In Sikkim, women are present in all kinds of workplaces and play a major role in policy and decision-making. While there is a significant community of women entrepreneurs present in the organic state, it is still a small bunch. But there is a lot of curiosity among women of Sikkim to take on the entrepreneurial route not just for commercial purposes, but also to create sustainable livelihood in their neighbourhood.
Several women after attaining education and becoming job seekers have now shifted to the role of job creators. One could find stories here, like Dekyi Gyatso trying to save her heritage property by restoring her ancestral house and transforming it into a homestay. Biksthang is one of the world’s few all-organic homestays and Sikkim’s one and only. Then there is Smita Rai who picked up candle-making as a hobby and now has over 50 women from her village, Namchi, working with her as artisans making designer candles and selling them across the country.
Then there is Karma Sonam Bhutia who runs Kuzu through which she is trying to revive the natural fibres exclusively available in Sikkim and making fabric and clothing with it. Bhutia studied textile designing from NID, Ahmedabad and after working for a few years as a designer, she realised that she wanted to put the organic fabric of Sikkim on the global map and that’s where her journey began. Today her brand, Kuzu is showcased in a London-based store called Good Place.
“I had a vision for the homestay and I wanted to fulfil it so I started constructing it myself including working with stone chips, loading the cement and deciding the proportion and everything around it. I learnt it all by myself and now I know them at the tip of my fingers but it was a different space for me as I didn’t know anything about construction. We have traditional cottages spread across the farm and I only used the areas that were agriculturally not viable because my long-time goal was to revive the dying agricultural practices,” Dekyi told SheThePeople.TV.
These stories are proof of how in Sikkim entrepreneurship for women is not just a means to make moolah but also a means to preserve their identity and authenticity.
Recently at an event organized in Gangtok around empowerment of women through entrepreneurship, NCW chief Rekha Sharma spoke to SheThePeople.TV about the challenges underprivileged women face at the workplace. “There is a huge threat to women from traffickers especially when they lure them for jobs. Then women are cheated, left unpaid and with no knowledge of redressal and in a lot of cases, they are left stranded in alien places where they don’t know anything. So it is better to start something of your own and make decisions that benefit you and your surroundings. Today we need to teach children right from their childhood about entrepreneurship and how to go about acquiring finances, etc.”
Serial entrepreneur Revathi Roy shared some tips on mentoring and how important it is to find the right mentor. “It is a very serious job as you have to be able to tell the person that they can also be wrong because entrepreneurs often make the mistake of thinking that they are most brilliant at their job. A mentor also should have a lot of knowledge around the business that they are mentoring,” she said.
It is better to start something of your own and make decisions that benefit you and your surroundings. Today we need to teach children right from their childhood about entrepreneurship and how to go about acquiring finances, etc.
While Sikkim women have it in them to create businesses that are a class apart, what they do require is support both from within the society and the government to provide them with technological and infrastructural support. Digital may have opened a huge marketplace for them to showcase their products but connectivity is still an issue that people of Sikkim face in general. More awareness programmes, incubator cells and more campaigns supporting women entrepreneurs could help these women and make their business give big corporates a run for their money.