“A woman is a full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform!” Every woman has the right to be the boss of her own life, to question her traditional roles, grow in self-worth, and realize her full potential. Women’s empowerment is a never-ending process with much more to be done. And to bring women in limelight and showcase their strengths, Prestha H laid the foundation of an NGO- ‘Talam by Dhvija’.

While working for an NGO, Prestha got the opportunity to meet several talented women who were unable to work owing to family responsibilities. Hence, with the aim to provide women with financial freedom and a platform to boost their personal growth, Prestha founded Talam by Dhvija with Muditasree Welfare Foundation’s support.

Catch Prestha talking about the events that led to the foundation of the women-centric NGO, the challenges they faced, and how they overcame them, in this conversation with Storiyaan




Questions and answers

1. Tell us about the stumbling blocks that led to the foundation of your NGO Talam by Dhvija?

To be honest, there were no such stumbling blocks to achieve my goal, there were these ladies (Wives of Ola/Uber auto and Car drivers) who wanted an opportunity to showcase their talent. At the same time, my dad’s common friend was looking for someone to work for social welfare cause and through that, I approached the founder of the welfare foundation and proposed the idea to start a foundation or platform for these women. After several brainstorming sessions, the NGO Talam by Dhvija with the support of the Muditasree Welfare Foundation was started.



2. What were the driving factors that drew you towards the cause of empowering women?

During my first job in Hyderabad, due to several issues, I had to resign from the job and come back to Chennai. I was looking for a job in Chennai and that is when I got an opportunity to work in an NGO which works for the restoration of water bodies and engages the community for environmental conservation. To my surprise, I was the only woman working in the team, which itself somewhere made me feel empowered. During my site visits, I met many women in the neighborhood who were talented but due to family responsibilities, they weren’t able to showcase or bring out their talent to the marketplace. These are the few major points that made me work towards empowering women.

3. What are some small things that everyone can do in their capacity to protect the environment?

Upcycling can be one solution, which can be easily done at home. Collect all the plastic wrappers and fill them in a plastic bottle that is lying in the corner of our house and make a plastic brick. After we collect 6 or 8 such plastic bricks, you would be able to make a corner table. You can also grow your microgreen by using your pep bottles. Cut your pep bottle into two halves and insert the inverted top part into the bottom part, by making a hole in the cap of the bottle, so when you water them the excess water will be strained. Now in the inverted part, fill it with soil and sow some seeds, and water them regularly. These simple do-it-at-home upcycling ideas will save a lot of plastic that would have rather ended up in the dump yard or the ocean.

4. What are some of the major challenges of running an NGO and how can they be best handled?

The baby steps were very difficult for me. This was my first venture and I had to learn everything from scratch. The pandemic was another hurdle, which took a lot of time for us to get established in the outside market. Luckily, I had a very strong team who were not ready to give up easily. Along with my team as I mentioned I had many cheerleaders (My friends and family). The most important skill is to be patient and at the same time to act on the opportunities you come across.



5. What are some of the major services of Talam by Dhvija and where can people interested in them avail them?

We train our women in handicrafts and seed ball making. In Handicrafts, our women are specialized in Crochet. They make sustainable Amigurumi toys, which are our major selling product. People can see our products on the Instagram page, talambydhvija, and place their orders through direct messages.

6. What was the reaction of your family and friends when you intimated them about your decision to embark on this journey?

They were all supportive, especially my parents. They were very encouraging. Also, my husband has taken an internal transfer to support the NGO!



7. Can you share with us some of the most remarkable/ memorable experiences where Talam by Dhvija provided a ray of new hope for women?

The first breakthrough was a CSR tie-up with INDIAN OIL CORPORATION LIMITED, where we were supposed to make and plant 2000 seed balls and also educate the school students on the importance and impact of seed balls. Along with these seed ball plantations we had to make the jute bags for the employees of the IOCL. It was a great experience for all of us!

8. What are the key indicators by which you measure your impact and what are some of the goals that you have set for your workspace this year?

The major indicator for me is the change of women, the development from shy and scared women to very confident and bold women, who can go out anywhere and talk about the product and the journey she has traveled to have become a confident woman. Some of the goals are, to give most of the exposure to these women so that they can inspire other such ladies too.

9. What are some challenges you come across daily in your entrepreneurial journey?

For me, I would explain my journey as building a plane while we fly it. So, we experiment with a lot of products and there would be a lot of setbacks. We don’t take these as setbacks but as learning or reinventing new things.



10. What are some of the major factors that keep you so driven and motivated towards this cause?

The following factors keep us motivated to work and achieve more-

  1. The creators (The artisans who create the product and get benefit out of it)
  2. The customers (The glee in the eyes of the customer, buy our products and support our cause)
  3. The Earth (As our products are sustainable and do not cause a hindrance to nature)

Quick 5

  1. Entrepreneurial journey in a word – Unicycle (The only way to balance is to move forward)
  2. Best advice someone ever gave you – My father always says that when you make a decision, never look back and face it.
  3. A mentor you look up to the most – Dr. Naveen Pandey (Director of The Corbett Foundation, Kaziranga) & Mr. Arun Krishnamurthy (Founder of Environmentalist Foundation of India) and my parents.
  4. A major to-do in your bucket list is – Go around the world to relish their art and culture.
  5. A past-time that helps you cope with your bad days – Dancing and listening to music.

If you wish to support the strong and talented women you just read about and purchase Amigurumi crochet toys, handmade jute bags, and soaps, you can contact Prestha on the Instagram link attached to the feature.