Entrepreneurship, New Startups, Startup

A Chennai Startup plans ‘Women-Only’ Cyber cafes with Harvard University grant

TO GO WITH AFP STORY An Iranian woman sWomen in general, mostly from the suburbs, do not use cyber cafes much, even though they may be good with computers and the internet.

Thanks to the grant awarded to EmpowHer by the Omidyar Grant for Entrepreneurship in South Asia by Harvard University’s South Asia Institute. The grant aims to assist projects and organizations looking at entrepreneurial solutions to social and economic problems in South Asia.

empowHer is an Indian start-up focusing on technology empowerment of women in India. empowHer intends to enhance technology access for women. We also aim to create safe, comfortable, and information rich spaces for women.

The company aims to create safe, comfortable and information-rich spaces for women. The project is planned for city suburbs like Tambaram or small towns like Kanchipuram, around 70 km from here.


About EmpowHer

EmpowHer is an Indian startup aiming to empower the women in India through Technology.  EmpowHer sees the need for technology empowerment as an urgent need of Indian society. EmpowHer  proposes to empower women by providing a technology enabled safe environment along with educational support.

Meet the Founder(s)

  • Neelam is a technology enthusiast who is working in non-profit sector in rural India.
  • Prem Ramaswami is a Product Manager at Google also launched the Internet Bus Project in India in 2009.
  • Saurabh Agarwal is working on research on “Internet access as a Human right” under Prof. Nolan Bowie.
  • Santhosh Kumar Subramanian is co-founder of Bambaram, a Chennai-based online children’s educational toys rental library.

The idea behind EmpowHer

At a time when many cyber cafes in the city are shutting down, a group of techies is working at building a cyber café exclusively for women here.

 The idea is being pursued by Saurabh Agarwal, a Harvard student, with his friends Santhosh K. Subramanian from IIT- Kharagpur and Prem Ramaswami, also from Harvard University. The team says the aim of the project is to create safe, comfortable, and information-rich spaces for women in the city.

“People laughed at the idea initially, but when we spoke to women, many of them agreed that they feel rather unsafe accessing the internet in cyber cafes. The idea is to help them browse freely and for longer hours, to learn and tap the internet for adding value to their lives,” says Saurabh.

After special buses, railway coaches and colleges, women-only cyber cafés are now being planned for India’s Chennai suburbs to ensure secure internet accessibility to them.

“Women in general, and more so in the suburbs, do not use cyber cafés much for a variety of reasons, even though they may be conversant with computers and the internet,” said Santhosh Kumar Subramanian of start-up firm EmpowHer, adding that women also shy from cyber cafés as they do not want to be publicly “embarrassed by accidentally viewing porn sites.”

Because the cafés in the suburbs and smaller towns in the state tend to be located in places that women try to avoid them, said Subramanian.

Subramanian said the other constraints for women in accessing the internet include difficulty in adapting to new technology, lack of learning facilities and lack of awareness.

He added that a study was undertaken to understand the issues faced by women while accessing the internet. It revealed that women accounted for less than 20 percent of the visitors to cyber cafes here.

“In the city women access the internet from their homes, which is not the case with women living in suburbs and small towns,” said Subramanian.


More about EmpowHer





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