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After a successful launch of empoWer last year, earlier this September, Mumbai based Zone Startups India announced empoWer 2017 in partnership with Department of Science and Technology (Government of India), Social Alpha (an initiative by Tata Trusts),  Microsoft, Amazon Launchpad, ICICI Bank, PayU, CapitalFirst, Bureu de Quebec  and FlexiLoans.
 
After multi-city roadshows and an online campaign to attract applications, the program received 376 applications – almost double the number of applications received last year. 
 
The empoWer 2017 cohort comprised of startups ranging across technology themes such as IOT, Artificial Intelligence, and Deep Learning; and industries such as healthcare, smart cities and enterprise solutions.
 
During the 6-week program, the 15 founders got to interact with over 40 mentors, including industry leaders and subject matter experts; in addition to a few industry visits, such as a meeting with the CEO and Founder of Capital First. 
 
Says Rachana Iyer, Senior Manager – Corporate Social Responsibility & Communications, Capital First “It has been inspiring for Capital First to have engaged so closely with 15 exceptional women entrepreneurs. We really look forward to supporting the winners of the grant funding on providing mentorship, opening up channels for their products and collaborating on using technology to create sustained social impact. Empower has truly been a great program and platform for us to feel the pulse of social innovation in India led by women entrepreneurs.”
 
7- weeks into the accelerator program, Zone Startups India hosted the empoWer 2017 demo day on 13th December, at the BSE International Convention Centre. The demo day was attended by 150 guests, which included the investor community and large corporates. 
 
 
The Keynote address at the empoWer demo day was presided by Dr. Anita Gupta, Director and Associate Head Innovation & Entrepreneurship, DST, Govt. of India. Dr. Anita spoke about how Education, Encouragement, and Empowerment can bring about the success of women entrepreneurs.
 
 
The keynote address was followed by a high profile panel discussion on whether investing in women entrepreneurs fuels higher financial and social returns. The session had eminent panellists in Varsha Tagare – Managing Director, Qualcomm Ventures, Atin Sharma, Partner, Round Glass Partners, Deepthi Reddy, Head of Investments – Social Alpha and Ritesh Jain, Cofounder – Flexi Loans. 
 
 
The main highlight of the empoWer demo day was the startup pitches. The quality of startups and the problem that they were solving, surpassed the expectations of everyone in the audience. Each pitch seemingly the best, till the next pitch came up. 
 
 
Zone Startups India handed out equity-free seed funding of INR 7 Lakhs to the 3 eligible startups, based on multiple evaluation criteria. The respective grantees were Periwinkle Technologies, Tactopus Education, and Revol Inc. The seed funds were supported by Capital First and Department of Science and Technology. 
 
 
Additionally, Microsoft handed out USD 25K worth of Microsoft Azure credits and go-to market support to TekUncorked and The Friday Code. 
 
 
Based on the international scalability potential, Bitgram was offered a 1-week bespoke market access trip to Montreal, by Bureau du Quebec.
 
 
Lastly, Amazon Launchpad offered its consumer platform to Tactopus and Tapu Sustainable Solutions and a ‘Startup Spotlight’ status to Cashew. 
 
 
Social Alpha, a Tata Trusts initiative is also considering Periwinkle, Tapu Sustainable Solutions and Tactolpus for their incubation and INR 50 Lakh seed investments. We will be making this announcement soon.
 
 
The program received amazing positive feedback from its participants. “EmpoWer, among all initiatives for women entrepreneurs, stands out with its unique program structure. The 6 weeks are planned and organized to make the maximum out of the 2 days/week spent by the entrepreneurs. says Sivareena S.L, Founder, PregBuddy
 
 
Ajay Ramasubramaniam, Director, Zone Startups India, says “Over the past 2 years, we have seen some outstanding startups led by women founders, and it is unfortunate that the program is best fit for a 15 member cohort. It has made us re-think our approach, and this year onwards empoWer has morphed into a year-long initiative, wherein the accelerator will be one of the pillars of the program. In addition to the accelerator, empoWer will now have a bootcamp program, and a structured community engagement program for women entrepreneurs, which will help them in scaling their business through pre-planned half-yearly workshops and community support. Looking forward to more exciting stuff in 2018”.
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Pria Randolph, founder of Bitgram wrote a blog on scaling opportunities for startups. Bitgram is part of empoWer 2017’s cohort. Read on to know more. 

