YouthSpark Spotlight: Social Entrepreneurship and Changing Mindsets

This is part of a series of YouthSpark profiles where we highlight young people in Asia who are dedicated to changing the world through technology, and inspiring others along the way.

Meet Karishma Daswani: Housewife. Home-maker. Entrepreneur. These are just some of the many faces of a modern Indian woman.

For many years it was taken for granted that a woman would always put her family before her career. Once she was house-bound, she could only contribute towards her family. All her previous education, her skills, her work experience were to be locked up, of no further use to anyone.

It is precisely this mindset that Karishma Daswani and Femme Hire are trying to change.

Having taken a sabbatical from her very successful career at an HR consulting firm, Karishma found it challenging to use her skills to some productive use. A quick shout out on social media channels told her that there were quite a number of women out there who felt the same. Women who took breaks from their career either found it difficult to get back into the work-stream or home based work opportunities did not match their skills. It was then that Karishma decided to turn this challenge into opportunity. And Femme Hire was born. In her own words, “As an educated woman in India seeking financial independence, I was focused on my passion, work satisfaction and
financial expectations – along with a desire to maintain work life balance. These very requirements are what gave birth to my own business.”

Started as a personal blog trying to identify relevant opportunities for women, Femme Hire soon grew into a full-fledged resource site for women trying to utilize their skills without compromising their home life. A mentorship with the Cherie Blair Foundation helped Karishma formalize her plans and put together an end-to-end business model. This was a very fruitful experience, especially since her mentor was a working woman herself. It was during this period that the idea of the Femme Hire shop was born – an online store that leveraged traditional craft skills of rural women and provided them with market access for their products. Keenly supported by her family, the Femme Hire shop went online in mid-2012.

The initiative was soon picked up the Microsoft BizSpark Challenge which provided much need training in the latest technology and cloud computing which could be used to optimize the business process. BizSpark also helped them save costs by providing free access to the latest Microsoft technology.

Today Femme Hire has graduated from being a marketing medium to providing training to women in rural India. Currently the project involves working with women’s self-help groups in the Indian states of Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. The project has actively engaged with government and international to get much needed recognition and a fair market price for these products.

Karishma now wants to use her Microsoft Innovate for Good experience to expand her geographical spread to the rest of the country. And she’s counting on her new friends from the Innovate for Good community to turn Femme Hire into a truly social, crowd-sourced, crowd-managed enterprise.

Editor’s Note: Microsoft Innovate for Good, a Microsoft YouthSpark programme, is a global community enabling youth to collaborate, inspire and support each other while using technology to make a difference in their communities.

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