My parents migrated from Punjab to Australia in the ’90s and soon after I was born. Up until the age of 5, I didn’t speak English. Despite my mother being a teacher and speaking good English she made it a point that my brother and I were only to speak Punjabi at home.
Her theory was that we’d definitely learn English at school but would forget our mother tongue. I gave her a really hard time about this “Why did we move to Australia if you don’t want me to speak English?!” I’d say storming off. Now at 25, I’m incredibly grateful for what she did and my ability to speak Punjabi has helped me connect with my culture and people.
I am grateful to have been born in Australia — the lottery of birth has given me ample opportunity. At 19 I moved to Thailand as an Australian Youth Ambassador for Development to help refugees in a legal placement supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs. By 21 I became a Director of a publicly listed company which is Australia’s third most trusted brand in an industry where there is no trust — banking. In 2018 I went as a delegate to the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance in Argentina and in 2019 I participated in the Austalia India Youth Dialogue in Sydney. Over the last three years I’ve had the opportunity to build and lead Deakin University’s startup accelerator program and we’ve supported 51 founders whose 20 startups have generated over $3.3 million in revenue and created 99 part time and full time jobs. I’ve siezed every possibly opportunity that has come my way though I have learned although talent is across the world, opportunity is not.
In some ways Punjabi culture has been part of my upbringing in Australia — we spoke the language at home, got treated to pronthe for breakfast every now and then, went to the Gurudwara (temple) even when I didn’t understand religion but as a big kid I could be lured anywhere there was kheer (sweet rice pudding) and we listened to Punjabi music on long drives.
Uninvited guests were welcomed with a hot cup of cha ready for them and sometimes they’d even stay for a few nights or weeks if they were visiting. When I asked who they were it was something along the lines of “aapne chacha da gwandi da munda di bhabi” [our uncle’s neighbours’ son’s sister in law]. Generosity is deep in our culture and so is a sense of community.
My exposure across the world over the years has left me with a sense of responsibility to do something for South Asian women hence I’ve decided to start Bold Punjab after first hand seeing the lack of South Asian female founders across the world and in India.
When we think of entrepreneurs we often think of the Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musks of the world. Growing up I wish someone had of told me about inspiring women like Leila Janah (founder of Samasource) or Payal Kadakia, founder or Classpass – two strong women who have founded incredible startups. There’s a lack of role models for women to look up to, especially for women of colour.
The problem in Punjab
Our efforts in India will be starting with Punjab because currently, the situation in the state of Punjab is bleak. High youth unemployment, 3x the national drug abuse, a strong male preference culture that leaves women with little scope to realise their full potential and a state of brain drain.
“The cost of foreign dreams for parents in Punjab is rs 27 000 Cr…
Punjab is staring at a youth drain. The rate at which students opting for
overseas to pursue study, and mostly with no intention of returning to, and
enriching their motherland — points to this disturbing trend. It is said 90 000 students from Punjab flew out last year”. 2018, The Tribune
You can blame the government, the system or culture, but to make progress we need to unite and focus on the taking action towards solutions. Yes the problems are complex, and it will be a long journey but taking action now is important.
“Punjab — a state that was flourishing till the 80’s — from being a leading state to becoming a laggard is not just a problem of the government and governance alone, not of a political party and politician, but the problem of every Punjabi who should seriously think on what needs to be done” – 2019, India Today
The Powerful Diaspora
Another reason we’ve decided to start with Punjab is the the Punjabi community across the globe particularly in Canada, UK, USA, and Australia have risen to the highest ranks in government, business
and NFP making a significant impact in the community.
The Punjabi community has made an immense impact across the globe some leaders and entrepreneurs include
New Democrat Party Leader — Jagmeet Singh, Canada
Entertainer — Lilly Singh, Canada
Mastercard CEO — Ajaypal Singh Banga, USA
Minister of National Defence — Harjit Singh Sajjan, Canada
Australian High Commissioner to India — Harinder Sidhu, Australia
Founder — New Look — Tom Singh, UK
The economic and political contribution of Indians in Canada, USA and Australia
In Canada, Indians have proven to be a powerful political force, for a group that consists of 4% of the population, as a visible minority – Canadian Indians currently hold a whopping 86 seats across the House of Commons, Legislative Assemblies across provinces and territories and Senate. (1)
In Australia a recently announced comprehensive India Economic Strategy commissioned by the previous Prime Minister Turnbull and authored by Peter Varghese states –
“As they have in Canada, the Indian diaspora may prove over the next two decades to be the most politically active of any migrant group in Australian history since the Irish.” – Australia India Economic Strategy 2019 (2)
Although the report paints a picture of Australia being behind, most ASX listed company Directors don’t understand and Australia does more trade with New Zealand (population: 4.7 million) than India (population:1 billion). Indeed we need to move beyond paying lip service to multiculturalism when we have next to no significant publicly visible women of colour in leadership in Australia.
