The book starts with the fascinating journey of 74-year-old Deborah Thiagaraj an, who created DakshinaChitra and ends with 29-year-old Likitha Bhanu of Terra Greens Organic. The others include Poonam Natarajan of Vidya Sagar, Vandana Gopikumar of The Banyan, Ranjini Manian of Global Adjustments, Nalini Shekar of Hasiru Dala and Padmashri Shanthi Ranganathan, whose name is synonymous with Asia's first de-addiction centre, the TTK Hospital.
Also featured are Sheela Kochouseph Chittilapally, who runs V-Star, a household name in Kerala, Radhika Menon of Tulika Publishers, Saloni Malhotra of Desire, Svati Bhogle of Sustaintech India, Sreeja Arangottukara of Paatasala, transgender activist Kalki Subramaniam of Trans/Hearts and Sabriye Tenberken of kanthari.
The remarkable stories of these entrepreneurs point to one thing: With dedication and hard work, anyone can achieve even the unachievable and that gender has no role to play in it. A must-read for all budding entrepreneurs.
Though the book's title implies that they are all South Indian women, these women operate south of the Vindya's, but they are all not South Indians...some are even foreigners who chose South India as the location to chase their dreams.
These case studies also reminded me that for achieving anything, women must struggle many times more than men... particularly within the Indian cultural system where they must be obedient bahus first and everything else next.
It is also heartening that in most of the stories success has been achieved by these women entrepreneurs self-funding their enterprises with very meagre amounts - there is no shadowy foreign NGO or venture capitalist throwing big money buying them business success.
Some of these women entrepreneurs have advanced degrees, a tiny minority of them operate within the umbrella of well-to-do business families, but the clear majority are true entrepreneurs: they rise using their own insights, intuitive organisational skills and perseverance.
It is fascinating to reflect on what backgrounds these women come from and the domains they have chosen to exercise their entrepreneurship.
Deborah Thiagarajan, an American woman, waits seven years for her Chettiar husband's family's approval for acceptance as part of his family and fights against odds to establish a museum.
Shanthi Ranganathan, born one of seven children, married off at a very young age to a famous family only to see her young husband descend into alcoholism and die in his 30s, picks herself up, educates herself from scratch and sets up a detox centre.
Poonam Natarajan and her perfectly normal husband have a spastic child but far from being defeated, she learned from her struggles and set up a Spastic Society to help similarly affected children and parents.
Sheela Kochouseph, juggling her role as a mother, dutiful wife of a successful entrepreneur, founds a business of her own. Svati Bhogle, with advanced technology degrees and a safe career, takes risks and sets up an organisation which trains village women to make environmentally safe wood burning cooking stoves.
Radhika Menon, the daughter of an ardent communist, sets up a children's book publishing business which creates books in English plus multiple Indian languages.
Ranjini Manian senses the winds of globalisation and sets up a business to help expats understand India as well as help Indians going abroad become sensitive to international culture.
Nalini Shekar works to bring hope and justice to waste pickers in multiple cities in India, and in some cases inspires them to become waste disposal entrepreneurs.
Sreeja Arangottuukara combines a career as a civil servant with winning Sahitya Academy Awards and being an organic farmer.
Sabriye Tenberken a German women, deals with loss of her eyesight and goes on to write a bestlling book and start a school that trains blind youngsters how to lead a normal life.
Vandana Gopikumar, diagnosed with bipolar disorder, throws herself into organizing treatment centres and shelters for the many other women in India who have a similar disorder and runs it at a very large scale.
Kalki Subramaniam, born a boy, goes on to accept her sexuality and be a painter and social entrepreneur.
Saloni Malhotra just can’t let the drive to be an entrepreneur lie low.
Likitha Bhanu, hold your breath, teams up with her mother, to do an organic farming start up.
The author, Shobha Warrier has the gift of being able to write great moving stories about the people she meets. Some years ago she encountered a’ girl who used to visit my home to sell flowers. Something about her struck me, and I began to converse with her every day to get to know who she was and where she came from. She talked of the waves and the moon as her friends and how she wasn’t afraid of the dark when these two companions were around. One day, she stopped coming and I waited for a few days before making enquiries. I learnt that a girl had been raped but I wasn’t sure if it was her developing insights into 36 other people like that little girl and book, The Little Flower Girl.
Book's Contents and Sample Pages