 

One fine Friday morning in Mumbai, sipping hot chocolate and listening to Delna Avari’s talk on preparing my organization to Scale, I was inspired to write down a few things that I learnt from her session and from my own experiences over the past 15 years. Thank you Delna, you are always a big inspiration and thank you empoWer2017 who made this possible with the Women in Tech Bootcamp! You guys rock!

Amidst the chaos and conundrum of growing customers vs managing everything possible in effectuation mode, startups often face this situation – With limited resources how do I serve constantly increasing demand? The answer is to find the best formula to scale.

While Growth will always need a linear increase in resources for revenues to increase, Scaling implies a rapid increase in revenue, with resources still going in linear mode.

Here are 5 tools that I guarantee will help you create an investable business if put to use diligently.

1. Bring down complexity.
Our platform architect keeps harping on one crucial point always, and he is very right in doing so – Avoid complexity! In the temptation to quickly dish out solutions to attract a sale, we often might end up creating fast-food like systems or principles that may in the long run make the architecture complex. While your focus is on creating a strong foundation be it in the technology of your product, the operating model of your company or your business strategy, ensure the complexity is minimal always. And please do not compromise on Quality.A focus on delivery efficiency and quality will always be the winning formula ingredient.
Key: Remember always – Complexity costs money! Einstein’s field equations aren’t 3 pages long. They are all one-liners yet describe entire universes so powerfully. Re-iterate to describe your models into equations that are small enough to be replicable.

2. Aim for a wider customer base.
Segregate customizations to a seamless API layer. Keep the core generic and extensible. This may seem like a no-brainer but the big deal here is to realise the fine balance between making something too generic to be usable at all, and making something considerably dependent on a specific customer while losing out on the rest.
Key: Use the LEGO design principle and ask yourself if you can snap out blocks and reassemble them using minimal effort.

3. The Creator mimic.
From Latin dancing to Clinical Hypnotherapy to Quantum Physics to SuperIdentities, there is one pattern that I have observed and determined to be the most powerful to ensure success – Mimic nature! Create a self-sustaining loop that will feed itself and survive, evolve itself to become more intelligent with time, and adapt itself based on its environmental relevance and shifts in how its environment functions. While nature conserves energy and momentum, it prepares the seed for sustainability in every form.
Key: Are your systems built to sustain themselves, proliferate and scale? If no, then investigate where you could bring in two important things – Automation and Processes.

4. Proactive planning for rapid scale.
Remember resources always grow incrementally in a 3-d world, but customers or revenue can scale in exponential jumps. Your strategies and business models must equip themselves for rapid scale.
Key: Use a what-if. Define and Prepare for both best case and worst case scenarios.

5. Create a Clear strategy for growth and scale.
Bring in the right product-minded people. Package value-added services instead of customizations for repeated selling. Invest in metrics and analyse them.
Key: Visualize as clearly as possible what you would want your scaled business to look like, to feel like and to be like.

These are few of the principles we use at Bitgram. It is always our endeavour to make the most efficient systems that can serve global problems with Identity.

To get further details about Bitgram visit – www.bitgram.in

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1) About The Founder:

Aardra Kannan Ambili is a Masters in Artificial Intelligence from the University of Georgia. She handles technology of the product. She has published papers on applied machine learning and natural language processing in international conferences on applications of artificial intelligence. She worked as an AI research scientist at DudeGenie, an IIT- Bombay startup in Bangalore, following which she worked in Yatra in their AI team.

