By Bhaskar Chakrabarti- Professor, Public Policy & Management Group, IIM Calcutta
It is customary for some of the best magazines to have a ‘summer reading’ issue – I remember Ploughshares and Tin House, two of my favourite magazines – carrying front covers of a person holding the summer issue by a beach or amidst trees, engrossed in reading. As we bring out the summer issue of the TSEC newsletter, I somehow have a similar feeling looking at the contents. That you will not be able to put the newsletter down (or close the window, if that sounds more correct) without reading all articles that cover a spectrum usual of the newsletter.
When did you last see a bee hive hanging from a tree in your garden, maybe when you were visiting the ancestral house a few miles away from the city, and thought it would be so good to keep the bees and yet taste some honey? In this issue of the newsletter, we bring you news about Bee Basket, a social enterprise that works on conservation, protection, rescue and relocation of bee hives in urban areas. They have been successful in relocating more than three thousand bee hives. A hybrid organisation, Bee Basket runs a non-profit society with help from the government and corporates as well as run a for-profit start-up. The issue also gives a glimpse of Greenwear, which is empowering women in rural areas through solar charka (spinning wheel) and solar loom. Equally enthralling is Prema Gopalan’s analysis of the ways to tap the potential of grassroots women entrepreneurs. Enjoy reading!
By Amit Godse- Founder
Bee Basket is a social enterprise and we work on conservation, protection, rescue and relocation of perceived unwanted bee hives in urban India especially in the cities of Pune and Mumbai. In these two cities alone, the Bee Basket team has rescued and relocated more than 3200 bee hives in the past three years. They also provide livelihood and market access to tribal bee keepers and farmers through honey bees and sell natural, organic honey and other non-toxic bee based value added products to their consumers.
In India, millions of bees are being killed across the urban areas by pest control organisations and traditional hunters. Amit Godse, the Founder of Bee Basket, was a Mechanical engineer and worked as a software developer for five years with IT Major Capgemini in Mumbai. He owned a flat in Pune which had transformed into his weekend home. On one such weekend, members of that particular residential society spotted a huge beehive and called the local pest controller to kill the bees. Within a few seconds, the harmful chemical used by the pest control team killed millions of bees. In fact,these harsh chemicals are not only detrimental to bees but also to humans. It was then that Godse realised he should do something about it. The funniest part is that everyone wants pure honey, but rarely do people want bees in their life.
Bees are an integral part of our ecology. Whatever we eat, one-third of it comes with the help of honey bees. As per a research, 73% pollination in this world is done by honey bees alone. Bees increase crop production by 40% on an average.
Post the incident in Pune, Godse quit his job in 2014 and started developing the modern and sustainable method of harvesting honey a multiple times from a single comb without affecting any bee. His initiative is also a source of livelihood for the low-income groups which turned out to be a win-win-win situation for all stake holders including the tribals, urban dwellers, farmers, bee keepers as well as customers who are looking for genuine bee products such as honey etc.
Today, Bee Basket is a hybrid organisation. Their non-profit Bee Basket Society, with the help of government and CSR support, trains tribals, farmers and bee keepers to use the modern method of honey harvesting. The start-up buys back all the bee products from them and sells it through their for-profit organisation Bee Basket Enterprises Private Limited.
At present, Bee basket has more than 5000 customers who are based out of Pune and Mumbai. Apart from that Bee Basket delivers to nutritionists, patients, athletics and temples. Bee Basket wants to focus fully on honey and in making value added health and wellness products such as lipstick, lip balm, foot cream etc for the next few years. They are also looking to increase their honey market share in India to 5% in the next five years. They are aiming to make these products with the help of women SHGs and differently-abled people. They are also exploring options to export honey to different countries in the next one year. In fact, they are seeking to become an AMUL for the honey bee industry and are looking to introduce a range of bee-based products. Although, the start-up is based out of Pune at present, but they are also operating in Jharkhand, West Bengal and Chhattisgarh.
By Prema Gopalan, Globaliser Ashoka Fellow and Executive Director at Swayam Shikshan Prayog
I believe excluded and resource-poor communities can be revitalized through economic growth and social progress if the true potential of grassroots women entrepreneurs is realized and tapped.
