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Female empowerment and trade diversification are interconnected
As Canada moves forward with the “constructive and compassionate” foreign policy promised by the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, two issues that require our collective attention and action are gender parity and international trade relationships. Despite changes initiated by the “Me too” movement, women — in virtually every field and sector around the world — continue to be treated differently from men. Meanwhile, uncertainty around global trade frameworks, especially agreements such as NAFTA, is forcing Canada to reassess and recalibrate its international trade priorities.
These two issues remain as priorities for the Trudeau government in its trade negotiations with India and other countries. The issues are interconnected. We will be able to diversify our trade relationships more effectively if can address gender parity, at the same time.
According to Minister of Small Business and Tourism Bardish Chagger, “Canada needs a coordinated, national strategy to help women entrepreneurs succeed and fulfill their true economic potential.” Her observation was in response to a recent report about the barriers faced by female entrepreneurs released by Carleton University, BMO Financial Group and The Beacon Agency,
With support from faculty who are world-leading researchers in gender studies, international trade and economic development, Carleton is launching trailblazing projects in India focused on empowering female entrepreneurs and enhancing international trade. The Canada-India Acceleration Program (CIAP) for female technology entrepreneurs, which was announced during an event with Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains in Mumbai on February 20th, will provide seed funding, access to business incubation services, mentorship from seasoned entrepreneurs, connections to large corporations and other support for 100 women-led tech startups — 50 from each country — over the next five years.
The CIAP, jointly created by Carleton’s Canada-India Centre for Excellence and the All India Council for Technical Education, India’s national regulator for a network of 10,500 colleges and institutes, will be modelled after Carleton’s Lead to Win business incubator. Lead to Win has championed a “born global” approach to growing startups. This successful approach, spawning companies that generate more than $50 million in annual sales, is based on years of academic research and trains entrepreneurs to look at global market as both a source and destination of their products and services. This is different from a traditional incremental approach of saturating domestic markets before entering international markets. The new program will also benefit from the work of Carleton’s pioneering Centre for Research and Education on Women and Work, which helps women at the midpoint of their careers acquire new insights, organizational knowledge and leadership skills, and has provided training to more than 600 women in the last 25 years.
Further, Carleton’s Canada-India Smart Cities Centre of Excellence for Capacity Building (CI-SCECB) project, will tap into the university’s expertise in areas such as wastewater treatment, urban infrastructure and municipal governance to train Indian city planners. India is in the midst of a massive $15 billion (U.S.) Smart Cities Mission to upgrade and modernize civic infrastructure in 100 cities, but the undertaking faces significant challenges in areas such as institutional capacity for planning and design, governance, and the legal expertise needed to negotiate complex contracts. Through the CI-SCECB, Carleton will offer training programs in Ottawa for 150 Indian urban planners over the next three years. India’s Smart Cities Mission represents a significant opportunity for Canadian companies and institutions, but the lack of capacity in India creates risks that the CI-SCECB is designed to mitigate. Both the acceleration program for female entrepreneurs and the smart cities project were created by Carleton’s Canada-India Centre in collaboration with foreign partners and could become a model for other institutions to follow in other countries. They are also part of a broader focus on internationalization at the university. Spearheaded by longstanding units such as the Norman Patterson School of International Affairs, the School of Public Policy and Administration and the Institute of European, Russian and Eurasian Studies, as well as the Canada-India Centre, we are striving to ensure that our scholars and students are working toward economic and social progress around the world. Which, really, is what “Canada is back” is all about.
By Dr. Alastair Summerlee, Interim President and Vice-Chancellor, Carleton University
(The author is an independent journalist based in Bengaluru, India)
By BHUMIKA K.
When Neha Bagaria embarked on a three-and-a-half-year career break in order to raise her children, she noticed a trend amongst her female friends. Like her, these well-educated, experienced and highly-qualified women were leaving paid work behind in order to fulfill family obligations. This is common in India, where women are expected to set aside careers while raising children or caring for aging or infirm relatives. The problem, she noted, is that many of them never return to work.
Bagaria – an entrepreneur and Wharton graduate, with a background in HR and marketing – decided to do some research. What she discovered was that fifty percent of professional women in India leave the workforce within three years. According to a report by PwC, 10 million Indian women with graduate or post-graduate qualifications are currently on a career break. These discoveries sparked Begaria’s entrepreneurial instincts, and, in 2015, she decided to launch JobsForHer.com, “an online portal that connects women looking to restart their careers.”
