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Virtual business innovation centre to help women entrepreneurs

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The (Cowe), a Hyderabad-based non-profit organisation, in partnership with University of East London (UEL), is planning to set up a virtual Business Innovation Centre (BIC). The business-to-business portal aims to create a trusted circle of cooperation to support women’s ventures to trade in the global market place.

This is the first International (EU) business centre in India and Cowe is the only organisation from India to be linked to the central portal at London, along with 164 other centres from 22 countries, Hannah Simcoe-Read, professor of entrepreneurship, Royal Docks Business School, UEL and the coordinator for the centre, told Business Standard.

According to the findings of UEL’s study on women’s enterprises, women around the world face difficulties in marketing their products and this initiative will help them accelerate their business growth by giving them an international platform, she added.

This centre is part of UEL’s network of international small and medium enterprises (SME) Centres of Excellence in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and the EU, which will assist SMEs that are internationalising.

The centre will connect the community of international women entrepreneurs within BRIC countries and the EU in empowering and training. This centre will help in internationalising female entrepreneurial ventures and creating a special gallery to showcase and trade their products globally to support venture growth, governance and leadership skills, Simcoe-Read said.

Simcoe-Read came to India through the Indian School of Business (ISB)-women’s entrepreneurship programme in 2008 and selected Cowe from India, Cowe president Sandhya Reddy said.

Cowe will sign an MoU with CEL in January 2011. Under the partnership, a design studio will be set up in India to make customised products with the help of designers from the design institute of the University and Indian weavers.

The products will be custom-made, eyeing international buyers, Reddy added. “This partnership will bring the design aspect and the clusters. We have already started the work with sarees.”

The portal will display Cowe’s Indianised products, including handicrafts, jewellery, packaged foods and dress material and it will help in the overall business growth, Reddy added.The portal will come up in three phases with a total investment of Rs50-55 lakh, with the support from the Union ministry of micro small and medium industries .

The entrepreneurs can be a member of the centre with a Rs10,000 life membership fee. “Initially, only Cowe members can display their products. Later, we will source products from other states,” Suman Kumar, senior president of Cowe, said.

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