Start-ups today need to build robust partnership eco-systems that enable women led entrepreneurship and leadership in sustainable development. By choice, one must work in low income, climate threatened communities in India. There are a huge number of first time women entrepreneurs who are waiting to be handholded and can generate incomes worth crores and thus revitalize these difficult economies.
At the core of the Entrepreneurship and Leadership strategy of a start-up in this sector is building strong partnership ecosystems that will help grassroots women’s networks to access 21st century skills – innovation, problem solving, and accessing resources -finance, technology and marketing platforms .A crucial game-changer has been and will be the creation of networks of women entrepreneurs or self-help groups (SHGs) that can allowed them to work collaboratively with each other’s groups to scale.
Rural women often face problems in entering the workforce and barely 14% succeed as entrepreneurs. The need to improve women’s participation in the economy has been a long-standing priority and is also crucial towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
Without the skills for market opportunity spotting, and knowledge on financial management, women, even though highly interested, often fail to establish, engage or expand their enterprises beyond one or two cycles.
Women in rural areas face multiple barriers to pursuing income-generating activities. The fear of failure, business loss and debts, family and societal norms significantly erode the resilience of women deterring them from launching new businesses.
Other issues include lack of awareness about opportunities, difficulty in accessing formal financing and poor customer management skills. It is clear that providing opportunities isn’t enough — these women made aware and guided through the process to ensure they are successful.
Even after the women are trained as entrepreneurs, families are not interested in risky investments and in the trial and learning involved at the start up stage.
How can start-ups help women networks overcome these challenges ?
Start-ups should make way to encourage rural women to start their own businesses by making them aware of entrepreneurship as a realistic opportunity, and, by informing them of the benefits of starting their own small enterprises.
One must also provide basic entrepreneurship trainings that include capabilities to persuade and negotiate with stakeholders in their markets
Access to finance remains a big hurdle for rural women who often dip into their savings or take loans from their family. At this point, start-ups can explore and offer options to handholds women to learn financials, write their business plans, keep regular sales records and “get bank ready “ by giving low cost bridge loans, meet working capital needs and later access formal banking channels.
Women-run businesses often fail due to poor understanding of the market. They must be provided inputs to help women access market linkages. Local mentor teams should assist them to go to the market, by linking them to wholesalers and introducing them to a variety of business models and ideas to help them scale up.
The most important role of the start-ups and women’s networks in the lives of rural entrepreneurs should be as a source of motivation, through peers. The close day to day interaction afforded by the network and groups allows women to become more confident and enhance their determination to continue with their businesses.
Often, family pressures, lack of mobility and lack of community support, discourage women and cause them to abandon their business, in such instances, start-ups along with the women leaders must effectively engage with women to counter such incidents
Mantras for Women Entrepreneurs in the rural sector
• Scaling Out – instead of scaling up one venture, women entrepreneurs prefer to scale out by diversifying into number of seasonal and farm allied enterprises. This helps in spreading risks across enterprises and weathering climate uncertainties.
• Ecosystem Builders: progressive entrepreneurs emerge as business leaders, role models and mentors and lead peer to peer advisory and learning networks close to where women are growing enterprises.
• Collaboration – instead of competition among entrepreneurs, networks foster a range of B2B collaborations across value chains which enable women to develop cluster level growth plans that include more women, create more jobs, skills and the power of joint negotiation with market players.
• Change Makers : As women entrepreneurs succeed they embrace community leadership to address challenges faced in nutrition & agriculture, health, water, sanitation
Greenwear presents a new age of sustainable fashion where it follows the concept of Khadi, Solar Charkha (compact spinning wheel powered by solar panels installed at households levels) to create high quality affordable textiles and garments. It is a marketplace for Solar Charkha Mission and soon-to-be-launched e-commerce store for mass customization and bespoke tailoring. The product range of Greenwear believes in having zero defects in quality and zero effect on environment.
