Fostering unique initiatives

Fostering unique initiatives

It was Vishwanath Keinchi's love for handloom and concern for weavers that made him start an enterprise to support the traditional craft in Gadag district. He began as a micro-entrepreneur in 2007 to make handloom a viable livelihood option for the local people. What started as a humble effort with an annual turnover of Rs 1,50,000 has now become a major player in the field with a turnover of over Rs 75 lakh.  

Dinesh Devadiga, an artisan from Bhatkal, didn't have high hopes when he started his lavancha (vetiver) handicrafts enterprise to sell his products directly to the customers. It was not a stroke of luck but a result of dedication and right collaboration that his business has seen a steady growth and, he is able to dream big.

It didn't take more than two years for Sunita Nair, a first generation entrepreneur in Hubballi, to make a mark in the areca plate manufacturing sector with quality products and good marketing skills.  

These promising efforts based in different parts of the State are held together by a common thread: the Navodyami programme, a skill-development initiative launched in Hubballi in 2011, under the aegis of Deshpande Foundation. Aimed at creating a favourable ecosystem for small entrepreneurs through unconditional support, timely guidance and critical connections, Navodyami  has so far reached out to over 5,000 micro-entrepreneurs and supported more than 500 innovators to succeed in their business.  

Lending a hand

The objective of Navodyami  is to nurture entrepreneurs from rural and peri-urban areas and help them carve their own niche. "The idea is to support small entrepreneurs who have unique products but may not have necessary means to make their business thrive," says Neelam Maheshwari, director of the programme. The entire process takes place in three phases: selection of promising rural entrepreneurs who stand out in terms of innovation and viability of the idea; providing necessary support through training, mentorship, networking, and credit and market linkages; helping them expand production and achieve financial stability. "Mentors at Navodyami bring in business knowledge in the language that is understood by these rural innovators. This facilitates the creation of vibrant entrepreneurship ecosystems in small towns and cities," Neelam says.

Handicrafts, textile, food, dairy and small business are the major sectors supported by the programme. While 55% of the entrepreneurs supported through the programme have studied till Class 12, 20% have not got any formal education. The programme claims that the income of Navodyamis (entrepreneurs supported under the programme) has increased six times after their association with it.    

"Six out of 10 small enterprises working with Navodyami have created profitable businesses while two out of these six have grown significantly," says Neelam. The programme has created a ripple effect by creating job opportunities, reducing migration, particularly among youth, and improving the local economy.  

Entrepreneurship & innovation

Sunita Nair saw the darker side of life after the sudden death of her husband in 2015. After several bad experiences while working in private companies, she decided to start her own business. "I wanted to do something new and while researching I realised that there is no areca plate making unit in this part of the State," she says. Though she was able to make quality products through constant effort and hard work, she lacked exposure when it came to marketing. Navodyami supported her with a proper marketing strategy. Now, she is happy with the growth of her industry and has created employment opportunities for other women.  
Nagaraj Chakrasali, a potter, feels that he discerned the real value of his products after associating with the programme. Sharavva, a bag, quilt and dress maker, says that her association with Navodyami has helped her improve the designs.

It is not just the support but also networking opportunities the programme provides that is appreciated by the Navodyamis. "We get to know about other efforts, many of which are inspiring. Though the idea is to scale up our business, such platforms enrich our lives," says Sunita.

Deshpande Foundation has replicated this model in other states to empower those at the bottom of the pyramid. As part of its outreach programme, a Navodyami Summit is organised in Hubballi on February 3. To know more about the initiative, log on to www.navodyami.org.

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