CBFW-NEN Fellows 2010-11

Now in its second year, the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and National Entrepreneurship Network Fellowship Program recognizes and celebrates the spirit of young vibrant student leaders who are leading India’s entrepreneurial revolution from the front lines. The program brings together remarkable young women with extraordinary role models, fosters a peer network, and provides access to skills-development workshops.

Among the ten 2011 CBFW-NEN Fellows, you will find a management student running a school for girls in one of the  most backward villages of India, a young E Leader who has  established a consultancy program in areas as diverse as  robotics and organic farming, and yet another 20-year-old who  has been running an education centre since she graduated  from school. Others are launching campus companies, running  startup camps, creating student entrepreneur helplines and  establishing networks.

 The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and NEN understand the importance of nurturing leadership and entrepreneurship among such young women. Women constitute half the human capital in our country, and more than half its customer base. Organizations can no longer afford to exclude women from the boardrooms – their aptitude and perspective is essential to succeed in today’s extremely competitive business environment. The CBFW-NEN Fellowship program’s overarching goal is to equip and enable India’s young women to capitalize on the vast opportunities of today.


AKSHINA GUPTA | Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi

In her three years at IIT Delhi’s Entrepreneurship Development Cell, Akshina Gupta has helped launch eight startups, four of them student-run, and increased participation in workshops and activities by 25%. Akshina laid the foundation of the Student Entrepreneurship Network (SEN) at IIT Delhi, and along with it, offered a complete startup toolkit, with an entrepreneurial resource pool, knowledge-sharing workshops and idea exchange portals. She, along with her team, developed an exhaustive three-tier mentoring panel, which is helping new and aspiring entrepreneurs take their business ideas to the next level. She has also been involved in generating incubation opportunities for students and empowering them through a robust investor panel. Akshina was a delegate at the Venture Summit East 2010 held at Harvard Business School in July 2010. She has also been an Editor at the Board for Student Publications at IIT Delhi. Akshina is currently pursuing an integrated M.Tech course in Mathematics and Computing at IIT Delhi.

ANKITA GUPTA | Indus World School of Business, Greater Noida

Ankita Gupta had been a core member of her institute's E Cell, where she helped organize IWSB's annual B Plan competition and an interactive 'My Journey' series with entrepreneurs. On campus, she is also the Editor-in-Chief of the institute's newsletter, Swamanthan. For her summer project, Ankita had been involved in a novel venture that addresses one of India’s biggest challenges – health and hygiene among rural women. Ankita contributed to setting up a business unit in a village to manufacture and distribute low-cost sanitary napkins in Uttarakhand. The project, supported by Sheffield University, UK, and NIF, involves usage of simple, non-chemical-based machinery to produce low cost napkins. The project helped employ several rural women. It was awarded a Gold trophy by Rural Marketing Association of India at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore in September this year. A final year MBA student at IWSB, Ankita has consistently topped her class in academics.

ANNAPURANI VENKATESAN | Alpha Arts and Science College, Chennai

Annapurani Venkatesan became an entrepreneur at 19 with a tutorial centre. At her institute, she established her institute’s Entrepreneurship Cell, and integrated it with other E Cells in the city under the Chennai E Cells banner. She currently manages finance and accounts for the Chennai E Cells. Off campus, Annapurani converted her passion for teaching into a profitable business with Jayanthi Coaching Centre, a tutorial institute that trains students on subjects like Accountancy and Commerce. Of her 23 students, 11 have achieved top grades in their exams. Annapurani is currently interning with Ichiban Academy, a consultancy startup, in Chennai. She is pursuing a degree in Commerce at Alpha Arts and Science College, Chennai.

APURVA JAIN | Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur

As head of the Entrepreneurship Cell at IIT Kharagpur, Apurva Jain is building a sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem on her campus. She designed and led Cleantech Challenge, a B Plan competition that witnessed entries from colleges across India, USA, China and Denmark. She ensured resources and mentoring for shortlisted contestants by tying up with renowned organizations like India Energy Forum, Energy Alternatives India and Indian Angel Network. She launched a Startup Camp at IIT Kharagpur that gave an opportunity to 25 startups to pitch their business plans before a panel of reputed Venture Capitalists and Angel Investors from six organizations in India. Apurva is now workingto establish an ‘E-Corner’ at IIT Kharagpur’s Central Library by raising funds from alumni of her institute to stock books on innovation and entrepreneurship. Apurva, who is pursuing an integrated M.Sc course in Economics in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Kharagpur, has interned at Reserve Bank of India, Mumbai and at SKS Microfinance, a leading microfinance organization in the country.