 

About The Startup:

Riot Solutions, Inc (https://www.raybaby.us/) is world’s first non-contact wellness and sleep tracker for babies that uses radar technology and gives an accuracy of 98%. They have received an investment of USD 100K from US fund SOSV Ventures, HAX- a hardware incubator for startups. They are also Johnson & Johnson’s first strategic tie up in the baby space to partner for test trials. Company has received around 1500 pre-orders within 30 days of launch and a revenue of $140K

2) About The Founder:

Meenakshi Vashist headed the World-Wide Programs for Cellular Products at Freescale Semiconductor as Director-Engineering before seeding TekUncorked. She now drives Business Modeling, Strategy, Product Road-map & Architectures, Operations, Financial Oversight, Funding at TU. 29+ Years experience of driving New Product Introduction in Market

 

About The Startup:

TekUncorked (www.tekuncorked.com) offers a light IoT Framework to IoT enable devices and appliances around us making them connected and smart.Deployed as DaaS (Device as a Service) and FaaS (Framework as a Service), the Tekuncorked IoT framework enables its B2B customers to rapidly build and deploy platforms for diverse use-cases like Smart Homes, Smart Rentals, Smart Maintenance, Smart Shopping, Smart Streets and Smart Manufacturing to enhance productivity, resource optimization, efficiency, customer service and data-driven decision making.

3) About The Founder:

Sivareena Sarika is an IIT Kharagpur graduate. Prior to PregBuddy, she led supply chain at Furlenco and had co-founded PR Cell of IIT KGP. She was a part of Google Launchpad Build and SheLeadsTech by Facebook.

About The Startup:

PregBuddy Technologies Private Limited ( http://pregbuddy.com) is a 1-1 smart communication platform between doctors and patients with chronic conditions so that hospitals can provide faster care and prevent revenue leakage.

 

4) About The Founder:

Komal Goyali is a go-getter with a vision to make a difference in this world through her business. She has more than 3 years of Management and strategy consulting experience with multinationals like Deloitte. She has previously worked in the construction of 150 public toilets in rural UP with Dalmia Bharat Foundation as part of CSR. She is a Young India Fellow 2015. She has also worked with mobility startups and in the field of urban innovation with the international Think Tank World Resources Institute.

 

 

 

About The Startup:

WOWLET – The Wow Toilet Experience (www.wowlet.in) wants to provide a Wow toilet experience to each and every user of the public toilet. It will provide the public with a mobile application which will tell the user real-time information about the cleanliness of a toilet before somebody chooses to use it. It also provides world-class toilet maintenance services to fill the demand-supply gap in the market. This startup addresses the problem of finding poor sanitation when on the go be it for travel on the road or even in any busy marketplace. The startup will ensure quality maintenance and provide you with real-time information about its condition to the public through an app.

5) About The Founder:

Neha Bagoria is a social entrepreneur with a vision to alleviate issues like climate change and environmental burden. Prior to this, she worked as a software consultant for 4 years. For 2 years she did research and development on waterless urinal technology. Till now she has innovated three patent technology versions of waterless urinal; EcoTrapIn, EcoTrapInPlus and EcoTraplnXtra. Passion to conserve potable water and resolve sanitation issue led her to the invention of an indigenous innovative green technology product, EcoTrapIn waterless urinal. Her experience primarily has been into technology innovation, product development, sales and marketing.

About The Startup:

Tapu Sustainable Solutions (www.Tapu.Co.In) are into sustainable green solutions to help alleviate issues like climate change and environmental burden. EcoTrapIn- waterless urinal product which conserves 1,67,900 liters of potable water per urinal per year, is our finest innovation in water conservation. EcoTrapIn technology is a retrofit design converting conventional urinal into touch-free, odorless and hygienic ergonomic waterless urinal which is utmost preferred by men. The product development is based on, research and analysis of user preference data that is collected at various stages of pilot. EcoTrapInPlus and EcoTrapInXtra is our current versions of waterless urinal technology.

6) About The Founder:

Vishakha Singh is a pan Indian Actor & Film Producer with over 9 years of experience in the entertainment sector. She has been a CoProducer with Anurag Kashyap films on ‘Peddlers’ *ing Nimrat Kaur and ‘HaraamKhor’ *ing Nawazuddin Siddique , both of which were selected and screened at the Cannes Critics week at the Cannes Film Festival. Her last film in 2016 as an independent Producer, Onaatah, won a National Award.