Additionally according to the report Silicon Valley and Bengaluru rose synergistically. From the onset of Silicon Valley’s rapid growth, it became a destination of choice for Indian technology graduates, many of whom remained in the United States after obtaining their degrees and rose to senior positions in leading Silicon Valley technology firms. Success of the Indian diaspora in Silicon Valley and their contribution to the successful growth of the Indian IT industry has been globally recognised by scholars and policymakers.
What about Punjab & India?
The report points out the bleak truth for India right now
India’s economy has more to gain by achieving gender parity than any other in the world. The rate of women’s workforce participation in India has declined over 15 years despite India’s high levels of growth. India has one of the world’s lowest rates of female workforce participation, 24 per cent compared with 40 per cent globally. Female disadvantage pervades Indian social and economic spheres. The 2017 World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report ranked India 108 out of 144 countries in terms of gender parity.
“Out to 2035, on current participation rates, women will represent one of the largest underutilised economic forces in the country. The extent to which India can achieve progress on closing the gender gap in employment, education and in financial and digital inclusion will determine not only how equitable a society it has, but how dynamic and fast growing its economy is.”
According to the International Monetary Fund, raising women’s participation in the labour force to the same level as men could boost India’s GDP by as much as 27 per cent. Failure to remove barriers to women’s economic participation will prevent India from reaching its potential.»
While Indian wealth is growing faster than the global average, the distribution of this wealth remains relatively narrow. India is one of the most unequal economies in the world and the gap between rich and poor has increased over the last decade. India’s richest 1 per cent earn 22 per cent of all income13 and have 58 per cent of the country’s wealth.
What is Bold Punjab?
Bold Punjab exists to empower Indian and South Asian women to become impactful founders through education and advocacy. We intend to unite the global Indian community of entrepreneurs and leaders to back the next generation of South Asian female founders, leaders and social entrepreneurs.
The possibilities lie in uniting and connecting the global community to empower the next generation of bold founders. In Australia, US and Canada our aim is to provide a space for young South Asian women to be inspired, connect and gain confidence.
Bold Punjab profiles and supports bold female leaders in India, redefining the narrative of success for young people. The Bold Punjab Accelerator will select high potential young women in Punjab and across India who are curious, committed to execution and dedicated to making an impact in Punjab. The program involves mentors from Microsoft, Deakin University, Google, Facebook and entrepreneurs from Canada, UK, India, USA and Australia who will provide support and connections to help scale female led ventures.
By 2025 our vision is to empower 300 women to lead impactful enterprises that create 10 000 jobs in India starting with Punjab and reshape the narrative of success for young people.
Supported by Deakin University
Deakin University is a knowledge partner in Bold Punjab through it’s SPARK Deakin entrepreneurship initiative. Svetha Venkatesh is one of the advisory board members who also leads A2I2 – a $35 million dollar leading artificial intelligence centre and is one of worlds top 15 women in Artificial Intelligence.
“We are delighted to partner with Bold Punjab. We’re committed to supporting programs that empower and create bold opportunities for women enabling them to make their dreams a reality. As a university we have strong partnerships in India and we aim to ensure that we continue to make a difference to the communities that we serve.” – Prof Svetha Venkatesh
Inspired by Maj General Anju Manchanda
I called it Bold, inspired by my late Bhua (aunt) Anju Manchanda, her memoir “Bold” is the story of a remarkably strong woman who served as a Doctor and one of the few female Major Generals in the Indian army as well as being a wife, mother and grandmother.
Our great grandfather was one of the few people in the village who insisted not only on educating his daughter at a time most (and unfortunately till this day still do) viewed daughters as a burden resulting in dowry and walking risk to “izaath” (reputation/honour)— but he believed in her and in turn Anju has served as an inspiration to many people. Her story is a testament to women across India of what’s possible when you be bold.
I remember visiting Anju Bhua when she was still writing the book, in January this year, 6 years after that visit I read the complete published book and was inspired by her pure dedication to service.
“You were not born brave, nobody is. There is always this fear in your heart; yet when life gives you choices, you can decide conclusively, to be bold. That’s when you start charting your unique destiny and living a glorious life. I never took the easy way out and i never had a dull moment in my entire life.” — Anju Manchanda
Join Us — Be Part of the Journey.
Be part of the global community of leaders committed to backing women to unleash their potential. Become a donor, mentor or corporate partner.
About Our Founder
Daizy Maan, leads Deakin University’s Entrepreneurship program SPARK Deakin, is one of the youngest Director’s of a publicly listed company that exists to reinvest profits back into the community (Bendigo Community Bank NSX: CSH). In 2019 she served as a delegate for the Australia India Youth Dialogue and in 2018 as an Australian delegate to the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance in Argentina (2018). She is passionate about empowering Indian women to realise their leadership potential and increasing diversity. In 2015 she was awarded Boroondara Young Citizen of the year for her extensive community work.
- Image by the wonderful ZHK Designs