Rural Entrepreneuship Division (RED)
Rural Entrepreneurship Division (RED) is CEL's rural entrepreneurship project, running in Rajasthan and Goa, and looks to turn our rural location into an advantage, by looking to assist and setup rural enterprises and in the process give a sustainable source of income to village folk in surrounding areas. RED seeks to empower rural areas with entrepreneurship tools such that they themselves can create and manage self sustaining ventures.
Right from our school years we have been inundated with terms like 'the rich poor divide', 'income inequality', 'economic bias' etc. It was only in Pilani, a small village like town where we could see these school textbook terms in their real shape. Hundreds of families trapped in the spiraling abyss of poverty with no visible way out, children robbed of their innocence seeing sights not meant for their tender minds, doing jobs too young for their age and most importantly not knowing the difference. Living their lives in blissful oblivion unaware of the world where children get educated and play silly games, the world where nobody goes hungry to bed, the world where fathers get candies and mothers read bedtime stories.
We at Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, BITS Pilani are working on Rural Entrepreneurship Division (RED), an initiative to promote rural entrepreneurship. RED looks to assist and setup rural enterprises and in the process give a sustainable source of income to village folk in surrounding areas.
Recently, a survey was conducted in Raila, a village near Pilani, with the aim of collecting data which could be beneficial for the villagers in setting up a small scale revenue generating enterprise. The following were the findings of the survey
- Family's strength, age and occupation - The average family size was 5-6 people, with most of them being in the working age. The peoplewere mainly involved in agriculture, while some of the villagers had retails shops.
- Total income and expenditure of the family - The average income of the families was 10k-20k in a year.
- Current level of education - Most of the people had cleared 12thwhile some had also gone to college.
- Electric gadgets possessed - Each family had at least one mobile in each family and some of them had a T.V. and a fridge.
- Problems faced by them which need to be addressed - The villagers were unhappy with the transport facilities and the quality of education in the village school.
- Possess any skill or indigenous art - Some of the villagers knew weaving. There were a few who knew how to make mongouri and other preservable food items.
- Acceptance to new business opportunities - The villagers were open and willing to work/set up in new businesses if they are guaranteed instant results.
The purpose of the survey was to discover any skill which can be utilized to set up a small scale business leading to an additional source of income. The survey also brought to light the broad minded approach of the villagers in setting up new small scale industries.
The information gathered through this survey was used to formulate our new project wherein people from the village, bake a Rajasthani snack (mongouri) whichwill then be sold in the Pilani market and inside the BITS campus.
Brainchild of the Rural Entrepreneurship Division of CEL, BITS Pilani 'Saksham' aims at creating an independent and sustainable enterprise involving rural households (chiefly women). Meaning 'capable', Saksham aims to create a framework that identifies and conceives effective procedures for collection of leftover excesses and then utilizes commonly available resources for bringing out products that are economical and competitive in the market. All the while, it fundamentally focuses on making a successful enterprise out of a rural location and making those involved in it 'Saksham'.
The project is currently running under collaboration between RED and the National Service Scheme, BITS Pilani. Currently the project is in its nascent stage where paper wastes are the only identified resource fed to the framework.
Saksham redirects all of the paper waste generated on campus and is fed sustainably to the framework. This includes the process of segregation where the reusable wastes are ameliorated and bounded into notebooks. The same are sold throughout the campus. The capital generated goes to these rural areas and a percentage is circled back into the enterprise. The other half of the waste is diverted to recycling units in return for recycled paper which are again bounded and sold. The project has already had a successful pilot run and is on its way further improvement.
Contrary to popular notion, it is not us, the students in RED or NSS who are the entrepreneurs of this project but the rural women for whom this project has been initiated.The rural workers are from two different groups, The Natbasti SHG and The Baas Gaon SHG. These women work in their community centers after hours making stapled notebooks ready to be sold.
A lot of RED's recent emphasis went on making the Biogas project, which aimed to put up a Biogas plant in the dairy community attached to the BET campus
The team was earlier working in the field of sanitation by pursuing an approach known as Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) which focuses on igniting a change in sanitation behavior rather than constructing toilets. It does this through a process of social awakening that is stimulated by facilitators from within or outside the community. CLTS entails the facilitation of a community's analysis of their sanitation profile, as well as their practices of defecation. Under this project, Participatory rural appraisal methods are going to be used to enable local communities to collectively internalize the impact of open defecation on public health and on the entire neighborhood environment; hopefully leading to collective action to become open defecation free.
Although the project's goal in pursuing CLTS was to achieve an open defecation free status in nearby villages, the real and long term objective behind it was to identify potential leaders through our CLTS initiative. It enabled us to identify enterprising individuals who might be willing to work for rural entrepreneurial ventures in the future.