Grampreneurs are firing up the start-up stage

There’s a plethora of prodigies in the rural areas of India. New innovations and the desire to build something of their own are inspiring young rural entrepreneurs to launch their own businesses. NGOs and trusts are facilitating their progress by supporting them.

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The Indian rural landscape is witnessing a change. And the people within the community are the ones that are behind this change. Rural entrepreneurship has seen a steep growth with many groups and trusts acting as mediums to help these people. There is a lot of hidden potential in the rural space that only needs a little push to grow. Trusts like Bhartiya Yuva Shakti Trust (BYST), Gramya Resource Center for Women, Dilasa Sanstha etc and platforms like FAARMS, etc. are acting as facilitators in providing the resources and help needed by the rural entrepreneurs in setting up and managing their businesses. The rural entrepreneurs mostly lack the knowledge and expertise that is required to build big corporations.

Farming is one of the biggest economic sectors of the country. With the majority of the rural population indulging in farming and activities associated with it, communication is still a looming problem. FAARMS has stepped in to create an eco-system that enables frictionless communication.

“FAARMS was launched with the mission of creating the ultimate digital platform that provides solutions for all kinds of challenges faced by the farmers. From sourcing farming inputs, financial security and crop-related advisories to logistics, the intention was also to have a platform that brings transparency in the system. It was also aimed at giving access to high quality products which eventually results in better yields, improving the farmers’ incomes and uplifting the entire ecosystem,” says Taranbir Singh, CEO & Co-founder, FAARMS.

Companies are now taking their operations online. More so, after the pandemic. A lot of effort goes into switching operations from manual to automatic. This also requires the companies to either employ technology-savvy people or to hire people who are adept at digitalisation.

“Digitalisation has definitely helped expand our network but we had to work hard on the ground in the remote areas to spread awareness and educate the farmers about its various aspects. The adoption was slow in the beginning but now 75 per cent of our clientele is made up of repeat customers. Our relationship managers still visit the farmers from time to time and arrange awareness camps for them in all the states,” Singh points out.

Women empowerment

While talking about these aspects, another area that has been given due attention is the involvement of women. From entrepreneurship to working at an individual level, women are being tasked with roles and responsibilities that are leading them out of the comfort zones of their houses. They are also being taught new skills in various areas such as knitting, cattle farming, etc. that can provide them with a chance to build a career or help them to sustain themselves.

Manjeet Kumari is one such woman who has fought against the odds on her entrepreneurial journey. Starting from creating women’s self-help groups to becoming the owner of a soya nut making unit, her journey is an inspiration for all women. BYST played a huge part in streamlining and guiding Manjeet’s business.

Manjeet completed her training from Krishi Vigyan Kendra in the preparation of soya nuts, after which she was confused on how to use her skills in this field. BYST aided her by helping her to acquire a bank loan of Rs 1,00,000 and also provided her with mentoring support. She used the loan to purchase a large sized processing machine to produce soya nuts and packed and sold them in the local market.

“I plan to expand my business activities by diversification and by farming out more work among my women’s SHG members. My long-term vision and strategy are to scale up the business activities in partnership with SHG members,” says Kumari.

“BYST’s Mentoring India Programme and Mentor Mobile Clinics aim at creating a pool of mentors and helping entrepreneurs in far-flung villages. The Mentoring India Programme service includes screening of future mentors, customised mentor training and assessment, mentor practical training, mentor peer learning, etc. While the Mentor Mobile clinics consists of a group of five to six mentors drawn from diverse backgrounds such as marketing, engineering, finance, agro-products, general management and so on,” she points out.

Women in rural areas have long been working in the fields. They also sometimes manage the cattle and help in the daily necessary activities. But it’s time for them to take a leap and utilise their knowledge and skills to become independent. Besides, it sets a precedent for the other women in the community, inspiring them to do something similar, creating a ripple effect of positive changes.

“In India, 85 per cent of rural women work in agriculture, where a majority of them are involved in labour-intensive tasks, but only 13 per cent of women own a piece of land. They are the key agents for achieving the transformational economic, environmental and social changes required for sustainable development,” Singh asserts.

“In the dairy sector, it is quite prevalent that women are actively involved in animal husbandry activities. They manage the end-to-end operations work of a dairy farm. FAARMS is empowering these women through its tech-enabled platform where women dairy farmers can order the product and receive it at their doorstep with utmost ease and convenience,” Singh tells us.

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“One of the key issues in rural India is the lack of financial literacy and inclusion, which continues to be a barrier to the development of rural India,” says Singh.

Also Read: Indian women seeking more entrepreneurship opportunities than men: LinkedIn

Understanding the math behind your business is certainly the most crucial part of doing any business. In India, the rural population is not very literate. They don’t hold much knowledge about the math behind the business and thus are not able to earn as much as they should be doing.

Awareness campaigns and sessions are held by the NGOs and trust funds to educate people about the tips and tricks of running a business. With the upliftment of the rural communities, private players have started to come into the arena as well. The involvement of big scale companies has brought a lot of ease into the sector. Now with the association of big companies, new trends will emerge, and technological advancements will also further simplify the manual processes that the people had to toil hard at earlier.

“The agriculture sector was run majorly by the government but in the last few years, many private players have entered the space. The new age start-ups are playing a pivotal role in easing the burden on the farmers by not just introducing modern technology and farming techniques but by digitising various aspects of the farming ecosystem from supply chain networks and financial literacy to even educating and creating awareness among the farmers,” Singh asserts.

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Surmounting the challenges

Hitender Punyane is an entrepreneur from India. He was raised in Faridabad, in the state of Haryana. His father was an employee in a firm and his mother was a teacher in a local government-run school. His unit, SHN Enterprises is the leading manufacturer, wholesaler and importer of CNC tool stations, inspection tables, industrial trollies, industrial pallets and many such products, which are manufactured using superior quality material with advanced tools.

“When I started my business in 2009, I faced a lot of ups and downs while establishing the company. I faced many challenges like managing the funds for my employees and their livelihoods, vendor payments, payments for the fixed instalments for the loans taken, team retention etc,” Punyane reminisces.

To overcome these challenges, he made some changes to his business while keeping the basics the same. He started giving out discounts on the ready products and also became open to negotiation on the prices of his new products. He focused on marketing by hiring staff for tele-calling and e-marketing. He even entered the maintenance business and also started manufacturing new COVID-related products like a foot-operated sanitiser and foot-operated hand wash booths. Punyane was in touch with BYST throughout the process. They helped him with lots of suggestions, guidance, and handholding.

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The real stories are in rural India

These inspiring stories of grampreneurs tell us that rural India is rapidly changing. The rural youth too are well informed, are eager to learn, have an entrepreneurial spirit, and quite often have global aspirations as well. However, creating a facilitative eco-system for rural entrepreneurship is the need of the hour.

Also Read: Boom to India’s entrepreneurship: Lakhs of women to start own business ventures by 2025

There is a lot of work that needs to be put into rural development. Start-up culture is becoming a trend these days and it is catching up even in the remote villages. The government, NGOs and trusts are all paying heed to the hurdles that are faced by our rural entrepreneurs.

While the government is helping out with various schemes for them, organizations like BYST and FAARMS are educating these rural entrepreneurs and supporting them to enable them to reach the national stage. In due time, we will see more and more people from rural India embarking on their entrepreneurship journeys. We wish them all the success that they surely deserve.

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