Posted On: 21 Jun 21
When the COVID pandemic hit India and the country went into a national lockdown in April 2020, it left millions of small business owners struggling to make ends meet. Until this point, most had relied on providing excellent services to a group of loyal customers who would in turn give them free word-of-mouth marketing. Businesses grew slowly but steadily, and life wasn’t a daily struggle.
This is the story of graduates of the Haryana ITI program, the impact of covid on their lives and businesses, and how they are working to reinvent their businesses.
With COVID19, businesses lost certainty. What became apparent was a need to both diversify sources of income, and a means of acquiring new customers while retaining old ones. The digital divide was also brought into stark relief - having smartphones, knowing how to use them for business, marketing and engaging with customers became the need of the hour.
Samagra Governance, working with the Haryana SDIT Department, identified this need with the graduates of the Haryana ITI programs and got in touch with Udhyam Vyapaar to create a training program that would help increase the income of these entrepreneurs to pre-covid levels and, hopefully, beyond these levels as well.
In an attempt to understand the audience we would be designing the curriculum for, we conducted a need assessment survey with over 2000 graduates from the Haryana ITI program. The businesses varied from carpentry, plumbing, and electrical work to tailoring and beauty parlours.
Through the survey, we realised that some things were already working in our favour - most entrepreneurs were already smartphone users, 65% used UPI for making and receiving payments, and all had the technical knowledge required in their area of work - having already gone through the training program at ITI. They also came with a desire to learn and try new things.
However, we realised there was a lack of familiarity with online marketing and discoverability platforms - only 18% used either WhatsApp for Business or any form of social media for marketing, and no alternate sources of income to rely on, made our work more challenging and time-sensitive.
We designed a program focused on three main areas -
The use of existing skills to diversify and create alternate sources of income
Leverage technology for marketing, customer acquisition and engagement
Managing business finances better.
Our hypothesis was that a curriculum designed to lay the groundwork with entrepreneurial mindsets and business fundamentals, along with modules on marketing and branding, customer relations and retention, and financial awareness and management, would change the approach these entrepreneurs had to their businesses creating-long term behavioural shifts and a sustainable increase in income.
An impact assessment conducted by Samagra Governance and verified by Haryana SDIT Department for the pilot batch of 32 entrepreneurs who went through the program revealed the impact was achieved on ground. The impact assessment was done two months after the completion of the training.
There were two major things this program taught us - a majority of participants brought up the need for post-training support. We also realised that although 63% of participants were in need of loans, none had applied for them. Our understanding is that this could be a result of the stigma around debt, a lack of training or confidence with banking institutions or, in this context, possibly the impact of the pandemic.
This whole program was delivered in a ‘Train the Trainer’ format, with Udhyam Vyapaar taking 10 Haryana ESI trainers through the facilitator training program. These facilitators then took this program to learners in Hisar and Sirsa. A possibility of scaling the program to cover a larger number of Haryana ITI graduates remains.
Here is what two participants have to say about how the Entrepreneur Training program conducted by Udhyam Vyapaar was valuable to them:
Neetu Verma - ITI Sirsa: 2018—19 - Beauty parlour owner
“While looking for a job after the completion of my ITI degree, I realized that I wanted to have a parlour of my own. I aspire to become a Beautician Instructor at an ITI by 2022 and grow my parlour in the next 2 years to earn thrice my current income. The Entrepreneurship Training I did helped me understand how to diversify my business and earn from different sources at the same time.”
Muskaan Soni - ITI Sirsa: 2016 - 17 - Beautician
“My mother has been a beautician and I joined her soon after I finished my degree at the ITI. While she did her work using conventional methods, I started the idea of doing door-to-door home service during the lockdown.
After my entrepreneurship training provided by the ITI department, I used Whatsapp for Business and Facebook to market my services. I keep giving offers and discounts to increase my client base and improve my relationship with current clients. The 20% discount offer I provided during Karvachauth helped me acquire many new clients.
In another 2-3 years’ time, I want to be able to double my income and employ at least two women to help run my business.”
Udhyam Vyapaar is working with several partner organisations at the moment to take similar programs to their audiences. If you are interested in learning more about the program or in taking this to your audience please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com