Work With Dignity And Transparency To Be A Successful Entrepreneur

By Ms. Vinita Bimbhet- Ex president of FICCI FLO


Beautiful Minds - 'Wings of Inspiration' 
Vinita Bimbhet, Ex National President of FLO, the women’s wing of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. FICCI is the largest and oldest apex business organization in India. Its members are leaders in the corporate sector, representing 2,50,000 companies. It is key in influencing and shaping business policy and articulating the voice of the private sector.

She has been working towards women empowerment for the last fifteen years and was responsible for setting up FLO Mumbai Chapter in 2002. Amongst others she led their initiatives for empowering women by building sanitation facilities for schools in rural Maharashtra. This initiative was launched in 2011 and has seen the successful completion of over 250 toilets. She launched the “Roti Project” which provided vitamin fortified Indian bread to school children for whom this was probably the only meal. This was done in partnership with HUL’s Annapoorna brand of flour and most importantly it also provided alternate employment to women. 

She is also Founder Director, Grameen Initiative for Women (GIW) a section 25 not for Profit Company, which is actively involved in supporting the “Education of the girl child” by providing sanitation facilities for schools and also providing girl student’s cycles, computers, scholarships and other support which encourage them to continue their education. She is Promoter and Director in The India Art Investment Company, a specialist art firm offering diverse services to art collectors who are building new modern or pedigreed collections. 

In an effort to provide employment to craftspeople and to revive Indian and Tribal Art, The India Art Investment Company with its Made in India initiative is supporting craftsmen across the country and has successfully created several innovative products and received support from several corporate houses, companies and other enterprises pan India and overseas. 
She sits on the Council for Advancement of People’s Action and Rural Technology, under the aegis of the Ministry of Rural Development, is on the advisory Board of IWFCI-India and Chairs the India ASEAN Womens Business Forum. Vinita sits on several boards, is widely travelled, in her business capacity, and as a speaker in conferences in India and overseas.
Tell us about your journey as a daughter to FICCI’ President.
I was fortunate to be born in a family where my father and mother were delighted to have daughters, so we are two girls and it’s a kind of academic – intellectual background where my mother was a scientist and my father, by profession was an engineer. My sister is extremely qualified as she has worked for all sorts of high clearances jobs in USA. So, when you are born in that kind of background, there is nothing that you can’t do or you can do. Having said that, I got married at a very young age and again I was very fortunate as I got married to a man whose words I still remember as there was a discussion going on as to who should be a bread winner and he said something very different from the standard answer that his dream is to do nothing and it is not necessary that only men can be bread winners, a woman can also be a bread winner. He said this 30 years ago and today also, he lets me do whatever I want to do in my life. I got inculcated with FICCI Ladies organization (FLO) in 2002. I met a lady in Mumbai named Kiran Gera and she made a big impression on me. I got to know that she lost her father at the age of 18 and had to do all by herself, getting a loan from a bank, building a house and getting it rented and letting the income coming in. So, I started with her setting the Mumbai chapter and became the chairperson for the Mumbai chapter, got into the governing body of FICCI ladies organization (FLO) , the head office and then, finally became the president of FICCI Ladies Organization (FLO). 
What all did you do besides FLO ? 
Six years ago, I had setup my own business called ‘ART’. The India Art Investment Company which started off with us, just putting money as investors, but now I own 80 percent of the company. They deal with fine arts, art for space, doing hotels and gifting solutions. When I came in, since I was with FLO, what I brought to the table was why don’t we do something that support women. The CEO of the company suggested to bring tribal art which will be passed on from women to their children as well. So, we have a huge part of the company called ‘Made in India’ and ‘Hath ka Bana’where we encourage and support tribal artisans and this really works with women empowerment and what we do in FLO. 
What are the things that really helped you over a period of time to go ahead in life ?
I believe that my biggest strength is reading. I am a voracious reader and I am very particular about what I write and I still read poetry with great enthusiasm. So, inspiration comes from there. In fact, inspiration is all around be as all women in FLO are all so inspiring and motivating. So, this helps me to move ahead in life. 
Do you have knowledge about all your finances?
My husband is in finance and was a banker at that time and was known for setting up various banks in our country and when it came to finance, I always knew, I was in good hands because he is a banker. Apart from that I have a very good grasp on what money I have and where my money is invested. So, I don’t come in that category of women who don’t know where their money is. I am aware of where my money is going and more aware from past 10 years as my husband started his own finance company, accumulative wealth grew over the years due to which I started taking much more interest. I have met 10-12 women in FICCI who have their own financial companies where I have invested. So, I have complete control over my money. I understand the importance of having a financial knowledge for a woman and I have brought this awareness in FICCI as I launched a ‘legal initiative cell’ last year which actually undertakes women workshops and provides them with knowledge and gets them to meet women in order to know what the laws of the country are.
What advice do you have for women who do not have financial knowledge? 
You should know what your rights are, as this is a changing world. A woman should be independent in every aspect. They should become a role model for their children and should be able to manage their finances on their own. It is very important for a woman to marry the right man so that, he supports her in every aspect and let her know her investments.
What needs to be done to spread financial knowledge?
Awareness programmes need to be organized and should be reachable to every woman, be it in city or village. Moreover, I feel every woman knows that she needs to be independent, but they are unable to do anything about it. So, according to me, bank facility should reach every woman and for a woman an account opening should not require signatures of her husband or her father. It should be opened based on her Aadhar card. If a signature is required then it can of another female friend.
What advice do you have for women who are starting up their own small scale or a medium or a large-scale business?
As an entrepreneur, if you have a dream and you want to start up and you don’t know where to go, please come to FLO as we have a business consultancy cell called ‘SWAYAM’. Come with an idea and we will make a business plan for you. So, even if a woman has an idea, we will help them convert into a business plan and we can also arrange funding for you. The best thing about SWAYAM is that it can reach to women in every region of the country.
What are the strengths a startup should have as a woman? 
I believe if a woman has an idea which has innovation, creation and disruption, then there is really something strong going on in a woman’s mind. So, I think that in to have a successful startup, just think out of the box and follow your passion. 
What is your success mantra? 
I think most importantly that you have to be positive towards people and situation. Also, I believe that one should work with dignity and transparency to be a successful entrepreneur.
What are your hobbies?
As a young girl, I used to play piano and ride horses. But with time, things changed and now, I love reading poetry, love reading good books and I enjoy watching good movies. I never watch television as I always watch everything on my phone, hardly open newspaper as I read news online. So, I am a technology driven person. 
How you want to be known as in FICCI FLO?
I came out with one of my major initiatives known as ‘gender parity index’ in getting women to equal in our country. This index will measure every company if they are women friendly or not. So, in my entire journey of FLO, I would want to be remembered as a woman who took an initiative in bringing women to equal.


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