There are nearly three million small- and medium-sized enterprises owned by women in India - an incredible number. Many of these women could scale and grow their businesses even further, if given the right training, opportunities and resources. At Tupperware Brands, we see every day that women can achieve anything when given the opportunity and tools to succeed. That's why in 2011, we founded the Global Links program in partnership with Rollins College and the U.S. Secretary of State's Office of Global Women's Issues to help support women around the world with the business skills needed to thrive.
Global Links provides business training in social entrepreneurship to high-achieving female professors from post-conflict or developing countries; so far, scholars have come from Iraq and India. These visiting scholars study entrepreneurship at Rollins College and complete an externship at Tupperware Brands, immersing themselves in our business. The scholars then return to their home university and integrate what they've learned into their curricula. Using a "train the trainer" approach, their students are then paired with a woman-owned enterprise in their community to share their knowledge provide mentoring and help entrepreneurs build and scale their businesses.
This month, we celebrated the end of Phase Two of the 2016 Global Links program and looked back at all we've achieved this year. Dr. Banerjee, the 2016 Global Links scholar, is a professor,
Department of Business Management in the University of Calcutta. Her teaching and research has focused on small business management, microfinance and entrepreneurship, as well as children's and women's issues.
Q: What were your expectations going into the Global Links program? What surprised you the most during your experience?
A: I was very excited to be selected as a Global Links scholar. I wanted to build on my expertise in entrepreneurship and bring these learnings back to Calcutta. In Calcutta and throughout India, many women lack the education they need to launch and grow successful businesses. Even if there are several women entrepreneurs, they tend to run small scale businesses and face barriers to expansion. It was and is my hope that through Global Links, these women can apply new business skills to create their own success. I was surprised not only by my students' abilities to apply their lessons to local enterprises, but also by their own personal transformations and development of confidence.
Q: What have your students accomplished through Global Links?
A: My students have developed new skills such as understanding budgeting and finance; navigating corporate legal frameworks; and expanding their business into new markets, which they've shared with local entrepreneurs. For example, one of the students was placed with a toy manufacturer who only had distribution channels in Calcutta but was sourcing her products from Mumbai. Using her new skills in management and networking, my student worked with the entrepreneur to expand her connections in Mumbai through the supplier and helped her complete paperwork so she could distribute there as well.
Furthermore, several students have also been able to effect change in social norms. For example, many local businesses continue to employ children. Empowered by what she learned in Global Links, one of my students educated the businesswoman she was working with about labor practices and their impact on communities. She no longer uses this harmful practice.
Q: How have students transformed through the program?
A: Through Global Links, many of my students gained the confidence to take the first step in achieving their goals, which they did not feel comfortable doing before. For example, I have seen students rise to positions of leadership in school thanks to the program. I think Global Links is so successful at instilling this confidence because women in our society are often perceived as secondary to men, and think that less is expected of them professionally. Global Links shows women and men that they can dream of becoming successful businesswomen by instilling a sense of responsibility and leadership while demonstrating the impact of applying the skills they've learned.
Q: How the Global Links students impacting their families and communities? What do you see as the broader impact of the program?
A: This program has a life-changing multiplier effect. Most of my students come from families of modest means who never dreamed of becoming businessmen and women. With this training, they share their knowledge with local female entrepreneurs who often don't have the education and resources to grow their businesses. After participating in Global Links, my students believe that social entrepreneurship can transform the lives of women in their community, including those who have never gone to school. Women who have never learned to read or write are now thinking about starting their own businesses or opening a bank account.
Q: What advice would you give to the next Global Links scholar?
A: I would suggest reaching out to colleges where students have great potential but fewer opportunities to learn and apply these types of skills - students who would otherwise never have such an opportunity.
Congratulations again to Dr. Sharmistha Banerjee and her students on a very successful year! We look forward to seeing the impact they continue to make in their communities. Looking ahead, we're excited to welcome Rumpa Charaborty as the 2017 Global Links scholar and wish her and her students all the best. Aside from learning business skills, it has been inspiring to watch the participants develop confidence, and to see how the students have helped entrepreneurs in their community to grow their businesses and impact their communities.