NEW DELHI: Google India is launching itsWomen Entrepreneurs on the Web (WeOW) initiative to help women entrepreneurs connect, grow their online presence and utilise Google products to launch and scale their businesses in tier-II and tier-III towns. The latest initiative comes 18 months after its launch in tier-I cities, and it will eventually move into rural areas.
WeOW focuses on women entrepreneurs. "We tell them: 'Get your business online. We will build it for free'," says Rajan Anandan, managing director, Google India. Google estimates the number of women entrepreneurs in India at 1.3 million, more than any other country barring the US and China. "Imagine the impact these women can have on the entrepreneurial ecosystem. This is not just a diversity decision, but a core business decision," says Anandan.
WeoW was conceptualised by a few Googlers from Hyderabad in 2011. The business leaders at Google were receptive to the idea and in January 2012, the initiative was launched. "The focus was how the internet can empower women, how these entrepreneurs can sell online, and how they can connect with the customers. So, there is education, training, creating a community where they can support each other," says Anandan.
Google says it has 2,000 deeply engaged entrepreneurs in the programme. "Local heroeshave emerged. Going where India needs to be, we need millions of entrepreneurs," says Anandan. The success of WeOW has prompted Google to take the initiative to other countries. "The initiative was started in India and is now being piloted in Russia and Singapore where it is being tweaked keeping in mind the maturity of the entrepreneurial ecosystem."
Moving into tier-II and tier-III towns, Google has not set a target. "We have the capacity to handle large numbers. We have not set a target, but the possibilities are immense considering 45% of internet users come from non-metros," says Anandan. Google will reach out to the women entrepreneurs in new geographies through word of mouth and actively looks at connecting with entrepreneurs already in the area.
One of the Googlers who thought about the concept, Keerthana Mohan, diversity and inclusion manager, recalls: "We were looking at market diversity. When we spoke to women entrepreneurs, we quickly gauged two things - an entrepreneurial appetite and the need for a lot more exposure online."
Mohan explains that the content and form of the programme for Singapore and Russia are similar though the programme audiences are at different points in their entrepreneurial journey.