In the present scenario, there are only a handful of khadi artisans as they are not paid in accordance with their hard work. This leads to distressed migration and adversely affects the village economy. To address this problem, Bhartiya Harit Khadi Gramodaya Sansthan (BHKGS) brought forward Solar Charkhas (Compact Spinning Machine run on solar power) as a tool of economic empowerment of rural women by enabling them to earn while working from their households in addition to taking care of their family and daily chores. Since there is no drudgery in operating solar charkhas, a woman can easily run two machines simultaneously and earn upto INR 12,000/- while working from her household. As the machine is powered by solar energy there will be reduction in carbon emission. Thus, if the entire value chain in the textile industry is run by solar power it will lead to the creation of a green energy textile value chain.
Mr Abhishek Pathak, founder of Greenwear, has previously been a designer in the home fashion industry for two years and was also in the Lead Business Development team of Textile and Craft in Drishtee Foundation for 2 years. The problems which he and his team of Greenwear is trying to address are:
• Environment: Textile Industry is second largest polluter in the world. To address this Greenwear is supporting the supply chain powered by renewable energy resources i.e. Solar Charkha, Solar Looms, Organic Dyeing etc.
• Shared Prosperity: Poor supply chain from rural to global, limited technology support, dependency on subsidy of existing khadi institutions. To address this Greenwear is providing sustainable backward and forward linkages to khadi artisans through technology driven market place of mass customization.
• Women Empowerment: Unorganised sector has 6.6 million women artisans with poor formal skills and to address this Greenwear is increasing productivity and income level of rural women while empowering them to work on solar charkha from their households and ensuring 100% buy back of their produce.
As a solution to the above problems, Greenwear procures yarns from Bhartiya Harit Khadi Gramodaya Sansthan (BHKGS) and creates further value chain of fabrics and garments. BHKGS has successfully run the pilot project for Solar Charkha Mission and is now gearing up to provide knowledge support to 50 other solar charkha training cum production centres (TPC). These TPCs will strengthen backward linkage for Greenwear. Although the price of yarns procured from BHKGS is marginally higher than mill made yarns but the quality of Khadi makes it exclusive and worth its cost. Also, the direct impact on rural women beneficiaries who are running solar charkhas at their household ensures authentic sourcing. The fabrics made of these yarns are then sold to brand ‘W for Women’ without further processing which generates 80% of revenue as of now. Greenwear is planning to have exclusive partners in each segment of fashion such as for womenwear – W, Menswear – Raymond and Kidswear – Wondermom. These brands will be mostly purchasing unprocessed fabrics from Greenwear and will be launching their capsule collection styled by in-house designers. In addition to these, Greenwear has its own retail store in Lucknow which is spread across 4000 square feet area and has presence in 4 other retail stores such as – UPICA, UP Handloom stores etc.
At present, UP-based Greenwear is empowering around 4000 women from rural areas by giving them continuous employment. Out of this, 3500 rural women beneficiaries are spinning on Solar Charkha and 500 traditional weavers are using Solar Loom.
IIM Calcutta Innovation Park organized “Thinking Social” seminar in partnership with School of Social Entrepreneurs and Birla Institute of Management Technology (BIMTECH), Atal Incubation Centre on 10 th August, 2019. The primary objective of this exercise was to build awareness, interest and desire to engage with the Social Enterprise Ecosystem amongst the aspiring entrepreneurs and start ups
who were about to embark on their entrepreneurship journey soon.The speakers comprised Dr. Abha Rishi CEO, BIMTECH, Atal Incubation Centre (AIC) and Chairperson, Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development;Mr. Suman Mukhopadhyay, Mentor- IIM Calcutta Innovation Park;Mr. Parul Soni, Global Managing Partner, Think Through Consulting;Ms. Umang Sridhar is the founder of KhaDigi;Mr. Abhinav Girdhar is Co-founder & CEO of Bodhi Health Education;Mr. Aditya Bose is the founder of Pro Bano;Mr. Ashish Agarwal is the founder of Talento Consulting; Dr. Kamal Singh, CEO and the Executive Director of Global Compact Network India (GCNI); Mr. Shalabh Mittal, CEO- School of Social Entrepreneurs. The event witnessed around 50 participants.
Thinking Social Seminar -Bangalore: The TATA Social Enterprise Challenge Thinking Social Seminar will be organised on 23rd August 2019 at Derbi Foundation in Bangalore.