroom cultivation. GMRVF helped her develop a business model and conduct feasibility study. An SHG loaned her Rs 2000/- for starting the business. The technical advice from another mushroom cultivator boosted her confidence. Nisha invested Rs 200/- for purchasing mushroom seeds and chemicals. The rest of the money she invested in restructuring a room for growing mushrooms. Initially, she got a profit of Rs 400/- from one Kg of mushroom seed. Nisha perfected the technique of mushroom cultivation and started selling mushrooms in the local market. Noticing her success, other women wanted to join Nisha. Now Nisha is a confident mushroom grower and intends to expand her business. GMRVF is planning to help her by facilitating a loan from the Andhra Bank.
"GMR Varalakshmi Foundation has changed my life forever. From being dependent on my sister, I can now lead an independent life. I feel empowered and am confident of living my life."