For women, by women, of women

MORE POWER TO WOMANHOOD Heera Nawaz profiles Prema Sundaram whose organisation, Navodai supports women entrepreneurs

Prema Sundaram DH PIC by SAMSON VICTOR

Prema uses Navodai as a platform for creative and artistic women to showcase and market their skills ranging from embroidery to cooking.

Started in 2003, Navodai  has 41 members who regularly hold exhibitions and all their products find eager buyers. The women divide the costs of renting an exhibition hall and hiring the furniture, which would have proved colossal had they attempted to rent the space individually.

Prema, who has 30 years’ experience in the travel and tourism sector, gave up her cushy job to start this venture to enable creative women to be self-sufficient.

“As entrepreneurs are aware, there are umpteen teething problems for a business venture, such as how do I reach out to people who would need my wares, how do I avoid heavy capital expenditure and how do I eliminate the middleman who might try to exploit the venture? I make sure that the women entrepreneurs in Navodai get as much support as they can. It’s my responsibility to ensure sufficient profits for them,” Prema explains. “I sometimes waive the fees for renting a table at the exhibition hall in the case of deserving women,” she adds.

So, just what are these wares? Embroidered garments, jute bags, beaded and ethnic jewellery, pottery, paintings, copper and brass knick-knacks, aromatic candles, herbal cosmetics, healthcare products and tasty snacks find ready buyers at the Navodai exhibitions.

The fact that Prema is able to provide employment for scores of women helps a great deal, particularly if the women in question have children to raise and bills to pay. Prema also liaisons between the woman entrepreneur and the buyer in order to make custom made products. “Many women blessed with talent, hard work and sincerity have even been able to get good jobs after their stint with Navodai,” she reveals.

Prema also volunteers at the Kadesh Orphanage, the St. Johns Church Women’s Fellowship and the Women’s Centre at Divya Shanthi Trust. “I am a fortunate woman and I would like to do my bit for my less fortunate sisters,” she says, simply. Happy with her singleton status, she says it gives her plenty of time to empower so many women.

 What are her plans for Navodai? “Right now, I am working on exhibitions to be held during Diwali, Ayudha Pooja and Christmas. We usually see good sales during the festival season. This is sure to ensure sufficient profit for the women entrepreneurs, who can also celebrate the festival without worrying about making ends meet,” she explains.

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