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The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and National Entrepreneurship Network have come together to launch the CBFW-NEN Fellowship Program. Managed and run by NEN, and supported by the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, the program is dedicated to young women who have used entrepreneurship as a tool to change their communities, their academic institutes, and their own lives.

A first-of-its-kind initiative in India, the program recognizes and nurtures entrepreneurial leadership by bringing remarkable young women together with extraordinary role models, fostering a peer network, and providing access to skill development workshops.

10 outstanding young women leaders were announced as the 2009-2010 CBFW-NEN Fellows at the first-ever Cherie Blair Women Mean Business Conference in Mumbai on December 11, 2009.

The fellows were welcomed and felicitated at the conference, and were given an opportunity to represent their institutes before an eminent group of international leaders. In addition, they had access to skills-development workshops and one-on-one interactions with extraordinary role models like Cherie Blair, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw and Kiran Bedi.

Anusha Saxena

A seminar in two days and hardly any registrations? SOS Anusha. Morale down in the team? Call Anusha. Have a personal problem? Where’s Anusha? Champion, crusader and counselor, all rolled in one – that’s Anusha Saxena for you. She is also an experienced entrepreneur, having founded TranceVista, an IT startup, when only 19. Currently Vice-President of the NEN Entrepreneurship Cell at ICFAI Business School, Hyderabad, she has been responsible for strategizing the E Cell’s marketing efforts. As a result, the cell’s membership has shot up 1,000%.

Bhawna Anjaly

Under Bhawna Anjaly’s leadership, entrepreneurship at Birla Institute of Management Technology went viral. As a founding member of the institute’s NEN Entrepreneurship Cell, she helped grow membership from nine students in 2007 to 315 today. With a strong focus on promoting entrepreneurship on campus, she restructured the E Cell to include students from every department in the institute. This helped in increasing membership to 66 in 2008 and to over 300 in 2009. Bhawna also organized and executed Entrepreneurship Week India, a national movement initiated by NEN to promote entrepreneurship, for which her E Cell was recognized in the E Week India Honor Roll in 2008 and 2009.

Divya Sornaraja

What’s in a name? Evidently, a lot. Lemon Inc - Divya Sornaraja gave this quirky name to Vellamal Engineering College’s NEN Entrepreneurship Cell as part of her strategy to revive the dormant club – and it did attract attention. As the E Cell Chairperson, she developed its organizational structure resulting in better operations and raising membership to 300. In addition, she persuaded her institute’s management to provide seed fund to one student startup. While it was her marketing savvy and organization skills that established the E Cell, it was her determination that gave her an opportunity to lead the organization. Divya Sornaraja overcame an environment where girls feared to speak in public and where networking with strangers was frowned upon. Despite these challenges, she emerged a successful leader.

Harini Ramaswamy

Harini Ramaswamy released a Carnatic music album a month ago. Despite her back-to-back practice sessions and performances, she has found time to grow her NEN Entrepreneurship Cell from a department-driven initiative at Alagappa College of Technology to a multi-campus entrepreneurship club called Entrepreneurship Development Club, which integrates Entrepreneurship Cells from three different campuses in Anna University. This year 600 students across 40 departments at Anna University signed up for entrepreneurship events – a far cry from 10 last December. Harini’s think-big outlook has strengthened the entrepreneurship movement in Chennai, but her biggest achievement has been in inspiring the 13 students in her core team to launch their own ventures.

Neha Rambhia

Neha Rambhia is determined to be IIT Bombay’s answer to Guy Kawasaki. She is developing the institute’s Entrepreneurship Garage – a platform where aspiring entrepreneurs get together to brainstorm over business ideas. Not only that. As the overall coordinator of the NEN Entrepreneurship Cell at her institute, Neha leads a diverse team of 20 managers and 150 volunteers, managing two international-, two national- and three institute-level projects. She is responsible for the success of the E Cell’s wide array of entrepreneurship programs, including India’s oldest and largest B Plan competition, Eureka, and a Startup Development Program that connects student-run companies to mentors and resources. Her biggest achievement: As Media Manager, she negotiated for electronic and print media sponsorships worth a whopping 4,000,000 INR for E Cell events last year.

Niyanta Gupta

Who says this generation doesn’t read? It was Niyanta Gupta’s brainwave to introduce a newsletter – her institute D Y Patil College of Engineering’s first – to promote her NEN Entrepreneurship Cell. The strategy worked. From languishing at 20 members for two years, the membership rapidly shot up to 200. 1,000 copies of the first issue of Business Beacon were lapped up within days, and now circulation of the second issue is set to go up to 2,500. Thanks to her idea, and the power of media, her E Cell today is the most popular club on campus.

Pooja Sunder

Pooja Sunder is a topper in academics, lead vocalist in a rock band, editor of the Hindi section of her college magazine, snooker player, chess champion, and part of a team that provides essential medical services online to rural areas. She is also a lead campaigner for entrepreneurship at her institute, College of Engineering, Pune. As head of Finance and Marketing at her institute’s NEN Entrepreneurship Cell, Pooja manages two critical responsibilities – attracting sponsorship and publicizing key E Cell events. She introduced Bull Run, an innovative virtual-stock-market event that was a crowd puller at the COEP college fest held a few months ago. Pooja is now working on creating a network of Entrepreneurship Cells across institutes in Pune to evangelize the cause of entrepreneurship among young students.

Ritika Arya

When Ritika Arya founded her social venture, Empower India, in 2008, she was taken aback by the dull response. After all, her venture aimed to impart education to children of poor domestic maids, school drop-outs or children who have never been to school. But many of the poor workers she approached were reluctant to send their children for schooling – they either thought it was inconvenient or were doubtful of her intentions. In the first three weeks, only four children enrolled. Many would have given up, but not Ritika. She continued with the classes and soon her reputation grew by word of mouth, and more parents volunteered. Today, her school counts 23 children. And it’s not just English and Maths that are on offer; debates, dramatics and exhibitions are offered, too. Ritika’s efforts have won her a fellowship from Ashoka’s Youth Venture and Staples Ashoka Youth Social Entrepreneur Achievement Award in 2009.

Saranya B

Where others see garbage, Saranya B sees opportunity. Saranya has been instrumental in setting up Saveetha Engineering College’s profitable campus company – a vermi-composting unit that feeds on garden waste from campus. One of the founding members of the institute’s NEN Entrepreneurship Cell – incidentally, the first ever club on her campus – she has played an important role in getting the college management’s buy-in and roping in 500 students as members. Saranya has also reached out to other like-minded potential entrepreneurs on campus and supported their plans through the E Cell. This has resulted in a spurt in ventures started by students, which includes an apparel startup and a vending machine for stationery.

Sonali Gaddam

Sonali Gaddam is Mount Carmel College’s most talented turnaround artiste. When she took over Scribble, a campus chalk-making company, no one envied her. Production was below target, customers were leaving in droves, the team lacked motivation, and profit was a foreign word. In one quarter, Sonali stepped up production by almost 200% and recorded a profit of 37%. How? She interviewed her key customers, responded to poor customer feedback, invested in training her team, and improved the quality of chalks. She did this while also manufacturing chalks herself. The making of a true entrepreneur indeed!

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