Published: 20th January 2021
This portal is helping at-home women entrepreneurs get into the e-commerce game. Here's how
Maheela, a newly-launched online marketplace, has an array of handmade and homemade products by women. We find out more
Right when the lockdown began, the Prime Minister had appealed to the nation for two things, things that citizens could do to revive the dwindling economy — be self-reliant and buy local products. Words and phrases like Atmanirbhar Bharat and Vocal for Local have since trended on social media and become part of everyday usage. This message from the Prime Minister has inspired several and among them are two women — Zainab Akil and Sameena Lal — whose online platform Maheela, launched in December, aims to empower women who are home-based entrepreneurs to get an online presence and widen their customer base.
The only criteria that the duo mandates is that the products on their platform should be homemade and handcrafted. "We are focusing on small-scale vendors, women who aren't necessarily tech-savvy enough to sell their products online and get that exposure themselves. The platform is an online marketplace and we take responsibility for delivering the products to the customers. All they have to do is send their products to our delivery centres and we take care of the rest. This takes the burden off the vendor as well. While we are only delivering in Chennai right now, we do have plans to expand to other Tier II cities and towns," says Zainab and adds, "But we do have vendors from different parts of the country. One of our vendors is from Bengaluru while we have another from Gurugram."
Women from the Rise and Shine group stitch some bags and shoe cases
So what are the different products on the platform? "From healthy snacks and baked goods to soaps, bags, jewellery, quilted and crochet upholstery, we have various kinds of products that are handmade by these women," says Zainab. Maheela has onboarded 15 vendors since its launch. "We think this will not only promote their skill and talent but also act as an encouragement for more people to make indigenous products and become independent entrepreneurs," she adds. When Maheela launched, it did so with just seven vendors.
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The duo doesn't charge their vendors any fee and considers it a social initiative to promote the handmade products. "To that extent, we have tied up with a few organisation that works for and with women. Among them is the Nandri Trust's Rise and Shine group of women who are tailors. They make cloth bags and shoe cases and we have their products on Maheela. Another group of women from the Burhani Women's Association has been onboarded. These women make eatables like papads and pickles that are sold on Maheela," says Zainab.