If you’re a woman who owns at least 51 per cent of a business, or you run a company that is controlled by one or more women, Mrinalini Venkatachalam wants to help you grow your enterprise. Like a corporate matchmaker, the 34-year old promotes women-run businesses, connecting them with local and multinational corporate buyers. Mrinalini is the regional outreach and events manager (Southeast Asia and Oceania) of Weconnect International (WECI), a non-profit network that opens doors for businesses owned by women. WECI also trains corporations in how to source from women business owners, and trains women business owners to sell to corporations. She was the head of Public Awareness and Youth Initiatives for the Singapore Committee for UN Women for nine years before joining WECI a year ago. She tells Her World: “I strongly believe women should have the same opportunities as their male counterparts to design and implement business solutions that create wealth and scale their businesses. What drew me to Weconnect International is that it empowers women and helps create a level playing field.”
Mrinalini, who has a degree in mass communications and a master’s in human rights, concedes that male-run businesses still get the lion’s share of contracts. “There isn’t a lack of women-owned businesses today,” she says of the challenges. “The number is growing steadily. Sometimes, there is a misconception that women-owned businesses are too small or not committed enough for the big contracts. In fact, many women entrepreneurs whom I have met are as dynamic and capable as their male counterparts.” To advocate her cause, the mother of one speaks regularly at networking events and conferences. Mrinalini is a one-woman powerhouse who represents the global outpost of WECI, which includes territories such as Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand. She organises up to 10 networking events around the region to match women entrepreneurs to multinational companies. Her day starts at 5am, when she holds conference calls with colleagues in Canada, the US, or India. After breakfast, she takes her four-year-old daughter to school before attending meetings in places scattered around the city. At lunch or coff ee breaks, Mrinalini checks e-mail messages on her laptop before jumping into another appointment. By the time she’s done for the day, it’s 11pm. Her efforts have been rewarded by success stories.
She says: “We have connected women-run businesses in Singapore with multinational companies that are currently engaging those businesses.This is a positive step.” Mrinalini has roped in 85 women-run businesses in Singapore to be part of WECI, and she expects the number to grow steadily. “I’m a stalker on Linkedin and Facebook, always on the lookout for women-run businesses,” she reveals, with a laugh. “Because I know these women and their businesses so well, I’ve become a ‘directory’ when it comes to recommending services for companies.”