KASARAGOD: Prabhavathi of Kanhangad and Chandramathy of Cheruvathur are retired school teachers nearing their 60s, but they are clued in to the latest in fashion and are into technology. They are hooked to WhatsApp and they are trained to harness the power of these family groups to do business. By the end of every month, they sell cotton and khadi sarees worth Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000.
So does 23-year-old Asha (named changed). A college student in Kannur, she sells kurtis worth around Rs 20,000 in the circle of her friends. These three women are part of a network of 200 and growing number of newly created social media entrepreneurs in seven districts of Kerala.
They were brought together on a platform called Empowering Women Entrepreneurs, shortened ‘eWe’ (pronounced Eve) by another socially committed entrepreneur Sangeetha Abhay, 33. After her PG in biochemistry, she joined a college as an ad hoc teacher. But her passion remained fashion. She took a career break when her first daughter was born in 2010. While at home, she did a one-year course in fashion designing, and started buying and selling women’s apparel to her friends through Facebook and WhatsApp. By 2017, Sangeetha’s husband Abhayan, who worked as a logistic manager in the Middle East, returned home and asked her to open a shop in Nileshwar. Though the couple took a room on rent, they did not launch a shop.
By September 2017, with the help of Kerala State Startup Mission and a loan of Rs 10 lakh from Mudra Bank, she launched eWe with 17 women entrepreneurs to sell women’s clothing via social media. It was started in Kannur and Kasaragod. No franchise fee or investment is needed to join eWe. Sangeetha said she also scouted for tailoring units which could churn out quality products under the brand name eWe.
The model clicked, and eWe expanded to Kochi, where it has 34 entrepreneurs today. Impressed by the model, champion of ethical fashion and former group president of Raymond, Robert Lobo, started mentoring the startup and later on March 1, joined the unit’s board of directors.