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Facebook’s SheMeansBusiness will help women get there: Ankhi Das

Admin| Mar 02, 2017 - 11:08 PM India

Facebook’s SheMeansBusiness will help women get there: Ankhi Das

Facebook is working to bring more and more women into the mainstream through its platform, whether by mentoring women entrepreneurs or helping manage their businesses on its platform. In a chat with Neha Alawadhi , Facebook India’s public policy director Ankhi Das spoke about some of these efforts.

What is the rationale behind SheMeansBusiness?
Last year we announced a very strong capacity building programme called SheMeansBusiness. We looked at addressing brand recognition, which earlier was a cost and labour intensive process. Over the past year, we have gone to the grassroots in six states, addressing questions from women on how to set up a Facebook page, how to sell their brand, and so on. We trained more than 4,500 women entrepreneurs in 2016 in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana, Punjab, Maharashtra and Karnataka, going deep into tier­II and tier­III towns. The targeted states in 2017 are Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Delhi, Assam, and Jammu and Kashmir.

What are some of the bottlenecks faced by them?
We have seen that a lot of women entrepreneurs’ work is also about local culture and local art, preservation of local culture We have women entrepreneurs’ case studies, like this lady who makes chiffon saris. She wanted to set up a store but was constrained by finance and family issues. Now, her entire order taking is done on Facebook, and she caters not just to domestic market but also abroad.

How do you look at existing women entrepreneurs, how do you keep them engaged?
We have partnered with She the People, and Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women programme, and through both these partnerships, we have been able to draw some of these women. You need a kind of “sisterhood shoutout”, and through our platform, we try and showcase some of these high performers. After a certain stage when you want to mentor, we provide that opportunity.

How do you partner with the government and other ways of bringing more women online?
We partnered with the ministry of women and child development and minister Maneka Gandhi last year, and also ran the 100 Women programme that crowd­-sourced entries of top 100 women in areas like public service, craft, and teaching.

The president of India gave away those awards. That’s very powerful, because recognition from the president is a big deal in terms of shaping behaviours in the remote areas.

How do you prepare women at the grass­root level about online abuse?
Misogyny, hate, crimes and violence against women are fundamental problems for us as a society and we see that behaviour online also.

Facebook is a part of the online ecosystem, so we see that mirror on Facebook also. We address that through very strict policies that prevent harassment and hate speech – through our community standards, reviewers who review reported content 24X7, and we have language capability in 12 languages. Law enforcement agencies also report this to us. We have partnered with NGOs to do grassroots education in schools, etc. We also focus on coaching men, sensitising men to bring behavioural change towards women.

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From DMs to video chats, social media is the new office messenger

Emails are dead. At least in most modern ­day organisations. With millennials taking over the workforce, many offices have taken a cue from popular culture and are reaching out to their employees through what was once considered a distraction: the social media.

For instance, during the Nasscom India Leadership Forum , Sushma Rajagopalan, CEO, ITC Infotech, revealed that she didn’t send emails to her 7,000 ­odd employees. Instead, for the past year or so, Rajagopalan has been engaging with them through desktop messaging.

“It’s not always collaborative, but the information stream is no more than 160 characters,” she says.

Direct and dynamic
At Twitter, the social media platform that introduced limited character messaging to the world, the preferred way to communicate is through direct message (DM) groups. Maya Hari, Twitter’s MD for Southeast Asia and India, says, “That feels very natural to our teams. It’s a reflection of how the youth today is really expecting everything in an instant. They are looking at things in real time, and want to communicate, solve and consume [information] live.”

Nowhere to hide
Online retailer Flipkart conducts a fortnightly FOF (Flip Out Fridays) ­ in other words, town hall meetings. “We have an open online message board where you can put your questions. The questions are absolutely brutal. Just the kind of honesty of dialogue that happens in these town halls is quite extraordinary,” says Flipkart COO Nitin Sethi.

Sethi says the type of questions asked in the town halls would have had different outcomes in “older world” companies, where he worked previously. “It’s a different employee we are dealing with. The hunger for information and transparency around the dialogue is extraordinarily high,” he says.

Smelling the coffee
Traditional companies, too, are catching up. At Citibank India, for instance, Kartik Kaushik, country business manager, personally engages with colleagues through video chats and channels the bank uses for its outward communications.

“All my colleagues have access to me and it’s public [on the social media platforms the company’s present on]. Every visit, communication, everything I am doing good or bad is out there. So, you need to live up to what you communicate because they [the employees] can see your action or lack of it in every facet. That to me is a very dramatic shift,” he says.


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