Reading the morning paper can be made into a lucrative business, proved Manisha Parpiani with her student start-up ‘InfoSieve’. InfoSieve provides domain specific mobile content to students, sourced from daily newspapers and blogs, in areas such as finance, human resources and marketing. Launched four months ago, during the placement season, InfoSieve prepared students for interviews with quick news updates. It won 100-plus customers in the first month itself, with a profit margin of 60% per customer. Apart from founding her startup, Manisha has also been developing her institute’s Entrepreneurship Cell as a professionally-run student organization. She has contributed in launching high impact entrepreneurship events on campus, including seminars and MyStory sessions, delivered by local entrepreneurs. Manisha is currently studying management at IBS, Mumbai, and sees herself as a job provider, rather than a job seeker, in the coming years.

NEHA CHAHAR | Symbiosis Centre for Management and Human Resource Development, Pune

A classroom lesson on HR assessment methods becomes an entrepreneurship development tool. A case study becomes a live project. In the hands of can-do leader Neha Chahar, who heads SCMHRD’s Entrepreneurship Cell, even the dullest event fills up with possibilities. Neha utilized her academic course content on Competency Mapping to develop an assessment centre for potential entrepreneurs that received over 250 registrations. She launched a consultancy program, which connected students to live startup projects, in fields as diverse as telecom, robotics, organic farming and HR. This offered students a platform to acquire domain specific skills, while gaining exposure to setting up and running a business. 14 students worked on four projects and completed the projects ahead of deadline. She has also roped in her institute’s alumni entrepreneurs to support her E Cell’s initiatives. Currently a final year management student at SCMHRD, Pune, Neha’s dream is to build a school in rural Haryana.

NIVEDA KRISHNAMOORTHY | PSG College of Technology and Polytechnic, Coimbatore

Niveda Krishnamoorthy has built an excellent track record of implementing high-impact entrepreneurship programs at PSG College of Technology. The Women Entrepreneurs Conclave, which used to be a dry affair for three years, came to life under Niveda’s leadership. Her marketing and networking efforts, targeting local women entrepreneurs, spiked participation from 50 to 200. She also launched the second branch of PSG Tech’s campus company ThirstE, a juice shop. She led her team to raise funds, gather the necessary permissions and ensure supply of raw material for the shop. She has also been part of the editorial, public relations and operations team of her E Cell. A final year Computer Science engineering student, Niveda has efficiently balanced her E Cell commitments with academics, topping her college consistently with a grade point average of 9.8. She plans to establish a research and development centre in future that will focus on innovative software products.

POOJA MISHRA | Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata

In India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, where little over 40% of women are literate, Pooja Mishra has started a secondary school and degree college to provide low cost quality education. Pooja’s Gurukul Mahavidhyalaya, founded in 2008 at Purasi village near Rai Bareilly, has 218 students – a majority of them girls - pursuing undergraduate courses. 45 students have enrolled in her secondary school that started this year. Pooja worked with government agencies to subsidize education fees and provide scholarships to students which significantly reduced the dropout rate. During her four years in the US as a working professional, Pooja realized just how wide the disparity in the level and quality of education available to American and Indian students was. Driven to make a difference in her home country, she relocated to India with her family, and started her institute with the salary she earned during her stay abroad. Pooja joined the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, in 2010 to gain business and management expertise that will help her expand her social startup and reach larger sections of the society.

SONA R | Rajalakshmi Engineering College

Under Sona’s leadership, the E Cell membership at REC spiked 200 times from 12 to 2,300 students. Sona used SMS campaigns and social networking platforms to spread awareness about her E Cell, and followed it up with seminars, entrepreneurship talks and skills-development workshops for aspiring entrepreneurs to make this happen. Sona worked with Hardum.com, an early-stage web startup, and played a key role in its launch in 2009, supporting its online marketing initiatives. She was shortlisted by the National Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship to represent her institute. Apart from being a founding member of the Chennai E Cells, the regional E Cells Chapter, she is also an active participant in events organized by Chennai Open Coffee Club, the Toastmaster Club and other local entrepreneurship organizations. A biomedical engineering student, Sona’s paper on nano-technology is among the two under-graduate entries selected for the 2010 Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers-sponsored conference to be held in China in December 2011. Sona is also an artist, and plans to open an art gallery some day.

URVASHI AGARWAL | Management Development Institute, Gurgaon

Urvashi has been responsible for organizing the largest startup showcase event in the history of IIT Kanpur. Intensely passionate about entrepreneurship, Urvashi gave up a globe-trotting job offer to work as a Project Assistant at the SIDBI Innovation and Incubation Centre (SIIC) at IIT Kanpur. During her tenure, she came across the issue of low public outreach of startups incubating at SIIC. Urvashi capitalized on her association with Megabucks, IIT Kanpur’s business and entrepreneurship fest, where she led corporate affairs, to showcase these startups. While usually showcase opportunities at IIT Kanpur were limited to hosting stalls, Urvashi energized with a VC Pitch, one-on-one mentoring, and networking sessions. The showcase closed with 12 startups (against five the previous year), six venture capitalists and 150 budding entrepreneurs participating. Urvashi is currently pursuing a post-graduate degree in management at Management Development Institute.

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