JobsForHer is just one example from a new wave of enterprises in India that are run by women, for women. These organizations are variously tasked with addressing gender disparities in the workplace, opening dialogues on diversity, supporting retraining initiatives, connecting female job seekers with companies offering re-entry programs, and lobbying employers to establish equitable and supportive work environments. Organizations like JobsForHer argue that such measures are necessary, given that women occupy barely ten percent of management positions in India and account for just one percent of CEOs. Moreover, India now ranks 108th in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index, down twenty one places from the previous year.
Bagaria is not alone in her efforts. In 2013, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, started the nonprofit LeanIn Foundation with the aim of helping women establish networks for knowledge-sharing and peer support. LeanIn now operates in 157 countries and India’s chapter, led by Sanya Khurana, is thriving.
Sairee Chahal is the CEO and founder of Sheroes, a community platform for Indian women. Describing the motivation behind Sheroes, she says, “As I came to understand their struggles and aspirations more deeply, it became clear that we needed to build products that could solve real problems, whether it is to address the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace, or support India's large work-from-home women's community.”
Bagaria’s research confirms the importance of such efforts. “The World Bank in collaboration with the National Sample Survey Organization, finds that 20 million Indian women quit jobs between 2004 and 2012. Around 65-70% of women who quit, never returned to work.” She notes that “Among the challenges Indian women face in starting a second innings in their career, are their desire for flexibility, regaining confidence, retraining, overcoming biases, and changing mindsets.”
If “empowerment” is the agenda, then how, exactly, might that work in the Indian context? “Out of the 42% of women in India who are educated, only 24% enter the workforce. Of these, about 19% reach senior-level management roles, only 7.7% occupy board seats, and 2.7% sit on corporate boards. So, empowering women in the workplace in India starts with recognizing and utilizing the strengths that women bring to the table,” says Neha.
For so many women at the peaks of their careers, the challenge is to balance work and family commitments. Bagaria suggests that companies can ease this pressure and contribute to female empowerment by recognizing this challenge and giving women the freedom to establish their own schedules. Also, having a mentor empowers them with the support needed to grow.
Chahal believes strongly that a women-driven economy is emerging around the world, and that India is playing its part. “The climate in India is definitely changing ‒ biases against women founders are definitely impacting the general consciousness around women entrepreneurs. There are more funding opportunities via crowd funding, social investing, or venture funding.”
These Indian organizations are focused on restarting stalled careers and empowering women in the workplace
Second-innings for the Indian career woman
I come from a middle-class business family in Rajasthan, India. This introduced me to the world of business management and customer service, at an early age. I wanted to do something in the field of education because I believed it could make a substantial difference to people's quality of life and contribute something to the nation as a whole. With this goal, I began experimenting with different ideas until I fixed on the idea of an internship platform and began working on it.
At a deeper level, entrepreneurship excites me because of the creative freedom it offers and the immense learning opportunity it presents. In the first six months after launching Internshala, I had done and learned more than in my five previous years of corporate experience. From starting a blog, back in 2010, to building world’s largest internship platform, it has been all about learning something new every day. In the last seven years, I have learned a lot, and I would like to share the 3 major lessons from my journey so far.
a. People > Profit
A business is built by people – with the help of people in your network, your team – and for people – your customers. As long as you are committed to solving peoples' problems and helping them grow, profits will follow.
I started Internshala as a free platform for students and organizations and I did not really have a clear plan for finding revenue sources. The belief was that if we are solving a real problem that people face, then monetization will follow. We stayed committed to our philosophy of keeping users at the heart of everything we do and working continuously to deliver a better service and experience, despite being a free platform. This built massive trust for Internshala within the business community. A few years later, we launched our fee-based online training platform and its popularity grew rapidly because we had already built a reputation for helping people succeed.
The same philosophy was true for our team members too. Internshala fulfilled my dreams and theirs as well. Building a high-trust and high-ownership environment takes efforts, but once you build it, high performance follows. For example, inspired by Netflix, we do not have a leave policy at Internshala. Employees can take as many leaves as needed. We neither keep count of these leaves, nor do we deduct any pay. This is a rare thing to find in India. Everyone appreciates this and takes complete ownership of their work. Things get done without anyone having to follow up.
