A Request

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Its a request to all the visitors to this blog that kindly leave a comment as to what do you feel about this initiative. You may have a prior experience in this field so please do share your experience with us. Your suggestions and guidance together with our efforts may change the lives of these families.
If you are interested to contibute in any form then please let us know.


Posted by TS at 4:39 AM 4 comments  

What are we waiting for?

Our mid-semester exams to get over.

Posted by TS at 4:35 AM 0 comments  

Our Contributors

Monday, February 25, 2008

Ayush Mathur is working as Assistant Manager, ITC, India Tobacco Division, Saharanpur.
He is an alumnus of IIT Kharagpur and has graduated with a major in Mechanical Engineering in 2007.
He is the first person to offer an interest-free loan of Rs. 5000 to Jagruti for a period of 6 months.

Abhishek Kumar is working as a Field Engineer, Schlumberger and is currently placed in Egypt. He is an alumnus of Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad and has graduated with a major in Petroleum Engineering in 2007. He has also offered an interest-free loan of Rs 5000 to Jagruti for a period of 6 months.

Himanshu Sharma is pursuing a Dual Degree course in the Dept. of Biotechnology at IIT Kharagpur. He is currently in his final year. He has offered an interest-free loan of Rs 2000 to Jagruti for a period of 6 months.

Ravish Kumar is working with Deutsche Bank, Mumbai. He graduated with a major in Electronics and Electrical Communication Engineering from IIT Kharagpur in 2006. Ravish also offered an interest-free loan of Rs 5000 to Jagruti for a period of 6 months.

Pranidhi Prabhat is working as Application Consultant with IBM, Kolkata. She is also a Volunteer of Praajak, a Kolkata-based NGO. She has graduated from Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra, Ranchi with a major in Mechanical Engineering in 2006. Pranidhi has offered an interest-free loan of Rs 2000 to Jagruti for a period of 6 months.

With support of one of our well wisher and friend, who also offered an interest-free loan of Rs 3000 to Jagruti for a period of 6 months, we have now reached our target of raising 20K. We will soon inform you with our progress. Keep checking the space.

Posted by TS at 10:54 AM 0 comments  

The Business Plan

Project Title: Establishment of a sal-leaf-plate manufacturing unit for the Jagruti-Mahila Gramodyog Samiti, Ravindrapalli, Kharagpur.

Location of the unit: In three different houses of the village.(Rotation basis)

Estimated set-up cost : Rs. 20,000.00

Estimated cost (INR)
Molding Machine
12 inch die
Sewing Machine
Initial Raw Material+ Transportation +Misc
Grand Total


Process to be followed: Two sal leave-plates are paired up and stiched together in a sewing machine. The stiched plate is then molded under the hot molding die. The fuel comprises of wood ,twigs, leaves etc. and are used to heat the die up which helps in molding. We can press 5 plates (i.e 10 sal-leave plates) together in the molding machine. But the quality of some of the plates may not be good. For this we reprocess those plates whose quality are not good when the day's work is over and the machine is left for cooling. Sometimes the plate which is facing the die gets blackened due to excessive heat. So this has to be taken care off.

Funding: Funds would be raised as micro loans from our closely connected friends for a period of 6 months. We would have to pay the loan back by September 2008.

Cost Analysis:

Cost of one raw plate : 6-15 paise (seasonal variation)
Fuel Cost: 3-4 paise per finished plate.
Total cost of production for one plate : 15-35 paise.

Selling price of each plate: 30-60 paise.
Profit per plate: 15-25 paise.

Lets say that the machine runs for 4 hours daily
and it has a production rate of 400 plates/hour
Jagruti consists of 20 women

So total number of plates produced in a month = 4*400*30 = 48000
So net profit per month = 48000*15/100=7200.00 (this is the minimum profit)
Per head profit per month = 7200/20 = Rs. 360
Maximum total profit per month= 48000*25/100 = Rs.12000.00
Per head profit per month in that case = 12000.00/20 = Rs. 600.00

It is to be noted that we are using the machine for only 4 hours each day which can be increased and hence the production will rise.

Now lets say that we are going to take Rs 200 from each of the 20 women per month towards repayment of the loan.
Per Month repayment amount = Rs. 200* 20 = Rs. 4000.00
So we need 5 months to recover the loan amount.

Posted by TS at 10:45 AM 1 comments  

Changing Business

Whenever someone asks me what am I doing in this Jagruti initiative I tend to say that I am making mistakes and trying to learn from them. This indeed is the most appropriate answer I could think of. We never thought of ending up establishing a so-called Self Help Group in such less time. I think all iniatives of this kind do not take time more than what we took but the real challenge lies ahead and that is what next?

