Facilitating one of the Entrepreneurship Development Trainings
What do we picture in our minds when we think of an entrepreneur? A huge company? A shop? I think of a venture, big or small, employing people to creating something meaningful. I was an entrepreneur myself. For a short time, I ran a restaurant of our own in Bengaluru. It served South Indian cuisine and a specialty Desi burger. Until then, I saw entrepreneurship only in this format and did not think the various other possible forms.
Wikipedia defines the term in this way – ‘Entrepreneurship is the creation or extraction of value. An entrepreneur is an individual who creates a new business, bearing most of the risks and enjoying most of the rewards.’ Udyogini, the NGO I am working with, is a pioneer in micro-enterprise creation in the country at the grassroots level, building livelihoods and creating value in the rural areas. The model here is that women in villages come together and make a Women Entrepreneurship Group (WEG).
Every WEG is led by a member who is known as a Business Development Service Provider (BDSP). She is one of the women from the village, someone who is relatively more forthcoming and active among the villagers.
Udyogini holds regular meetings in the villages, usually two per month, where different aspects of micro enterprise are spoken about. We also talk about the differences between being an employee and an entrepreneur so that they can make a better choice. I attended many of these WEG meetings and also facilitated some, which led to interesting takeaways.
My idea during the meetings is simple – What they want to do or the kind of enterprise they want to build, has to originate from them. If we tell them what they can do, then it becomes a job. Moreover, the villagers know better than us as to what is good for them. We end up learning more when we listen to them.
During every meeting, we ensure that we stress on them making decisions regarding what they want to do, and merely act as facilitators. In one such meeting, we went turn by turn to understand what each woman thinks of an enterprise, and what would they prefer to be – an employee or an entrepreneur. They said multiple things but the women who picked entrepreneurship over being an employee, had these points:
- ‘Hum apne marzi ke maalik honge’ – This is an important factor for people because it attracts them towards the flexibility and ownership that entrepreneurship gives. It motivates them to work hard to achieve what they set out to do.
- Owing to multiple responsibilities at home, we can afford a few hours a day into creating or working towards something of our own, and hence we cannot take up employment where the working hours and duration are decided by somebody else – This is a reality I have first hand witnessed and I need to acknowledge that these women have responsibilities that take significant amount of their time. They can take up other things only in their spare time. A lot of organisations working with women have made a brilliant use of their spare time.
- We would want to continue doing the work we are already doing, at home and in agriculture fields. This enterprise could act as an ‘add-on’ instead of replacing our current life – This got me thinking and gave a new perspective towards entrepreneurship. I never thought of it as an addition to what we are doing in spite of having seen urban entrepreneurs who have home-run businesses like making and selling cakes during their spare time to fulfil their passion.
How successful is this attempt at creating women entrepreneurs is a question that looms in many people’s minds. Its valuation needs a different outlook altogether. The task at hand is not easy. Women who have not stepped out, and have had restricted roles at home, still following the ghunghat tradition, are being made entrepreneurs.
The effort is done in stages:
- The first task is to convince them to join the WEG. This is done by field assistants who are local people and have a personal connect at the village level. This involves convincing women to join, and men to be okay with it.
- Then they are asked to attend the meetings which are held in the evenings since women are busy in agriculture fields during the day. This attendance cannot be ensured until and unless they feel a connect with their group and the purpose of coming together. If they come after a hard day on farm, it shows the commitment they have.
- Based on the economic and geographic conditions of the village, interests of people, and our ongoing projects, we need to create value. Women, individually or in groups create marketable products that add to the value chain.
In one of the success stories that I saw, a woman in Khandar who is closely associated with Udyogini, says that she had been making pickles for the past 20 years and they are tremendously good. But she never thought of selling them in the market. This is probably a case with thousands of them. When she became actively associated with the WEG, met various other women, took active part in meetings, she started selling pickles.
Now people even ask her to make pickles on special orders. We can see hundreds of such stories where women have come out of their comfort zone and have created great value for themselves and the society.
“Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day. Teach them to fish and you feed them for a lifetime”- this is what drives us to create entrepreneurs who would become self-reliant in the long run and make the most of their lives.