Amazon launched its special marketplace for women entrepreneurs in November 2017. Today, women make and sell everything from diaries and notebooks to incense sticks, bread bins and men’s clothing to sarees on the Saheli marketplace. These products come from seven partner NGOs around India that reach 80,000 women artisans across the length and breadth of the country.
Amazon Saheli has been set up in partnership with the pioneering social organisation, Self Employed Women Association (SEWA) and Impulse Social Enterprise among others. The storefront offers the women entrepreneurs and artisans who work with these organizations access to the Amazon India marketplace, as well as to the logistical infrastructure of the e-commerce behemoth.
“At SEWA, we believe in young women’s entrepreneurship using e-commerce. With minimal cost, e-commerce gives you reach to newer markets nationally and internationally! It builds economic security, brings dignity and self-respect to young women entrepreneurs. SEWA is happy to partner with amazon, which shares the same vision. ”
To handhold women artisans and organizations through this entirely new experience, initial training workshops are conducted on how to manage their businesses online. In addition, a dedicated account manager is assigned to new ‘Sahelis’, to help them kick-start their enterprises. The benefits that an ‘Amazon Saheli’ reaps from the partnership are myriad. Apart from their products being highlighted in a separate storefront, product photo shoots and cataloguing services come as part of launch assistance provided to every partner associated with Saheli program. The program also provides tools and reports to help them save time and bandwidth on managing their online businesses and focus more on creativity and product innovation.
How SEWA helps bring this together
The main collaborative body that Amazon has partnered with is SEWA or the Self Employed Women’s Association, headed by Reema Nanavati. Elaborating further on the venture, Reema says that the common thread of empowering women was what bought her on board and SEWA was fully committed to making this association work in favour of the participating women. “We launched SEWA in 1972 to empower and strengthen financial inclusion of women entrepreneurs in the economy. Over the last 2 years, we have been able to get over 1.5 lakh sellers online and the number is growing.” She also added that the vision for Amazon aligned with SEWA and she was certain that this association would give women entrepreneurs access to millions of customers.
From rag picker to entrepreneur
There have been many stories that have reflected on the ground what Saheli wants to achieve. Meet 45-year-old Paliben – she used to collect rags from a textile mill, wash them and sew them into quilts. She would also collect waste paper from office and recycle this to make interesting items like paper mesh jewellery, pen stands, and other decorative items from the paper and sell it in the exhibitions. Her life changed after she joined SEWA.