After supplying the first lot of pickles to our ready-market we had set the ball rolling but very soon we realized that the surface on which we rolled the ball was having enough friction to stop its motion. The first challenge was to make this business economically viable. Pickle manufacturing depends hugely on the availability of the raw material. During our several trips to the local mandis we came to know that both chillies and lemons (the major ingredients of Jagruti achaar) were brought from South India and as the winter season is almost over so their prices have also gone up apart from having irregular supplies. This made our job more difficult. When we sat with our spreadsheets and tried to figure out the average cost of production for these achaar we were shocked to see dismaying figures. The profit margin per unit cost of production was too less to be called economically viable for the group. Initially we had assumed that the market we are targeting had enough potential to sustain the business of Jagruti achaar but we were terribly wrong. We had targeted mess of all the residential halls within the campus. The demand in a 300 capacity mess is around 20 Kg per month. Considering 17 halls in the campus with roughly this capacity and assuming we get Rs 10 per Kg as profit we ended with Rs 170 per head profit per month. Apart from this the selling price of the pickle manufactured by Jagruti was two and a half times more than that available in the market. I do admit that Jagruti intended to produce different varieties of achaar but to be honest that could not have convinced the mess authorities to purchase achaar at such a high rate. We could not think of selling Jagruti pickle in the markets outside our campus as we knew we were not going to survive. So here we learnt from our mistake. "Do proper analysis of capital, resources and market before foraying into any venture". Sustainabilty was the need of the hour and once again we started using our mental faculty to look out for possible alternatives.

For quite some time we have been coming across the fact that there are a few faculty members who are interested in these kind of initiatives and most importantly they have a prior experience of the same. This was the perfect occasion to meet a few of them and seek their guidance. Here I must mention the names of Prof. D. Lahiri and Prof. S.C. Mohapatra of Rural Development Center for their valuable guidelines. When asked about alternatives Prof. Lahiri suggested to go for processing of spices, ornamental fish culturing, rose oil extraction, honey bee culturing etc. We shared his thoughts with Prof. Mohapatra who showed the designs of several machines he had fabricated for these kind of rural activities. He told us that the spice processing machine is under construction and referred us to Mr. Bhattacharya who owns a company which produces those machines and who also happens to be an alumnus of our institute. We were quite excited to come to know about him and decided to meet him the next day.

Next day myself and Himanshu went to meet him in his factory cum residence. He is some 50-55 years old guy and is managing a production line called Premiere Magneto just outside IIT campus. We inquired about the various machines being produced in his manufacturing unit when he told us about a SAAL-LEAVE-PLATE Manufacturing machine. It comprised of one sewing and one molding machine. The total cost of the machine was coming around 17000 Rupees. We found the new business quite exciting as he also mentioned that the product had got a huge demand in the market and it had also got 100 percent profit margin. As the operation of the machine required no professional training so it was best suited for our Jagruti ladies. Apart from this he also assured to get us connected with the suppliers of raw-material and the target market. From our research we came to know that Kharagpur has got no dearth of Saal leaves so we started giving it a serious thought. We discussed this thing in our group and in that meeting we came to know about a group of students who had already tried their hands in this business but in some other location. We decided to take their guidance in this regard. After talking to that group of students regarding pros of cons of this business we decided to go for it finally.

Now the major task at hand was to raise the funds. We had four options in front of us:

a) Bank Loan
b) Micro-Credit Loan
c) Taking a loan from Prof. G S Sanyal whose micro-credit scheme promotes these small scale business.
d) Use the "trust colateral" of our friends.

I was not surprised at all when each of the group member chose the option "d". Then began the rounds of talking within our closly knit friend circle . We knew gathering 20K is not a Herculean task as all our friends are well placed in influential and highly rewarded positions in various MNCs. Till Now 4 of our friends have assured a 6 month interest-free loans amounting to Rs 17000. Jagruti will ever be grateful for this generous cooperation of our friends. With their confidence in us and our unrelenting motivation I am sure we will definitely be able to show our new endeavor, the light of the day.

Posted by TS at 9:03 AM 6 comments  

The First Endeavor

There was this feeling of guilt within which was compelling me to do something for those rickshaw-pullers who were defaulting the payments. Thanks to Prof. Md. Yunus of Bangladesh whose book "Banker to the poor" gave me a new direction. In his book Prof. Yunus has talked about employment generation through Micro-credit in rural areas. The commendable work he has done requires no description and it has got manifested in form of the successful Grameen Bank of Bangladesh which ultimately fetched him the Nobel Peace Prize. I knew that problem lies with the level of income and it has to be increased. I also knew that I would have to target women in order to increase the chances of sustainabilty of any business model.

