By Gayathri Vasudevan
What with India’s jobless growth in the recent years, it is time to actively fuel the entrepreneurial ecosystem. When we think of entrepreneurship, our mind seems to be more attuned to the urban landscape, conjuring up tech entrepreneurs with means and skillsets. It is about time that we turn our focus towards a section of the society that is going through a quiet and gradual revolution, displaying a positive zeal and focused drive to make a sustainable livelihood.
Today, I introduce you to two brothers, championing for sustainable growth through micro entrepreneurship.
20 year Praveen Kumar and 18 year old Naveen, hailing from Hinnakki village in Anekal taluk, Karnataka, are sons of a small-time carpenter with meagre earnings. Their family is large, consisting of the two brothers, their parents and their school-going sister. Looking at the family’s daily financial struggles, Praveen knew, from a very young age, he had to start working soon to supplement the family income and dropped out of PUC. He always took pride in his fitness level and penchant for workouts, so he turned that into a profession and started working as a gym coach at a local gym. Naveen completed his SSLC and joined a Bajaj service station to work as a helper. Although he didn’t receive any formal training in repairing vehicles, he learned by observing the technicians at work, supporting them in whatever way he could.
While Naveen continued his informal on-the-job learning at Bajaj service station, he slowly realized the potential of auto service technicians in the market and put more effort in learning the tricks of the trade. After working in the garage for a year and a half, he convinced his brother Praveen to team up with him and pitch car owners in their locality for repair and tinkering jobs. However, it soon dawned on them that in order to bring perfection in their work and build a customer base, they needed to gather some technical knowledge from experts and get properly skilled. This prompted them to look for suitable vocational courses.
During their search, they learnt about YES and LabourNet skill development centre offering a certificate course in automobile servicing and enrolled for the course immediately. Both brothers successfully completed the course, building confidence through the soft skills training provided along with domain knowledge training. The trainer motivated them to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. However, funding became a major challenge so they settled for a rented garage, paying the owner 450 rupees per day. They make around 2500 rupees in a day, servicing vehicles in their rented garage. If all goes well, they hope to save up money and open their own garage next year.
Praveen and Naveen’s entrepreneurial venture, however small, is a major step towards self-sufficiency. Like them, there are plenty of budding entrepreneurs who are marching towards sustainable growth through sheer grit and innovative ideas. When these individuals can summon up the right spirit and self-motivation to rise from nothing, imagine what wonders this ecosystem can unfold with the right amount of hand-holding, funding and market linkages.
LabourNet’s startup incubation centres are supporting 7000 such entrepreneurs through a 5-pronged strategy
1.Mentoring them to build market through 8-10 month hand-holding process
While anyone can nurture dreams of becoming an entrepreneur, without the initial hand-holding, no budding entrepreneur can realise full potential, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. An entrepreneur needs to have a 360 degree vision of the marketplace and be ready to don many hats – that of a business developer, marketer, customer relations officer, accountant and strategist. LabourNet trains small-time business owners on business development, taking them through the nuances of approaching customers and bringing them onboard. Hand-holding is an important part of LabourNet’s incubation centre.
2. Building their business capacity to understand accounting, cash transactions, P&L statements and be part of the digital economy
It goes without saying that no business can function properly if books are not maintained properly. Any monetary transaction has to be documented well and financial statements need to be gauged. Tax aspects have to be understood thoroughly in order to meet all compliances. In this digital economy, computer knowledge is mandatory for all startup entrepreneurs. As a mentor, LabourNet takes its protégés through these important aspects of business and lead them to the right direction.
3. Enabling them to establish themselves as legal entities
Establishing a new business requires a lot of paperwork in order to be recognised as a legal entity. LabourNet makes sure that this documentation is correctly maintained from the beginning to ensure readiness for financial transactions and all future compliance audits.
4. Facilitating linkages to capital & working capital
As seen in the case of the two brothers, Praveen and Naveen, access to capital becomes a deciding factor in the sustainability of the business. LabourNet hand-holds entrepreneurs and ensures linkages to funds by approaching government and private investors.
5. Building brand value
Right from designing and branding of the workplace to taking the brand to its right audience, there needs to be careful hand-holding pursued by the mentor. How you project your business to the outside world needs careful strategizing and systematic planning. Today’s customers are extremely brand-savvy. Every small business needs to promote itself through the right channels to get visibility and assure customers of its quality and expertise. The incubation centres at LabourNet train and encourage entrepreneurs to think out-of-the-box in order to reach out to its audience and create brand awareness.
When it comes to best practices and suggestions pertaining to mentoring the entrepreneurs, I am all ears and eyes. Looking forward to your comments.
Gayathri Vasudevan is CEO of LabourNet Services India. LabourNet is a Social Enterprise that enables livelihoods by focusing on ‘Real income Increase’ for informal sector workers. Impact News reposted it after her approval.