Tech to Work
TechCamp South Asia participant Chandra Vadhana R. works to provide digital employability skills to enhance the career prospects of women.
Chandra Vadhana R. is the chief executive officer (CEO) of two start-ups, working at the intersection of innovation, gender and entrepreneurship. Through Prayaana and 4tune Factory, she helps empower Indian women by providing them guidance and mentorship for better employability. Prayaana focuses on young women, as well as on women who had taken career breaks, to prepare them for employment. Since its launch in 2017, it has impacted the lives of more than 20,000 girls and women, according to Vadhana. 4tune Factory is a human resources (HR) company that helps corporations with recruitment and training.
At the 2018 TechCamp South Asia in Dubai, a public diplomacy program hosted by the U.S. Department of State, Vadhana created an e-learning module on using technology tools for better employability as part of her Techshakthi project.
Excerpts from an interview.
How does your work help Indian women with employability?
I have been working on employability of women, as a professional and academician, for some time now. In 2017, my friend Ms. Keziah and I trained a small group of young women from a remote town in Kerala. We were able to influence and make a change in their lives by helping them enhance their skills. On the drive back, we decided that we should work more in this field.
In the next few months, I researched more about the challenges women face in building their careers, and came up with an exclusive curriculum and model for promoting their careers. This framework evolved into the Prayaana Fellowship program and the start-up Prayaana Labs.
We work with female students, as well as women who had taken career breaks, and support them in increasing their employability or help them with their start-ups. We have recently launched a leadership enrichment program for women in the corporate sector. Our efforts are also focused on fighting the underlying causes of unemployment among women who had taken career breaks. We strive to provide empowerment initiatives to qualified but unemployed, as well as under-employed women, to build up their careers effectively.
The C2C [Comeback 2 Career] Mission by Prayaana is an attempt to awaken the desire in women to take up a career again after a break. Prayaana has conducted seven editions of C2C meets at Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, Dubai, Pune and Kozhikode and has reached over 500 women in 2018 alone.
Could you tell us about the 2018 TechCamp South Asia and your project Techshakthi?
The TechCamp South Asia held in Dubai was a great experience. I got a chance to learn and network with like-minded women, and connected with many of them. During the camp, I learned how technology can be better utilized in social enterprises. I also proposed a project named Techshakthi, a mobile application with curated learning content to help with employability of women.
After the camp, I was motivated to work more on addressing specific issues faced by women. I have now launched www.shespeakers.com, a speaker listing site for women, and I’m developing www.pracol.com (Prayaana Collective), an
e-commerce platform to sell women-made products.
What are Prayaana Hubs?
Prayaana Hubs are established at various educational institutions, where most of our outreach activities take place. Each hub is led by a campus ambassador and an executive committee that conducts monthly events exclusively for women. Entrepreneurs and women leaders from various fields go as speakers and trainers to these hubs and mentor young women in their careers. These hubs also act as locations for starting up and running small businesses. So far, we have established more than 10 hubs and have more than 60 campus ambassadors.
What is the Career Queen Summit and what makes it special?
I envisaged the Career Queen Summit as an annual conclave where we celebrate women leaders. This is a different kind of pageant, in which we identify talented young women and crown them as Miss Prayaana for the year. The event aims to identify and promote the leadership potential of women.
You are also the CEO of 4tune Factory. How is this company different from Prayaana?
4Tune Factory was started as an HR company to help corporates with recruitment and training. It provides specialized training, e-learning and media solutions, whereas Prayaana focuses on women’s employability and related issues.
What are your future plans?
I have just completed my Ph.D. from Cochin University of Science and Technology. I wish to pursue more research work in the field of innovation, gender and entrepreneurship.
I will focus on my latest start-up, the PraCol project, through which I wish to showcase products and services of 10,000 women entrepreneurs.
I am also writing a self-help book for women. I have set a goal of empowering one million lives by 2030.
Natasa Milas is a freelance writer based in New York City.