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    Good Business - The Potential of Women-owned Enterprises


    International Trade Forum - Issue 3-4/2008 

    Himanshu Bhatia co-founder Rose International

    Global corporations are learning that buying from businesses owned by women is vital for economic growth. Initiatives like WEConnect International are providing the essential link.

    The contribution that women business owners can make to the growth of the global economy was recognized at the ITC's World Export Development Forum in 2008. The event included a panel on the business case for why corporations and governments should increase the level of participation of women-owned businesses in their supply chains.

    Although a great deal has been done to support women's entrepreneurship at the start-up level, the "Billion Dollar Roundtable" (the top 13 multinational corporations that purchase over $1 billion each per year from diverse suppliers) spend only 2.2% on women-owned businesses. WEConnect International estimates that less than 5% of corporate or government spending in any country goes to women-owned businesses. This clearly identifies an area of underutilized economic growth potential.

    WEConnect International is leading the strategy for unleashing the economic potential of women business owners through certification and market access. This initiative is led by global corporations including Accenture, AT&T, Cisco, IBM, Intel, Manpower, Motorola, Pfizer, Wal-Mart and other companies. Its mission is to develop and monitor global opportunities for women's business enterprises.

    Like all business people, what women entrepreneurs want most is to sell their products and services. They need better access to models for growth, including how to sell into large corporate and government supply chains. Working with women business owners to increase their capacity to network and scale up their operations is the critical missing link for real job creation and economic impact.

    Many multinational corporations want to diversify their global supplier base to reflect their market and customer base, increase shareholder value and enhance competitive advantage. Of the Fortune 500 companies, 97% have supplier diversity programmes to source from historically underutilized businesses. With the trend towards contract bundling, over 80% of these corporations now require supplier diversity efforts from their tier one and tier two suppliers.

    Women as suppliers

    Large corporations want straightforward access to the best of everything. Small businesses are a good source of innovation, creativity, competitive pricing and quick and agile business practices. Their participation in supply chains introduces new competition to existing suppliers. Including women-owned businesses in this arena brings particular value, as women make the majority of consumer decisions and understand the market requirements. In addition, women are particularly loyal to corporations that understand their needs. Buying from women-owned businesses unlocks not only women's potential, but also the potential of corporations and governments.  

    It's essential that organizations and governments collaborate to ensure the pool of women suppliers can keep pace with demand. Technology will play an increasingly important role in enabling access to the large number of excellent diverse suppliers, in a sustainable and cost-effective way. WEConnect International is providing that important link.

    Case study: AT&T

    AT&T is the largest telecommunications holding company in the world by revenue, and prides itself on its Supplier Diversity programmes. In 1989 it implemented the Prime Supplier programme, which has expanded opportunities for women's businesses by requiring AT&T prime suppliers to join them in meeting supplier diversity goals. In 1990, it began partnering with university business schools to establish and promote executive training programmes specifically for diversity-owned companies to help them improve their competitiveness. Today AT&T continues to increase diversity though contracting in low utilization areas such as wireless, advertising, legal, finance and other professional services.  

    AT&T spends over $2 billion with women-owned companies each year and can trace $26 billion in annual revenue to its Supplier Diversity programme, making this an integral part of its business. AT&T measures and tracks how diversity suppliers help them meet the needs of their diverse customer base and maintain their competitive edge by providing products and services of quality. Promoting the participation of a diverse supplier base not only provides better business solutions, but it cultivates greater customer loyalty, bidding advantages and public policy support in the communities AT&T serves. Supplier diversity advantages are tracked to key metrics such as increased revenues, speed to market and cost reduction.

    Supplier to AT&T: Himanshu Bhatia

    Himanshu Bhatia co-founded Rose International in 1993. Before launching Rose International, she held management roles in information systems and technology. Ms Bhatia saw her parents struggle and always wanted to own a business that she could grow. When she first launched Rose International, the market was dominated by men. Today, the market is more mixed, allowing greater opportunities for all.   

    Rose International is now one of the top information technology (IT) consulting and business service firms in the United States, providing services to commercial organizations and government agencies nationwide. They made their first sale by marketing to the United States Government, and AT&T became one of their first private sector customers. Today Rose International employs 1,500 associates with 2008 revenue projected at $130 million.

    Rose International first worked with AT&T in 1999 and, in a very competitive market, has continued to expand its business with the corporation. As an AT&T Prime Supplier, Rose International was required to establish its own supplier diversity initiatives and include other diverse suppliers in its business with AT&T. Today, over 100 registered women-owned vendors are now qualified to do business with Rose International. Almost 50 of these vendors generated revenue from Rose International in 2008. Its current spending on women-owned businesses is close to 15% of total expenditure. Several of these vendors have offices in India, bringing opportunity to women in two continents. With client demand for competitive prices and 24-hour service, Rose International opened a wholly-owned subsidiary for offshore operations in India, Rose IT Solutions Ltd, which offers IT solutions and services at competitive cost. WEConnect International and the programme it will bring to India (WEConnect India) will make it easier for Rose International to find certified women business owners that can become qualified suppliers.

    Providing the link

    Quantum Leaps Incorporated, a non-profit organization, which helps to fuel the global growth of women's enterprise development in partnership with a network of global corporations, is assisting the development of WEConnect International. The mission of WEConnect International is to develop and monitor global standards for women's business enterprise certification and promote the standardization of databases so that buyers, sellers and partners can easily find each other. The certification process ascertains that a business is primarily owned, managed and controlled by one or more women. WEConnect International coordinates the certification of women's business enterprises where certification is unavailable and conducts international research on women business owners and their access to markets.
    ITC WEConnect event in Bangalore

    Connecting India

    Launching in 2009, WEConnect India will help large corporations such as AT&T and their suppliers such as Rose International find certified women-owned businesses in India. Product development and training in packaging are foreseen - areas of competency of ITC. Interest in connecting ran high - both from MNCs and women's business organizations present at a recent meeting hosted by Accenture in Bangalore, that ITC and WEConnect convened to test interest. Once certified, Indian women-owned businesses can tap into established networks in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. An affiliate will be launched in China in 2009.   


    WEConnect International works closely with each new affiliate to:

    1. Provide knowledge transfer, training and technical assistance on how to conduct certification that will be recognized by the international business community
    2. Facilitate the exchange of standards, templates, technology, tools, methodologies, benchmarks, scorecards, research, best practices etc. among affiliated certification organizations
    3. Play a leadership role in analyzing analysing and disseminating global trends in women's entrepreneurship as they relate to supply chain development and inclusivity
    4. Train affiliates on how to help the women-owned businesses they certify to scale and become more effective suppliers to corporations and governments
    5. Train affiliates on how to conduct effective advocacy campaigns and build a strong local network
    6. Facilitate access and business linkages among affiliates, certified businesses, corporations, governments, NGOs non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders at the global level
    7. Ensure that each new affiliate will have a sustainable revenue stream from diversified sources, and will target multinational and local corporate members, as well as certification and registration fees, training fees, event fees, research, grants, public support, etc

    For more information, please visitwww.WEConnectInternational.org