WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS SEEK ENCLAVE IN SUNDER ESTATE

WCCI initiating exciting bridal shows in UAE

From KHALID BUTT, Lahore
Oct 03 - 09, 2005

The Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry (WCCI) was established two years ago to specifically cater to the problems confronting women entrepreneurs.

It is interesting to note that the women entrepreneurs under the dynamic guidelines provided by the WCCI are currently engaged with some high profile business projects to promote products abroad with the label of "Made-in-Pakistan". These important projects or business events initiated by WCCI are currently in the pipeline. Prominent among these business features conceived by women entrepreneurs include holding of trade exhibition at New Jersey in November this year. Another such trade fair is being organized by WCCI in Amritsar in December, besides an important upcoming event to be held in Bangladesh.

WCCI also intends to organize an exciting Bridal Show in Dubai to promote fancy bridal apparel and other accessories. This unique business oriented show is likely to attract impressive business deals for Pakistani women entrepreneurs.

India is a very big market for us. The chicken embroidery is very popular and is much cheaper to make in Pakistan than in India.

The moving spirit behind that initiative has been Dr Shehla Javed Akram, President Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry. Sitting in the WCCI Central Secretariat, she shares with the PAGE, her vision of women business houses. Following are the excerpts of the interview:

Question: What prompted you to form the Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry?

Answer: I was elected as Member Executive Committee of Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry in 2002-03. I was appointed the Convenor of the LCCI Standing Committee on Women Entrepreneur Development. I was also nominated for the FPCCI's Standing Committee on Women Entrepreneur Development. I observed during my tenure of convenorship that the women were reluctant to come to Chambers and participate in business activities. They were shy because of the politics in chambers, like women of only a particular faction being invited or vice versa. Likewise, there were also gender attitudes which shied them away from business forums. They were not feeling comfortable with the situation. The issues related to their businesses were such that these could not be discussed at macro level. Keeping in view these issues, we announced the formation of WCCI. We got an overwhelming response as women entrepreneurs literally flooded in. Recently when we had a meeting with Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz in Islamabad, we told him that we have a good number of members. He asked us whether all these members were genuine . His perception was that there could not be so many members at the national level.

Question: What is the status of WCCI with respect to DTO and the Ministry of Commerce?

Answer: It is all approved. The Federation has proposed our case and by law that means that approval by the DTO and Ministry is only a formality.

Question: Having formed a business house, how do you go about with the policy advocacy job. Do you follow the LCCI model, having a full Research & Development Department?

Answer: As regards the issues which are common with business houses, we have no objection taking those up jointly. We would certainly like to follow the R&D model followed in LCCI. We also send the federal government budget proposals. That practice is on for the last two years. However, we also send proposals to other relevant ministries, like Women Development Ministry. It has been the outcome of these proposals that the government is advocating women entrepreneurs' specific policies.

Question: What practical steps you are taking with reference to the development of women entrepreneurs?

Answer: We are concentrating upon developing the skills, which the clusters of women already have. In Bhawalpur, we are doing that. We are developing inherent skills by imparting them training. We have also undertaken similar exercises in Multan. We are also negotiating with the provincial government to have an enclave for women entrepreneurs in Sunder Estate.

Question: How many branches you have all over the country?

Answer: We do not have branches but chapters. At moment we have representatives from various cities, which are in fact convenors for their respective cities.

Question: Do you have any in-house Research & Development Department?

Answer: At the moment, we do not have one. We are depending more on external sources to get the data work done. We would certainly like to have such facility in the future. We would certainly like to follow the model followed in other business houses, which conduct in-house research.

Question: Are you organizing any specific trade activity for women entrepreneurs?

Answer: We have some projects in the pipeline, like the New Jersey exhibition in November, another in Amritsar in December and yet another event in Bangladesh. We also intend to organize a Bridal Show in Dubai, UAE. India is a very big market for us. The Chicken embroidery is very popular and is much cheaper to make in Pakistan than in India.

Question: Do you offer consultancy to your members engaged in export-oriented business which need WTO-related advices?

Answer: We regularly conduct such workshops to keep our members abreast of such developments.