These days the term information and communication technology (ICT) has come to mean all technical means used to handle information and aid communication, including computer and network hardware as well as necessary software. Among other things, ICT has opened vistas for small scale enterprise. In fact ICT could be of immense help in self employment and empowerment of women
Examples of ICT impacting women include health awareness through telemedicine, networking of women professionals, running small enterprises from home etc.
It can be helpful in setting (SOHO)Small Office/Home office, business in areas such as patenting, proof reading of books and journals, DTP jobs, free lance journalism, science communication, personalised tuition, clinical pathology jobs, scientific toys and model making, catering, boutique and tailoring, beautician, henna artist, masseuse etc. All these jobs/services could be run from home using a cell phone or Personal computer (PC) and internet connection.
Local cable or internet can be used to advertise and market their product and services. This study deals with potential of ICT in enhancing the income of semi skilled and moderately skilled women.
SOHO Business opportunities for women
Small office home office (SOHO) concept is picking up among women. They prefer SOHO to spend more time with their families and to enjoy greater flexibility. It is also advantageous for women as there is no glass ceiling to limit their growth. Many SOHO opportunities exist for women in Kashmir. Several opportunities have been tapped while other may be realized in future.
Creative women scientists may plunge into the field of science communication after going through some distance or online training. Expertise of female science communicators may be used in producing exhibition modules in several areas including history of science, low cost experimentation, science -technology - society issues, gender issues, health education, mathematics and astronomy.
Women scientists/technologists can even start an enterprise in science toys and model making. There is a big market for science model/toys in India. Nobody has tapped this potential as yet. They can advertise and market their product through internet. Websites like www.sci-toys.com and arvindguptatoys.com will be helpful in getting started.
One emerging use of internet technology is coming up in personalized tuition. A group of tutors in various subjects may form a professional organization and can operate through web. One such professional network is Tutor vista. Certified tutors of tutor vista earn Rs 15,000-20,000 per month.
They are trained in using ICT specially the technology of tele-conferencing. For start ups it is better to join as tutor in an existing network, gain experience and start their own local network. The infrastructure required for this type of venture is a PC and a reliable internet connection. Additional hardware may be required for tele-conferencing.
Small scale service providers in Kashmir
Many semi skilled women in Kashmir run their business from home and advertise through word of mouth. Satisfied clients recommend their services to other prospective clients. Many small scale service providers such as beautician make up and Henna artist, tailor, baby sitter, doula, contractual domestic help, Tiffin providers etc. operate in this way.
A beautician on call does not need to hire a parlour space and pay electricity and water charges. This way they cut on their cost and optimize their gain. She may attend clients in a given locality on same day to cut on her travel time and cost. Their services are a boon for working women.
Generally working women have paucity of time. They do not have time for skin care, pedicure or manicure. They may call the beautician at home and get the needful done.
The other emerging opportunities exist for tailoring and contractual domestic help services. In Kashmir due to weather conditions, lots of upholstery, curtains and quilts are required. With the advent of winter most of households want to get the covers of quilts, mattresses and blankets get stitched.
During winters woollen curtains are also required. These things are best stitched at home to get the perfect fit. Few enterprising female tailors have started providing their services at the client’s home at the call of phone.
Kashmiri marriages are a fortnightly affair. There are several steps involved and it takes 10-15 days of celebration. The family needs help of contractual domestic help to entertain guests. Many domestic help provide their services on contractual basis on the occasion of marriage, child birth, Hajj departure etc.
Impact of ICT on Business
Before the advent of cell phone technology, the small scale service providers were underemployed most of the time. During an informal interview a beautician revealed that her income has enhanced by (30-40) % after using a cell phone.
On a good day she may make around Rs. 1000. They Henna and makeup artists may carry a portfolio of their designs in cell phone and offer them to their prospective clients to choose from.
The business of these small scale service providers can improve a lot if they form a network and use mass media such as local cable network to advertise for their services along with their contact information.
The small scale service providers may be trained in using ICT and networking. They may be helped in advertising of their services. The may be trained in using internet and opening their website.
Makeup and Henna artists, tailors etc. may be trained in making their profiles on cell phone or laptops.
In this manner women can be self-reliant and would be able to carve out a place for themselves in society.