Another epiphany was that even total strangers can help you move a step closer to your goals. When I started Internshala, I knew nothing about setting up a web portal. I had done no press, and I knew none of the 80 000 organizations that use the platform today for hiring interns. Yet, whenever I felt stuck or had a question to ask, I reached out to complete strangers and, to my pleasant surprise, they were almost always ready and eager to help without any expectations in return. The law of karma is particularly true when you are building a startup!
b. Discipline > Passion
Starting up can be tough. You certainly need the passion to get moving and to take those quantum leaps, every now and then. But, in the long run, discipline is what will make it or break it for you. I have had my fair share of moments of self-doubt and frustration. In these times, it was discipline that helped me go through the routine, complete projects, get things done, and keep moving forward.
Discipline is not just about time, it is also about managing your finances even before you start-up. If you are already in a job before you decide to start-up, plan your personal finances with the same rigor as you would plan for your business. I have always been a frugal spender; still, the past seven years have taught me how to differentiate between necessity and luxury, and to question every penny that I spend, both in personal life as well as at work. Be on time, every time, and be jugaadu ('resourceful' in Hindi) and kanjoos ('frugal' in Hindi). These are the two of the core values we live by at Internshala.
Culture > Strategy
Someone in Silicon Valley said, "Culture eats strategy for breakfast!" and I could not agree more. From hiring the right candidate to making difficult business decisions, culture serves as the guiding torch for the founder and the entire team.
Even when the company consisted of only two or three people, we would work continuously to develop our sense of what Internshala’s culture should be, and how we would live it every day. A culture, once built, can be a strategic advantage that is very hard to beat or replicate. For example, once ‘Make it Happen’ became our motto, we no longer had to worry about ownership. Similarly, our mandate to ‘Do the Right Thing,’ meant that we would not have to expend resources developing integrity policies and then policing them. And when we put ‘Users at the Heart of Everything We Do,’ I knew that the junior-most member of the team would be as committed to helping users and solving problems as I was on Internshala’s first day.
Building a team is difficult, but building a culture is even harder. You must invest in it. If there is one thing I could tell myself seven years ago, this would be it. Strategies come and go, but, when carefully nurtured, the culture endures. And (thankfully!) there is no app for that!
An Entrepreneur’s Story
Three major lessons from my entrepreneurial journey
By Sarvesh Agrawal, Founder & CEO, Internshala
The Driving Force
Soon, there will come a time when, after a late-night outing and a couple of drinks, you will be driven home safely by a driver-less car, summoned from your smart phone. Another day, you might be ferried to work, while safely making calls or doing business on your mobile device. Autonomous and on-demand, these taxis would be part of a fleet, each performing multiple trips per day. This is one example of artificial intelligence presence in the arena of driver-less cars.
It is difficult to fathom the impact that driver-less cars will have on society. They bring to mind the robots and intelligent machines envisioned by the likes of Isaac Asimov, or even Star Trek’s well known concept of tele-portation (“Beam me up, Scotty!”). With few other reference points, we can be forgiven for imagining driver-less technology as more science fiction than fact – a pipe dream. Yet the field is advancing rapidly, and dozens of development programs are currently underway, meaning that the driver-less car is a futuristic promise that is set to become reality.
A decade ago, most of the major automotive manufacturers were laying claim to the future, with their plans for driver-less cars. Among the most pro-active were General Motors, Nissan and Volkswagen. Since then, a number of other manufacturers have entered the field. For example, Uber is already testing driver-less cars on the streets of Pittsburgh, while Tesla aims to have its technology ready in 2018. Google has not announced a formal deadline, but it is working on having the technology ready by 2020. BMW will introduce its self-driving cars in China, in 2021. If these major players continue on their present course, with artificial intelligence playing a key role, then we can expect to see a range of benefits, including increased road safety, shorter travel times, reduced emissions.
It is a fact that adoption rates of new technologies have accelerated sharply. It took nearly sixty years for the radio to reach 100 percent of households, but well under ten years for smart phones to do the same. Each technological advance transformed the world in a fundamental way, and consumers will hopefully jump on board when driver-less tech goes mainstream.
