Case Studies on. Entrepreneurship. Prof. Vilasini Patkar. Pushing a Cart of Hope. A project that redefines the word Bou promises to turn housewives into entrepreneurs across India .
Case Studies on
Prof. Vilasini Patkar
A project that redefines the word Bou promises to turn housewives into entrepreneurs across India.
Bou in Bengali means anything from a housewife to a married woman. But Aparna Banerjee has given it new definition. She has put carts bearing these three letters at all major intersections in Kolkata. Bou now means ‘Business Organising Units’.
Banerjee, through her Project Sukanya aims at generating employment for women. Project Sukanya is a unique supply chain system that Banerjee, a small entrepreneur, had started in 2005. She had taken the business model to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who, impressed with it, assured all help.
Between then and now, Banerjee has invested Rs 24 lakh and set up a website where she invited women interested in selling handicrafts and homemade products to join the project. She received 1,670 applications and picked only the feasible ones. The project then funded these women to make their products in a mass scale, to be sold from the hand-pulled carts later.
Since February, Project Sukanya has been selling the products from these carts. To save costs, Banerjee’s team has designed and patented these carts giving them the look of a mobile shop. Two women are on the counter from 9am to 9pm, working in shifts.
Now the city has 14 such outlets, but by November, there should be 53 of them. “Then, I expect a turnover of Rs 1 lakh per month per cart,” says Banerjee, who pays her saleswomen Rs. 2200 per month plus a commission of 50 paise per item sold.
The products that the Bous’ sell have also been chosen with care. Now they are limited to clay handicrafts (a dying industry in West Bengal that has high export potential), handloom (a craft rural women excel in), flowers (village women are growing them in their yards) and spices (a produce that requires less land but yields huge profits).
The intermediaries have been minimized to keep the price low. Next, the project will extend to tiffin and office lunches. The food would be sourced from house wives who want to make extra money. The project has got support from some quarters including Kolkata Police, Metro Railways, Kolkata Municipal Corporation, and the Union Bank of India, which is helping with the funding.
Also, offers to run carts are pouring in from the Andhra Pradesh Government and a university in Jammu and Kashmir. In two years, Project Sukanya hopes to set up 5000 carts across the country. Its ultimate target is to have one lakh Bou carts, turning the humble housewife into an entrepreneur.
Organisations like FIWE (Federation of Indian Women Entrepreneurs) a National Organization brings the business women on a common platform and ensures that their opinions, ideas and visions are collectively and effectively taken up with policy makers and various other agencies for the development of ‘Enterprise in Women’.
FIWE is one of India’s Premier Institutions for Women totally devoted to Entrepreneurship Development. Established in 1993, FIWE’s success has been recognized worldwide. FIWE’s Membership is currently about 12000 members.
Several organisations like SEVA, Shree Mahila Udyog Lijjat Papad, NABARD, KVIC, etc., are also promoting and encouraging women entrepreneurship.
A year ago Neeraj Gupta started a 24-hour taxi service called Meru Cabs that ferries passengers in style in a city where ‘commuting’ and ‘comfort’ are rarely uttered in the same breath, the cab service complete with polite drivers who come on time and present you with a bill at the end of your journey, was nothing short of a revolution. No wonder, then, that today, the company receives one thousand two hundred calls a day from commuters looking for comfort.
Gupta is now aspiring to enlarge these services. He is determined to have five thousand Meru Cabs plying across the country by December. “When your business plan is well thought out, nothing can stop you from expanding”, says Gupta.
He got the idea from Singapore which has a smooth functioning round the clock on call taxi service, consisting of twenty four thousand four hundred and fourty six. He made three trips to Singapore to study its taxi system.
He faced a number of starting problems which included search for reliable permit-holding drivers, money problems, and other obstacles like cost of renewing drivers’ licenses, tuning their vehicles, and training them.
Meru Cabs offers people a comfortable ride with well groomed drivers, air conditioned interiors, and reliable electronic meter system. Gupta’s outstanding personal qualities like appetite for risk, meticulous planning, and relentless innovation have brought him success.