The First Endeavor

Monday, February 25, 2008

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  
rashi said...

gud going guys.....i must appreciate ur efforts....although it is a small start but a real gud one..which is indeed needed by our society...hope u guys carry on this gud work....

February 25, 2008 at 8:08 AM  
logicark said...

great job. himanshu told me in short about the effort. and the details makes me really proud, nice execution.

wish you guys all the best. keep it up

February 25, 2008 at 8:18 AM  

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