Priyanka Khandelwal started her company, Abira Creations, with one sole purpose in mind: empowering women. She employs traditionally marginalized women in the slum regions of Rahatani, near Pune, India, to create jewelry and fashion accessories for social-minded customers. And the profits from Abira Creations are reinvested in training and holistic development programs for their artisans.
Priyanka and her family have always prioritized and invested in her education. She earned her Masters in Fashion Management from the National Institute of Fashion Technology. Priyanka strongly believes every woman should have the opportunity to invest in her children’s education, recognizing how her degree changed her life.
Abira Creations is committed to helping their artisans continue to learn, because they believe skill development and education are the keys to empowering women and helping them realize their full potential. Training sessions even extend beyond the skills needed to produce Abira’s fashion accessories and include English, computer skills, and financial literacy.
“I feel that all the families should be able to understand the importance of [education] and should be able to invest in it,” said Priyanka. “Abira is our endeavor towards the same direction.”
Abira Creations is one of 11 social enterprises participating in Upaya’s 2019 Livelihoods Accelerator Program. Each of the companies were selected for their commitment to creating jobs for the extreme poor. Upaya’s India team had the opportunity to visit Abira Creations and meet some of the jobholders whose lives are being positively impacted by this work. We also asked Priyanka to share more about her inspiration for starting her social enterprise.
Q: What problem are you trying to solve with your company?
A: “We are working with women in slum areas near Rahatani. Most of the families here have migrated here for employment. The family income on average is Rs. 10,000 per month. The majority of their income goes into rent, electricity, water, and food. Only 40% of youngsters have enrolled in college, and 31% of them have medical issues related to women’s health, eyesight, or malnutrition, but are not able to invest in a cure. In this family situation, will they ever come out of the poverty cycle? At Abira, we are committed to bringing these families out of the poverty cycle forever by creating local employment opportunities for the mother in the family and doubling the family income. We are committed to ensuring fair family investment in education, health, and savings.”
Q. What inspired to start your company?
A: “Women play a huge role at homes as mothers and wives, but I realized that their biggest role is as a change agent to create a future responsible society. It is said that when you impart knowledge to a mother, you educate the whole family. An employed, educated woman is confident, aware, self-actualized. In many instances, women do not realize their potential. They have been living a life that does not go beyond their homes. Their aspirations and dreams are often left unrecognized. Abira, as the name suggests, represents strong women who play multiple roles in families and communities.”
Q. What has been your biggest accomplishment with your company to date?
A: “The biggest accomplishment was the Sustainable Enterprise Award by Coca Cola India. One of our women teams won the 2nd prize among 400 teams that participated from various prestigious colleges and institutions and received INR 1 lakh seed funding for their business idea of making products from cutting waste during garment production. It was truly an achievement to see women speak confidently at such a forum in front of 500+ audience.
“Over the years our team has become an expert in fabric jewelry, coming up with exclusive designs without failing in quality. Another feather was added to our cap when Global Desi started promoting this waste fabric range in their stores as a special line 'Abira for Global Desi'. This category contributes to 40% of our revenue now.”
Q. What is your vision for your company?
A: We believe that one day every woman will become stronger and more confident especially in controlling their life.
Abira is a social enterprise which aims to empower women who create handcrafted fashion accessories with the hopes that she becomes stronger and more confident, particularly in terms of controlling the decisions in her life. Using materials which are sourced ethically and created by traditionally marginalized women, Abira markets to a consumer with a socially responsible mindset, and ensures that 100% of the profits are reinvested into the learning support and holistic development of their artisans. This includes travel exposure, personality development, spiritual learning, financial literacy, computer skills, and English.
Entrepreneur Spotlight Series
Upaya has the privilege of working with so many passionate social entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs are our heroes, leading businesses that provide employment opportunities for people in some of the world’s most marginalized communities. We love learning and sharing what has inspired our partners and accelerator participants to take the leap into entrepreneurship. View the blog series here.