About The Startup:

ICONICbot (www.iconic.wtf) is India’s 1st MultiLingual Artificial Intelligent driven chatbot connecting Influencers and their fans on relevant messaging platforms. They currently leverage the Messenger space by using engaging conversational strategies to retain users and offers multiple monetization opportunities to both the Influencers as well as the fans. The company has on-boarded 6 reputed Film celebrities/2 major Film production houses with a cumulative Facebook following of 20 Million users. BOT available in key languages: English, Tamil and has crossed 76,000 fans & processed 2.6MN messages within 6 months.

7) About The Founder:

Shruthi Gilla is a risk taker, loves traveling alone, enjoys movies and music and a pet lover. Shruthi has done Masters in Computer Applications. Has 10+ years experience in IT consulting and Product development. Previously worked with Deloitte.

About The Startup:

Revol Inc. (http://www.gocashew.com) Cashew is world’s first Smart Wallet with fingerprint authentication and Bluetooth connectivity. Cashew Smart Wallet is Revol Inc.’s flagship product. Revol Inc. is a technology startup registered in Delaware, USA. By the end of the year, they are on a target to sell 10,000 units globally generating $1,000,000 in revenue

8) About The Founder:

Niyati Agarwal is a Nit Allahabad, graduate with over 3 years of startup exposure. Experienced in the space of social media marketing and enterprise SaaS. Has been an early employee of a now $2B company. Leads platform features at Morph.ai.

 

 

 

About The Startup:

Morph.ai (https://morph.ai) is an enterprise ChatBot suite that helps businesses engage in personalized marketing and sales.We are B2B SaaS platform where businesses can create, manage and evolve chatbots for increasing awareness, improving lead quality and driving more sales. They have introduced a concept of ‘chatbot as a landing page’ to boost the lead generation for businesses by up to 500%. They have clients like Manchester City Football Club, YesBank, Yamaha, Estee Lauder etc.

 

9) About The Founder:

Chandni Rajendran is a design innovator from IDC, IIT Bombay. She won Young Innovator Award from Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fanavis (Zee 24 Taas).

 

 

 

 

About The Startup:

Tactopus (http://tactopus.com) is developing an interactive ed-tech device for blind children to learn with tangible objects. Tactopus makes it possible for blind children to learn independently with a tactile material. We make interactive tactile books for blind children, using which they can listen to audio labels and explanations while feeling/reading tactile shapes with their fingers, thereby addressing barriers to education and opportunities for blind children. They have received $4500 from a government grant.

 

10) About The Founder:

Priya Randolph is a technologist of 15 years with deep expertise in Data Intelligence and large Enterprise systems architecture. She is also a certified Clinical..

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Zone Startups India’s flagship initiative, empoWer is in its 2nd year, as an accelerator program. Launched in April 2016, the 1st cohort of the program was a huge success, with 8 of the cohort members going on to raise funding in excess of INR 150 crores, over the past year.

The success of the 1st cohort, and its members vouching for the value-added takeaways was a validation for Zone Startups India to come up with the 2nd edition. empoWer 2017 was launched on 1st September 2017, in partnership with Department of Science and Technology (Government of India), Social Alpha (an initiative by Tata Trusts), Microsoft, Amazon, ICICI Bank, PayU, CapitalFirst and FlexiLoans. The launch was followed by a full-day conference that was presided over by senior women leaders from multiple industries.

empoWer 2017 has received 372 quality applications. Zone Startups India built an evaluation committee comprising of 12 moments from its advisory council and industry experts, to finalize the 15 startups to be a part of this year’s program. After a thorough and competitive selection process, involving application evaluation, personal interviews by a panel of program advisors consisting of women leaders across industries, the following 15 startup founders have been selected for the 6-week community program. The program will comprise of mentoring sessions, workshops, industry connects, case studies of successful women-led startups, peer-to-peer, bootcamps and investor connects.

The cohort of startups selected for empoWer2017 range across technology themes such as IOT, Artificial Intelligence, and Deep Learning; and industries such as healthcare, smart cities and enterprise solutions.

