Scaling up local entrepreneurs using aspiring slum entrepreneurs
We had a local tailoring entrepreneur who has a boutique and also supplies uniforms to the local school market. He estimated that the local market for children's school uniforms (half pants, some blazers, full pants for the older boys) is at least Rs. 5 crore. His dream? To capture the entire local uniform market, school uniforms, sports uniforms, and even uniforms for staff in the local hospitality sector. He was angry that he hadn't been able to tap into local labour to realize this dream, and rued the day he came to lackadaisical markets. But most of all, he was angry. This was good. He was fired up and he fired up the Basti women. He wanted to recruit almost 25 women, but most of the women had young kids and didn't seem willing to stay away from household responsibilities and put in 6 hours of daily work (no matter what the expected financial gains).
But he did get 6-8 girls who had passed secondary school (+2) exams to agree to train with him for two months at his local tailoring facility. He is also a government-enabled NCVT certification provider (for dress-making in this case), so the girls were promised a tailoring certificate at the end, if they stayed the course. His deal to them was that he would choose 2-3 of these girls, and train them further as supervisors. That way they earned more, and became recruiters to recruit more local women, grow this business further, and earn more in return. Linkages.
And then there is exposure to what can be, no matter how difficult life be. Our project manager - Mr. HK Mishra - is currently secretary of an organisation called Udyog Vikas, an entrepreneurship development organisation started by the co-founder of the organisation(s) I work with and board director of the nonprofit I'm starting up.
Udyog Vikas was a fantastic organisation that combined business development services for aspiring entrepreneurs with hardcore inspiration comprising stories of local "heroes" who had made it on their own steam. They built up an amazing network of local consultants - bankers, development workers, financial guys, NGO representatives - over time. They also were starting to build a fantastic mentoring model, where over time, the mentees themselves became successful enough to become mentors for the next batch of entrepreneurs.
- Udyog Vikas was started almost 20 years ago..... (!!!) an entrepreneurship incubator for the rural poor.
- It was a concept far ahead of its time, long preceding the IT and financial inclusion wave in India and operating in what are still some of the most impoverished rural and peri-urban areas of India.
So they used local TV channels, newspapers and radio to advertise these stories. Then they opened their doors, and in walked hundreds of those who had lost hope but wanted to start afresh and anew. (Unfortunately, the organisation has waned in the past few years due to lack of leadership, but that's another story and a less interesting one by far) .
In any case, our project manager, being a key figure in this organisation (and being devoted to my own mentor, board director, and founder of Udyog Vikas) has been able to tap into this huge network for our current work with the micro business centre in the slum.
Nayana Devi is one of the amazing women in this network. She started out with nothing at all; extremely poor, married extremely young, kicked out by husband's family for not being able to provide a dowry. Over time she worked her way up, slowly starting first one business then the next, going hungry for the first few years as she started up. Stitching dresses for herself and a few clients at first, then starting up her own tailoring business. Over time she has steadily diversified her portfolio to the extent that she now works at selling various kinds of organic spices, has a brass-molding factory, commissions applique work by various women's self-help groups that she has helped start, and employs more than 400 workers herself.
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Here she is, down below. In about two weeks we're taking all the workshop attendees to visit Nayana Devi's production facilities. The plan is either to have some of our target beneficiaries join her as wage earners, start up a self-help group under her aegis, or just be adequately inspired by her to come home and begin something of their own right away.