Sunday, May 19, 2024
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FINANCIAL LITERACY FOR MEGHALAYA’s WOMEN

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The key towards building an empowered, multigenerational entrepreneurial society.

Entrepreneurial ventures often result from a critical combination of necessity, endeavour and tenacity. This is particularly seen in communities where multigenerational and women-led enterprises are still a rare practice and novel life choice.

Lynïong village of Mawphlang Block, East Khasi Hills, Meghalaya, is home to a mother of eight whose teaching job was nowhere near to supporting her family. While farming was her instant option and decision, she had her eyes set on the border haats of Nongjri, Balat and Mawsynram. Her humble beginnings in the dry fish business as a supplier turned the odds against her favour, nudging her to turn her enterprising eyes elsewhere. Warjri Ice Creams was born as a result, owned and run by erstwhile teacher, mother of 8, Syrpailin Warjri.

Janessaline Mary Pyngrope, previously Co-Founder & Business Head of Meghalaya’s first fashion house, Daniel Syiem’s Ethnic Fashion House (DSEFH), had always yearned to help preserve traditional weaving and the heritage that inspires the art form, while also contributing towards providing sustained livelihoods for women weavers of Meghalaya.

Syrpailin and Janessaline represent a tribe of indigenous womenfolk whose enterprising spirits strive towards achieving financial independence – for themselves, their families and the purpose that drives them to brave the risks of choosing entrepreneurship. In the context of Meghalaya, it took one Shillong-based chartered accountant to identify the foremost gap that is hindering financial empowerment and business growth for women.

“If I remember correctly, when I came to Shillong in 2010 there were 8 chartered accountants in the whole state,” Shruti Pradhan recounts. “There were no women CAs and people were not that enlightened about this important aspect of their lives. For the indigenous people in Meghalaya, while tax exemptions are a benefit, there is a sense of ignorance when it comes to savings and investments. There is a need to instil financial hygiene practices across demographics in the state.”

Having identified the huge gap that exists in terms of financial literacy and funds management amongst the citizens of Meghalaya, Shruti started participating as a financial expert in workshops organised by various government departments and private organisations. This marked the beginning of her professional relationship with the entrepreneurial community in the state. Today she works as an advisor for many local entrepreneurs, but she is especially proud of her association with women-led enterprises. She strongly believes that every woman should be given an opportunity to be financially independent.

Janessaline says, “It took one meeting with Shruti in 2015 to open my eyes to the need for GST filing for business entities like ours, and she hand-held us through the process with patience. She is downright meticulous, and her counsel always comes from a place of both empathy and honesty”.

Lapdianghun Dympep, Founder & Proprietor, Eve Accessories, speaks of how instrumental Shruti has been in her own entrepreneurial journey, saying, “She provides honest, professional counsel that we only realised we needed when we came to her. The balance that we business owners look for between trust and expertise, is what I find in Shruti. From business expansion advice to funds management and work delegation to professionals – the kind of mentorship that I get from her is very much needed for all entrepreneurs”. She further adds how having a CA’s counsel helps build business credibility, especially for first generation entrepreneurs like her.

Shruti points out that in her 14 years in Meghalaya, wherever she goes, be it towns or villages, she sees mostly women engaged in small businesses and local livelihoods. “It could be a small corner shop, a tea and “jadoh” stall or every-day supplies – they’re mostly run by women,” She states, “The problem is that a lot of them are not officially recognised as part of the workforce in the economy.”

Syrpailin of Warjri Ice Creams speaks of her experience under Shruti’s counsel, saying, “While I have always practised daily bookkeeping, Shruti has helped ensure that the process is done efficiently for effective funds management. Her advice on procurement of loans and equipment for the business is invaluable, and she always makes time to listen to our problems and desires to grow our business”.

In her experience working with entrepreneurs in the state, Shruti firmly believes that there is this immense resource that has been tapped and that can be propelled forward with knowledge in terms of marketing and financial literacy. There are Self Help Groups all over the state that are bringing many products to the table but depend on the government to take them to market. And while the state government has created avenues for these products, it is just a starting point. “These groups must now scale up and choose to be less dependent on the state when it comes to market linkage.”

“While the government has filled critical gaps and built an efficient ecosystem, these self-help groups must now come together as recognised legal entities – Private Limited or LLP units,” Shruti says, “They need to delegate and have a marketing team in place. Someone from amongst themselves, not necessarily an external agency because they need to have more control on pricing and any partnerships they enter.”

A lot of what Shruti has to say comes back to financial literacy. Engaging a financial advisor is one thing, but being aware of how money is being spent, saved, invested, and reinvested is something that needs to be a part of the day-to-day operations of an enterprise. “Every rupee needs to be accounted for. Financial responsibilities cannot be dumped on to a third party. They need to invest themselves in the management of funds and intelligently bridge the gap between producer and consumer to ensure that everyone involved gets a fair deal.”

The State has identified entrepreneurship as the leading means of employment for our youth and women, and it has taken significant strides in that direction. Oftentimes, someone comes along the way to lend a helping hand. To many entrepreneurs in the state, Shruti Pradhan has proven to be that someone – a trusted, expert counsellor to take them through the process step by step, offering advice in all areas of business operations and resources management that affect business growth and profit making.

Over the course of her career, Shruti has consulted extensively with government agencies within the state and outside to ensure best practices are set up for financial management of flagship programmes at various levels. She speaks passionately about the need to instil awareness in young people on the scope of fulfilling careers in finance, particularly Chartered Accountancy. “One-day workshops are not enough to provide young people with the clarity they need to understand and lose their fear of a career in finance. The job market for CAs right here in our state is ripe. The opportunities are there. So is the potential. All they need is proper guidance and counselling, and – on their part – strict discipline and determination,” she added.

Referring to the ideal age for anyone to start acquiring financial literacy, Shruti stated standard V or age 10. “It is as simple as writing down how much pocket money you receive, and how much you are saving or spending it. Discipline is the key. From there, tracking your cash flow becomes a habit and an insight towards prudent use of money,” she added. It is immaterial whether you want to choose Finance as your career or not but Financial Literacy is absolutely necessary irrespective of the field you choose to excel. For an entrepreneur, financial knowledge beyond purchases and sales is required for growing the business, similarly for other professionals financial literacy towards savings and investments are important for better fund management and wealth creation.

It should be understood in a broader sense that with financial knowledge, work delegation also becomes easier as it shows the way to the areas which require more focus and the areas which can be delegated. This also leads to engagement opportunities for the people at various levels.

This year, under the banner of “Udaan – Celebrating Womanhood, ICAI (Eastern India Regional Council)” Shruti is one of 75 women recognised for their contributions in the field of accountancy. For Shruti, this achievement is a testament to her relentless efforts in ushering in financial literacy in the state, significantly for women and women entrepreneurs.

By our Special Correspondent 

IMAGE CAPTIONS 

1: Shruti Pradhan in her chambers with a client

2: Shruti Pradhan (C) with Meghalaya-based women entrepreneurs (L-R) Lapdianghun Dympep, Pinola Kharkongor, Syrpailin Warjri and Janessaline M. Pyngrope

3: Shruti Pradhan felicitated by ICAI at a programme recently.

4: Shruti Pradhan at her chambers in Shillong.

5: Lapdianghun of Eve Accesories.

Remaining photos 6,7:  Janessaline M Pyngrope with DSEFH Co-founder, Daniel Syiem
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