While automakers are developing complex systems that allow cars to drive themselves, they are also refining existing technologies, including self-parking and autonomous safety systems. Soon enough, these and other AI-driven automotive technologies will be commonplace. The hour is near.
This delivery vehicle is, shall we say, street-smart. Currently, undergoing road tests, it can carry loads of up to 330 lbs at a maximum speed of thirty kilometers per hour. It can calculate the shortest route to its destination while also avoiding traffic snarls. Likewise, it can alter its route if needed, in response to traffic lights and potential obstacles.
China is already well ahead of other countries when it comes to driver-less delivery vehicles. JD.com, China's second-largest e-commerce player, recently completed tests of its own system at Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city, a project touted as a model for sustainable cities. JD.com, (also known as Jingdong) is now developing delivery drones and driver-less vehicles in conjunction with robot maker Siasun, while also investigating ways of automating its logistics network.
Speaking to China Daily, Xiao Jun, of JD.com’s “X Lab,” has declared that "driver-less delivery transportation is, indeed, just '[the] tip of [the] iceberg'."
To cap it all
AI-driven cars may be racing into the future, but don’t assume that human operators are a thing of the past. At Nissan, for example, researchers are working to interface human brain activity directly with a car’s control system. Nissan’s system – called Brain-to-Vehicle (B2V) – uses a special electroencephalographic (EEG) cap that monitors neural activity and then transmits instructions to the vehicle. Using the driver’s eyes as sensors, the car can stop, swerve, make turns and reverse.
B2V still has some way to go before it can match more “traditional” AI vehicles, but it will be a crowning moment when we simply have to slip on a “driving cap” and let our brains “take the wheel.”
Effects and after-effects of AI
For better and worse, artificial intelligence is increasingly impacting many aspects of our lives. Warnings about where it might all be leading are becoming ever more commonplace, even clichéd.
For example, a 2014 CNBC report cites the futurist and Google executive Ray Kurzweil, who says that, by the end of the next decade, computers will have acquired a range of characteristics that equal or exceed human abilities.
Meanwhile, the renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has suggested that artificial intelligence “could replace humans altogether.” He argues that “[t]he real risk with AI isn't malice but competence. A super intelligent AI will be extremely good at accomplishing its goals, and if those goals aren't aligned with ours, we're in trouble.”
The trouble comes when we become overly dependent on artificial intelligence. AI has given us personal assistants like Siri, while behavioral algorithms and search technologies have become part of everyday life. Self-driving vehicles are just over the horizon. So too, is the pervasive deployment of machine-learning technologies, backed by the likes of Apple, Facebook, Google and Tesla. With such developments comings so fast and thick, we must ask ourselves how much of an effect this technology will have on our future, and how it will shape our lives.
Much like automation, artificial intelligence applications make it possible for machines to complete “real human tasks.” Some of the abilities currently within the reach of AI technology include visual perception, speech recognition, and human-like decision-making and adaptability.
Then again, while a ‘human level’ of intelligence may someday be achieved, the artificial intelligence will lack the emotional quotient. “The ability to tell a joke, to be funny, to be romantic, to be loving, to be sexy, that is the cutting edge of human intelligence, that is not a sideshow," says Kurzweil.
Humans need AI to think not feel!
AI is the new alphabet
According to a February 2018 report in the Financial Times, a new milestone was reached when two groups of scientists and engineers from Microsoft and the Alibaba Group demonstrated artificial intelligence software which they claimed could exceed human levels of reading comprehension. What it showed, they said, was that the AI could grasp meaning, inference, implications and simple common sense.
According to Microsoft, this AI “can read a document and answer questions about it as well as a person.” “AIs can absorb one million books in six seconds and (reading comprehensions) will not linger at human levels, but will improve,” Kurzweil enthuses.
Despite all of these technical advancements, however, human beings are still needed for their social skill sets.
While new jobs will be invented in such fields as software engineering, driver-less vehicle development, and cloud computing, we will still require trainers, chefs, psychologists, nurses and craftspeople who are capable of attending to the material and emotional needs of humans.
Driver-less cars and AI
By: Abraham Tharakan, Columnist
An Entrepreneur’s Story
Driver-less cars and AI