Amrit meets with Rupinder Kaur and Panna Chauhan, the faces behind Asian Women Mean Business.
The two met as strangers after being recommended to talk to one another. Both Kaur and Chauhan have several years experience in the corporate industry. Kaur has worked for Coca Cola, Yum and Carillion, while Chauhan shares experience working with companies such as Glaxo Smith Kline, BP and Dow. The two energetic characters claimed to have “just clicked”.
Chauhan phoned Kaur during her time in London, which was when the two discussed their shared visions of Asian women in the business sector. They both spotted the natural talents that Asian women possess when it comes to business – Kaur even jokes “I say it to my mum when I see her out shopping for vegetables, haggling for her bunch of dhaniya (corriander)”.
The problem is that Asian women suppress themselves from this natural talent in business skills. Can we blame this on the patriarchal tradition of men ruling over women in the Asian community? The subservient nature of women putting the male before their own needs and wishes? Gender stereotypes in the community and of course the question that every Indian asks on a daily basis, “what will people think of me?” It seems that this stigma is what holds women in the Asian communities back from progressing and developing their ideas, whether that be due to gender, faith and culture expectations or the simpler things such as technology and basic business knowledge.
Kaur and Chauhan joined forces in January 2014 to encourage Asian women to come together and not only push these societal barriers and found their business ventures, but support one another. “There is this intimidating concept that women in particular do not want to see anyone else succeed, Asian Women Mean Business is not about that. We are here not to compete but to work together” comments Chauhan.
AWMB held their first networking event in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter at The Space on Sunday 13 July. The event was specifically requested through their weekly Twitter discussion on Wednesdays from 7-8pm, as the forum is based in and usually held in London. Over 40 guests including men and women joined the Birmingham forum and the response from the day’s event has been phenomenal.
The session was focused on the idea that age is not a factor that should prevent Asian women from reaching their goals. Guest speakers Chandeep Uppal, 25-years-old, owner of the event’s venue The Space, and mother and daughter Pam Bains, 59-years-old and Manny Bains Joshi, 34-years, Care and Care business owners wowed the audience with their inspiring stories.
Uppal proves to budding entrepreneurs that despite being so young, age isn’t an obstacle that should get in the way. With the support of her family facing the difficulty of not being taken seriously in the industry, she has flourished into a proud and successful business owner. The Space is a room-hire business set up by Uppal for creatives struggling to find professional working space. The business has been up and running for 14 weeks now and warmly welcomed AWMB with its modern, fresh and illuminated decor. On the other hand the Bains duo successfully triumph in their care business after the two paired up during difficult times in their lives. Moving to the UK with very next to no English speaking capability to starting off their business caring for service users in their living room. They now handle both private and council contracts within their region.
Research carried out by founders of AWMB, Kaur and Chauhan reveal that there is limited awareness of entrepreneurship advocated to Asian women. Taking these findings on board, AWMB are on a mission to tackle the challenges faced by many Asian women in and starting their own businesses by offering coaching, mentoring and business skills training. To get involved and learn more about the AWMB movement follow them on Twitter at @A_W_M_B.