Fah answered questions posted via Twitter from the crowd and the first got straight to the point.
“Why did your company decide to only focus on Indian women?”
Fah, who is also the managing director of Sydney-based international business advisors, CEO Strategic, the group that launched the project in June last year, clasped his hands together and smiled faintly before explaining.
They decided to concentrate their efforts on Indian women for a few reasons. One was the fact that the #MeToo movement had became such a big phenomenon in India last year, in which Indian survivors of sexual assault began sharing long ignored or unreported instances of abuse.
Fah said he and his team saw an opportunity to mobilise the support women were receiving and they wanted to foster corporate goodwill between India and Australia.
The session was part of the Future Asia Business Summit, which the City of Sydney hosted over two days. Its theme was “Sydney thriving in a smart Asian century” and was aimed at building international connections between Sydney and Asian cities and attracting top talent from across the region.
The Virangana Project was conceived by Shalini Chauhan, a human rights lawyer and women’s advocate from India, who recognised that support for female entrepreneurship remains low.
“The landscape is still extremely tough terrain for women,” Chauhan said in a statement released by CEO Strategic. “In addition to historical and cultural issues in India’s male-dominated start-up scene, women entrepreneurs remain underrepresented in the economy and still face biases from investors when all that should matter is the idea. Material issues, such as ‘Is it solid? Innovative? Scalable? Will it make revenue or change lives? can often be overlooked when they see a woman is involved.”
This project aims to identify and select groups that are founded by or significantly managed by women that have the potential to significantly benefit Indian society.
CEO Strategic came on board and now works to raise investment capital directly from international investors.
In October last year, the project selected 12 Indian female entrepreneurs to fly to Sydney to participate in a special event at the annual Spark Festival, Australia’s largest gathering for startups, innovators and entrepreneurs.
Its Program Director, Maxine Sherrin heads a team dedicated to providing opportunities for individuals of diverse backgrounds to succeed in a career of entrepreneurship through events and other activities.
Shalini Chauhan, Co-founder of Virangana
The program attracted Indian women from all industries, from high-end technology to social enterprise. Other ideas included an app to provide treatment options for chronic conditions based on stem cell technologies, a leisure travel app, a vegan clothing line and an automated wearable device for the detection and management of diseases.
“Investment in an Indian start-up goes a lot further than in an Australian one,” he said in an official statement. “It gives you access to an incredible pool of well-educated talent, and if your start-up kicks a goal in India, you have a consumer base greater than $1.2 billion and a well-off middle class ten times the size of the entire Australian population.”
Chauhan believes in the power of this collaborative project to build bi-lateral ties between Australia and India, but most importantly, provide a leg up for Indian women:
“This collaboration with Australian businesses will equip these women with new skills and direction and give them the exposure they need. They play a central role in driving the Indian economy forward and The Virangana Project is now harnessing the power of technology to drive social change for women in India.”
Read more about how you can be involved in The Virangana Project here.