The empoWer Class of 2017 is as follows:

– Riot Solutions Inc., monitoring baby sleep patterns
– REVOL Inc., smart wallets
– TekUncorked, Light IOT Framework
– WOWLET, the wow toilet experience
– Tapu Sustainable Solutions, waterless urinals
– ICONICbot / Morph.ai / Bizlem, all leveraging chatbot technologies
– Cygen / PregBuddy / Periwinkle / Tactopus, all revolutionizing healthcare, and accessibility
– Bitgram Technologies / Faasthelp / The Friday Code, all solving big enterprise use cases

The successful launch and application process has elicited interest from international markets, and the Bureau du Québec – India representative office of Government of Québec, Canada has now extended their support to empoWer 2017. One selected entrepreneur from the cohort will get an opportunity to travel to Québec, Canada for a week-long mentorship and business development program to explore business opportunities.

Dominic Marcotte, Consul, and Director of Bureau du Québec in Mumbai was extremely pleased with this partnership. He said, ‘I am proud to announce that the government of Quebec, through the Quebec office in Mumbai, concretely supports the 2nd edition of the Indian EmpoWer program. As a part of its international policy, Quebec aims at contributing to a sustainable, just and secure world, notably for women, and we believe that women entrepreneurship is a means to achieve this.”

“We had surprised ourselves when we received 191 applications for the inaugural cohort of empoWer. We set ourselves an ambitious target of 400 for this year, and almost achieved it, with 372 applications – which is a great pool in itself. We have a cohort member from Imphal; which is great in terms of diversity of the pool, as well as to show that the ecosystem is growing beyond Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi. We believe we have unearthed some solid winners in the final cohort of 15, who will go on to do wonders for themselves and the ecosystem of women entrepreneurs. We look forward to working with the cohort, and building out empoWer as the go-to accelerator program for Women Entrepreneurs in India ” says Ajay Ramasubramaniam, Director, Zone Startups India.

Hearty congratulations to all the 15 startups. All the best to you all!

Stay updated on our social media platforms @ZSIempoWer to know more about the program.

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Leverage What You've Learned In Your Previous Career For Your Future Career - Shikha Uberoi. - YouTube

Watch Shikha Uberoi, talk about how to enable smooth transition when it comes to changing careers. As a former sportsperson turned into an entrepreneur, she has a lot of insightful thoughts to share for budding entrepreneurs.

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During the launch event of empoWer2017 in Mumbai, we asked a couple of questions to Sonali Sinha. Read more to know what her insights are about women entrepreneurs in India.

Sonali believes that women entrepreneurs need to be a bit more active when it comes to promoting and pitching their ideas. Along with that they need to be serious and believe in their startups to get the best from investors and funders. According to her empoWer as a platform is great for women entrepreneurs as they need support in their initial days of growth. Mentoring, financial guidance and networking are the few merits when you join a startup accelerator.

Sonali Sinha has 20+ years experience in investment banking, social sector and entrepreneurship. She is the Founder and CEO of Soaring Eagles, an innovative talent development company. She was awarded the Women Leadership Achievement Award at the World Women Leadership Congress & Awards 2016.

To watch her talk about the challenges faced by women entrepreneurs, make sure you don’t miss out on this video.

Women Entrepreneurs Struggle In Pitching Their Ideas - Sonali Sinha - YouTube

We will be posting a lot more interviews, so stay tuned to watch more.

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How government is supporting women entrepreneurs? - Revathi Roy, Founder, HeyDeeDee - YouTube
Revathi Roy is a social entrepreneur who has been working towards empowering urban poor women since 2007 whether be it by pioneering Asia’s first all-women taxi service, Forsche or recently founding India’s first all-women instant parcel delivery service, Hey Deedee.In this interview with us, she talks about how government is supporting women entrepreneurs, her vision behind starting HeyDeeDee and what does she think about a platform like ours.
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There's no limit to the venture you can build - Naiyya Saggi, Babychakra - YouTube

In this candid chat with us, Naiyya talks about the challenges women entrepreneurs face, how at Babychakra she is trying to fill the gap and her advice to upcoming women entrepreneurs.