Placement season was over for we 8 final year students and hence "Empty mind devil's workshop" was getting substantiated. I was coming back to my hall when I saw the same Tapan daa. I stopped him for having a word when I came to know that the defaulter rate has gone up to 75%. I was shocked to know this. I knew it was high time to ask the women members of the family to take charge of savings. As my field of work is in Bengal so I needed bengali speaking students in order to have a better communication with the ladies. One fine afternoon I called Reshmi Ghosh (4th year IE) and Indira Ghosh (4th year OENA), both bengali-speaking final year students to come along for attending a meeting with the wives of those rickshaw-pullers. I also called Himanshu S Sharma (5th year Physics), Vikramaditya Gulati (5th year MI) and Ujjwal Jain (5th year EECE ) (all along with myself are volunteers with Praajak, a Kolkata based NGO), to accompany me. The agenda of the meeting was to convince the ladies to start investing again in those Post Office Schemes but the result which came out was totally different. We had a 2-hour long meeting in which we discussed about several businesses which could enhance their income level. The one which was accepted by everyone was pickle manufacturing, since it required minimum investment. After the meeting we students sat together and discussed the ways to go about it. We decided to go for lemon pickle and targeted our mess as markets. Meanwhile, we also needed to check the coherence among the group members. For this we gave them a task of preparing Neembu ka achaar with 100 lemons. We procured the ingredients from the market and handed over to the group. On a pre-determined date we asked them to prepare the achaar in front of us. The motive behind this was to study the dynamics of the group. It was this day that we gave a name to the group and that was JAGRUTI. As the days went by we put all our efforts to get the group united because for them to succeed it was very necessary that they stuck together. Initially, a few of them did not even want to go to a particular member's house. In fact there were two relatives in this group but one of them did not even go to the other's house. It was very difficult for us to digest this kind of a behaviour of the ladies. Thanks to all my colleagues who put their heart and soul in getting the group dynamics right by various initiatives. By this time Jyoti Agarwal (5th year AgFE) and Vertika Singh (5th year EE) had also joined the group.

After achieving this our next task was to get a trainer cum mentor who would train our Jagruti samiti. For this we contacted the wife of the Dean of Students' Affairs, Mrs. Tripathi to help us in training the women. She gladly accepted our request and took all pains to come down to the village for training the ladies. It was decided that we would be going for Mircha ka achaar. We contacted local wholesellers for spices and the mandi for the chillies. Everything was finalised, the procurement planning, pricing and supply and distribution planning when the fortune took its first test. The day we had kept for the manufacturing turned out to be a bad one for us. We could not procure chillies that day as they were unavailable in entire Bengal. We could not fetch lemon either which was our back-up plan. I would like to appreciate the decision taking capabilities of Himanshu and Kanika (4th year IEM. She joined the group after the first meeting) who decided to get Baer for the same purpose. Initially I thought we are taking decisions hastily but later it turned out to be a good one. We prepared some 8 Kg of Baer Ka Achaar that day. Each memeber of the group participated actively. To our surprise for the very first time we did not require to call each one of them from their homes. After the achaar was prepared we supplied the same to Sarojini Naidu hall and Nehru Hall in our campus. We generated a revenue of Rs 560 by selling the achaar which was the first milestone in our journey. Though the sum is paltry but I know the start has been made and may god give us enough motivation to keep JAGRUTI alive.

Posted by TS at 1:30 AM 2 comments  

The Genesis

Sunday, February 24, 2008

It all started with a challenge thrown by Prof. G. S. Sanyal, Ex-Director, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur to we students to convince atleast two rickshaw pullers of IIT campus for investing in anyone of the schemes available with the post office. The challenge showed us a ray of hope of doing something which had the potential of breaking the monotony of the Autumn Semester. Without wasting a single moment we headed straight to our target destination "the Frust Corner" (any KGPian reading this post will take 2.3 nano seconds to recognize this place, for those who are taking more, Frust Corner is the junction point of Scholars' Avenue and the road which takes you to the PAN loop). I dont know whether this has been a trend but I have invariably found a rickshaw-stand there at Frust Corner. So, we approached a rickshaw-puller named Tapan Dey. I am presenting a part of the conversation with Tapan daa below:

WE: Dada aapka naam kya hai?
TD: Tapan Dey.

WE: Kahan rehte hain?
TD: Ravindra palii, ye to Nehru Hall ke peechey jo tower hai, wahin mera tina ka makan hai.

WE: Ghar mein kaun kaun hai?
TD: main, mera aurat aur do tho bachcha log.

WE: bachcha log padhta hai?
TD: haan dono Hijli School mein padhta hai.

WE: bachcha log ke bhawishya ke baare mein kuch socha hai?
TD: haan babu...padhane ka mann hai...paisa hoga to padhayega nahi to dekhega kuch karega...

