A very rigorous week of study just concluded at the BIMTECH campus, Greater Noida where 35 of us women entrepreneur were attending the 1st module of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 women scholarship.

10,000 Women is a 5 year initiative by Goldman Sachs, the leading global bank, to provide “business and management education to underserved female entrepreneurs in developing and emerging markets. The program is designed to drive greater shared economic growth, leading to stronger healthcare, education and greater prosperity in the communities where it operates.”

The program is being conducted in collaboration with various educational institutions. The much prestigious Indian School of Business and Birla Institute of Management Technology (BIMTECH) are the academic partners for Cohort 17, which is the batch for which I got selected.

Cohort 17 the batch which commenced on 14th January 2012 at BIMTECH consists of 35 women entrepreneur mostly from Delhi / NCR selected out of 139 applications and as luck would have it, I happen to be one of them.

There are three chance events, events for which I never planned, those have completely changed my life and made me who I am and continues to do so – my picking up blogging one fine morning in 2004; The TED India Fellowship; and now this 10,000 women scholarship.

Words fall short as I try to explain how naive and careless I was about this scholarship. How I applied at the last minute with barely any understanding of what it was going to do for me. Words fall short as I try to explain how fortunate I am feeling today at the end of the first module.

The timing of this scholarship couldn’t have been any better.

Samyukta Media was launched in May 2010 and I have taken hundreds of thousands of steps forward and backward since then. It wasn’t until August 2011 that Samyukta Media finally started to make moves and things started to come to shape. A lot changed during this period – a fundamental shift in the market segmentation and two of my childhood friends joined hands as partners. As 2012 knocked on our doors, the three of us with our humble venture, had made wave and set sail but had the unknown waters and tides to be crossed. This training has come as a gush of motivation and confidence at this point of our journey.

To my great delight at the end of every session during these last 7 days I felt I was on the right path with my entrepreneurial journey. I had never felt more motivated and confident of my decisions of becoming a first generation entrepreneur. Many of my fellow entrepreneurs have already started to show interest in Samyukta Media services for their ventures and that makes me even more confident of our services.

And this is just the beginning; there are two more modules to go, each consisting of 7 days of classroom sessions in February and March 2012.  At the end of the 3rd module there would be a business plan competition and we would be given an opportunity to present our business plans in front of a panel of angel investors.

Meeting my fellow entrepreneurs has been inspiring and humbling. Each one of them is doing such interesting work and boy, so much of work. I mean I still wake up and wait for my mom to serve me breakfast and some of these women are managing all ends of their businesses and home single handedly.

There is Alpana, the entrepreneur behind the ‘Natural Herbs’ products you are likely to find at the Khadi Gramudyog. She used to be working woman who quit her job for motherhood. She started the present venture during her second innings. Today, her husband has quit his job to join her business. To me that is such an inspirational gender de-constructed family, the so called ‘bread winner’ of the family quitting job to do something where his wife was the show runner.

Then there is Charanjeet of ‘Pacific’ the manufacturer and supplier of travel bags to the top level brands. She used to be a chemistry professor but joined hands with her husband to save this business which was going through a bad time. Today ‘Pacific’ employs over 90 workers in its bag making factory.

Priyanka, the very bubbly yet amazingly strong headed has a passion for creating safe spaces, for her customers as well as her staff. Under her brand ‘One Tree Spaces’ she has freshly launched a real estate consultancy only for women. The urban working women who is either single or lives in a nuclear family, takes her personal decisions on her own and believes in investing  in property rather than gold is her target market. In almost all sessions through the module her business idea have been questioned by professors and by all 34 of us, “Why do you want to restrict your market by catering to only women clients?” Sometimes she struggled with the answer, sometimes she defended her ideas passionately and sometimes she went into deep thinking, but her conviction in her idea was never shaken. I personally think the idea is very relevant and that she should go ahead with the venture.

Then there was our own Carrie Bradshaw of Cohort 17, Dipika aka Cookie who is an Image Consultant. She has spent 7 years in styling and imaging models and wants to now do image consultancy for ordinary people men women alike.  She believes a model would look good at anything he/she wears but it’s us the people who don’t have a size zero who need a bit of style guidance to wear the right dress for the right occasion. So there comes Cookie with her consultancy. Now if she told you, for a certain interview with the angel investor you should carry a Louis Vuitton bag, would you buy a bag just for an interview? No! So she also rents these original bags to you. Check out www.bag4aday.com.

Don’t for a minute think that the women entrepreneurs are all in women-like business. No, we all don’t wear pink laces. There is Manjula who has a factory of hologram labels. Kalpana is the proprietor of a family business of batteries and inverters, now running into the third generation. She is the only women in whole of Uttar Pradesh in this business. Another women from UP was Geeta who supplies broadband connections to all of Moradabad. Ritu is into solar energy, Sangeeta is a female geek who makes software and have been running VR Virtual for 9 years.

Goldman Sachs 10000 women certificate program BIMTECH Greater Noida batch Samyukta Media founder Sanjukta Basu
Mansi, Priyanka, Geeta, Rashmi, Bela (L to R)

I can do this forever, there are so many of them but I have to stop. And I haven’t even started to talk about our faculty, some of them double Phd holders. More later on these.

The generosity and hospitality offered by the BIMTECH staff and faculty have been overwhelming. The food at the BIMTECH hostel is delicious to say the least and the hostel facilities are far superior than what I expected.

A great start to 2012 for me and Samyukta Media. Amidst all this, literally in the middle of the night a poem from the ‘Last night’ series knocked. Wrote it in both Hindi and English, doesn’t fit into anything I said so far but then that’s me. Allow me to share the English version.

Something suddenly woke me up last night
The wind had come to sweep life away
I asked, “what is it that you intend to take”
It said, “all that you have as yours”
Then, there was a new morning, and a changed life.
Everything that was mine was gone.
Except you, your memories.
You, who never were mine.