Naiyya Saggi, Founder & CEO, Babychakra was a speaker at #empoWer17 Mumbai Launch Conference. Applications are live for the 2017 cohort at http://empower.zone/

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Three things a Woman Entrepreneur should have - Chetna Sinha, President, Mann Deshi Foundation - YouTube

Chetna Sinha, President, Mann Deshi Foundation was a speaker at #empoWer17 Mumbai Launch Conference, inspiring the audience with her learnings from starting up and scaling Vu technologies to a 500 Crore Company.

In this candid chat with Hardik Vaidya, Devita talks about the challenges she faced while starting up, her piece of advice to budding entrepreneurs and her views on support platforms like empoWer.

Application to 2017 edition of empoWer – India’s first tech accelerator for women entrepreneurs is open. Apply here – http://empower.zone/applynow/

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We have entered the 21st century where change is part of our everyday lives. It’s not just the new emerging technologies, but also the changing mindset of our society that is helping us progress. It somehow feels like we are talking more on WHY we need a change rather than focusing on HOW we ARE changing. I noticed and realized this when I was reading up various articles on changing scenario for women in the startup ecosystem.

Yes, shades of sexism in the tech world can be seen across the globe. But we have got notable examples of women who have gone against all odds to make it as tech entrepreneurs in this male dominated tech world. Sure, we do hear stories of startups with pregnant women founders not getting funded. But women are fundraising and running startups while pregnant and after they have kids. Through our accelerator program, various bootcamps, workshops and demo days at Zone Startups India, we noticed that a lot of our proud success stories are startups that are being run and lead by women founders. These women entrepreneurs, despite facing various challenges that exist for them in the startup ecosystem, were doing great in their field with some support from us.

We realised having a dedicated accelerator program for women entrepreneurs – complete with mentoring, workshops, case studies of successful women led startups, industry connect, peer network and investor connect – will be a great platform to empower women who are trying to break barriers for themselves in the startup ecosystem . This led us to launch empoWer – India’s first accelerator for women entrepreneurs – last year. We received 191 applications; of which 15 women entrepreneurs were selected for a 6-week accelerator program followed by a 1-year support. The 8 winners selected from the cohort of 15 entrepreneurs went on to gain financial support of INR 70 Lakhs from the program​, with 15 founders going onto raise in excess of INR 150 Crores post program.​ The first edition turned out to be a huge success and a great motivation for us to keep continuing this.

The application process itself involved a detailed primary research based approach, to build a program on the lines of the “Need-Gap” experienced by Women Entrepreneurs. Here is how we designed the program based on the points that the respondents replied as “Challenging” or “Very Challenging”.

Lack of information on Markets

59% Challenging & Very Challenging – this paved way to form specific mentorship sessions with subject matter experts

Procedural delays and complexities

81% Challenging & Very Challenging – this helped us focus on the need for professional guidance on basics pertaining to company formation, legal guidance, accounting procedures and other secretarial services fro smooth functioning of business operations

Absence of role models

53% Challenging & Very Challenging – we onboarded a few successful women leaders and entrepreneurs to talk about their journey. Also, the objective of having empoWer as a 15-member cohort was to form a strong peer community. This will go on building year-on-year and lead to a strong community of women entrepreneurs.

Access to Finance

90.1% Challenging & Very Challenging – one of the reasons we attached an equity free seed funding at the end of the program, was to provide some degree of financial support, and belief in the venture.

Access to markets (sectors & customers)

77.4% Challenging & Very Challenging – we ensured that every week we brought in senior industry leaders, or organized an industry visit, for providing exposure to the cohort members; as well as open up access to these potential partners and clients.

Networking

61% Challenging & Very Challenging – during the course of the 6-week program, every week had a networking session that helped the cohort build their network. Also, the end of program Demo Day was largely to put these entrepreneurs on the big stage, and help them with a profile with a larger audience.

 

We are now in middle of the second edition of empoWer. We launched the 2017 edition on 1st September. The applications are live on empower.zone till 6th October 2017. Starting this year, empoWer expands itself to become an ecosystem for nurturing women entrepreneurship through a conference, accelerator, skill bootcamp, community and access to funding as a year round initiative. The overall objective of empoWer is to be able to identify some solid women entrepreneurs build great, fundable businesses and provide them the support pivotal in taking their business to the next level.

 

– Kainat Ahmed, Team empoWer

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