WE: Achcha...aap daaru peete hain???
TD: (Reluctantly)..nahi babu...jyada nahi...
(we then knew this was a bad question to ask and hence changed the topic)

WE: To bachchalog ke liye kuch paisa bachake rakha hai?
TD: nahi babu kya bachahyega...din ka 50-60 rupya hota hai...kabhi kabhi to 20 rupya hi ho pata hai aur chutti ke samay to wo bhi mushkil hota hai. uspe rickshaw ka kiraya dena hota hai 15 rupya daily ka...kahan se paisa bachayega...

WE: Oh!!! to humlog ek tareeka batayenge paisa jama karne ka to aap karenge?
TD: kahan babu, hum padha likha nahi hai ...kahan se kar paayega?

WE: Aapko kuch likha-padhi karne ka zaroorat nahi hai...humlog aapka paisa Post Office mein jama kara denge. Kagaz-pattar ke liye agent ko bulayenge woh aapka sab kaam kar dega..aapke paas se paisa bhi le jaayega. aur bahi khata (pass-book) bhi dega. Isse aapko pata chalega ki aapka kitna paisa jama hua hai.
(TD was by then joined by other rickshaw-pullers who found the converstation interesting)

TD: to dada humko kya karna padega?

WE: aapko mahina mein 100 rupya jama karna hai...karnege??
TD (takes time to think): !!!!!!!

WE: arey dekhiye ...apko din ka 4 rupya jama karke ek jagah rakhna hai...din ka 4 rupya jama kar paaynege???
TD: haan babu...kar lenge

WE: badhiya...aisa karte karte mahina mein 120 rupya ho jaayega...hai na...fir Post Office wala agent se mila denge..wo aapka paisa jama kar aayega...aisa teen saal tak karna hoga thik hai???
(I intentionally didnt tell them about the fines for defaulting the installments fearing it would act as an deterrent)
TD: par babu...hum to padha nahi hai...hum kaise karega???

WE: Aapko uska chinta nahi karna hai...Form humlog bhar denge aapko sirf sign karna hoga...sign karna jaante hain to???
TD(proudly): haan dada jaante hain.

WE: to bachcha log ke liye kuch karna hai na...unka future ke liye...unlog ko bada aadmi banana hai...hai ki nahi??
TD: haan babu...karenge....
(This conversation had already attracted 6 more richshaw-pullers. Their body language was saying that they were also interested. So, i din't waste the opportunity and asked them if they were interested...the answer was affirmative).

I was taking pride on myself as I had successfully achieved the target. The very next day I contacted a Post Office agent and asked her to help us. She willingly agreed to lend her support. How we procured the forms and got their accounts opened requires another posting on Indian Bureaucracy but after unrelenting efforts from our side we were able to open some 30 accounts within 10 days.

That feeling of achievement could not last longer and then I realized the essence of the challenge thrown by Prof. Sanyal and it was the sustainabilty of the saving patterns started by us. After 2-3 installments nearly 60% of the investors started defaulting. The reasons I chalked out for this were firstly our own negligence. We got involved in things like GRE, CAT and placements and hence our connection with those poor investors got snapped. Secondly, we ignored the fact that they were already having low levels of income and without creating any source of the same we kind of added extra burden on them. We realized that we had committed a grave mistake. It was now our responsiblity to do something to increase their income level. Having this thing in our mind we fixed-up a meeting with the wives of those richshaw-pullers. We targeted women this time because we learnt that women are more capable to save than males. We convinced the 20-women group to utilize their free time in some kind of kutir udyog to raise their income level. We named it Jagruti Mahila Gramodyog Samiti and started with a business of pickle manufacturing. The result is that, today we have received the first returns on the first lot of pickle sold. Though it is a meagre amount of Rs 560 which we, rather those women have earned but it definitely bears a mark of the bright future of those 20 families.

Posted by TS at 9:47 PM 6 comments  

Thank you

We really wish to thank our friends for their open hearted help in our humble start. Let us brief everyone about the project.

We are planning to buy 1 patal (sal leave plates) 12 inch molding machine and 2 stitching machines to support the moulding machine. Both machines are developed by Premier magneto, Prem bazzar (a Mech dept, kgp alumnus) in collaboration with rural development center, IIT Kharagpur. Typical production rate is around 400 plates per hour. Saal leaves are found in abundant in kgp. Molding machine will cost us around Rs 10500 only and stitching machine Rs. 2850 each.

Our groundwork tells us that there is huge demand for such plates and raw material can be procured at our door step only. Our Jagruti group currently consist of 20 odd women. With this machines installed they each can earn minimum of Rs. 500 per month while working just 6 hours. From there they can inc. their income depending on how much they work.

We will post formal project details soon and progress. Keep in touch via this blog. :)

Posted by Himanshu at 9:39 PM 0 comments