Sparking a chain reaction for Impact at scale
Experimentation is one of the key tenets of Udhyam Vyapaar. At Vyapaar, we work with nano-entrepreneurs (fondly called vyapaaris) i.e., informal, unorganised, small businesses that have a revenue of less than 50000 rupees per month like roadside tea shops, fruit and vegetable sellers, clothes ironing carts etc. This segment is highly under served yet they employ close to 200 million people in the country. Being a space where there are very few successful interventions, we believe that experimentation is the key to coming up with scalable solutions.
In one such experiment we ran earlier this year, we tried to see if we can get vyapaaris mentor other vyapaaris. We wanted to create a mentorship model where vyapaaris learn business skills from other vyapaaris and once proficient, transfer the skills they have learnt to other vyapaaris. We called this experiment the “Vyapaari Mentor Model” project, VMM for short.
When we started this project, it was a time when the vyapaaris were recovering from the first wave of Covid19, a few months before the second wave began. We noticed that a few vyapaaris had successfully started an online business using the Meesho app. We asked them if they’d be part of our experiment and mentor other vyapaaris to use the app and start an online business.
We gauged interest amongst our network of vyapaaris and we found 35 vyapaaris who were interested to learn more about taking their business online. We facilitated zoom meetings and connected the mentors to the mentees. The mentors conducted 6 to 8 two hour sessions and trained the vyapaaris about everything they knew about the Meesho app. The mentors also went the extra mile and made themselves available at any time of the day to clear doubts and guide them through the app. The sessions were well received by the mentee vyapaaris.
When Udhyam Vyapaar’s Monitoring and Evaluation Team assessed the impact of this intervention, we found that among the 35 vyapaaris that have been part of the VMM project, 11 vyapaaris have started an online business. Among the 11 vyapaaris, 7 of them have seen a revenue stream in the first month itself.
Although these numbers seem small, they show a large potential. These were women entrepreneurs without English education or digital literacy. They had never considered the possibility of an online business up until this session. More importantly, these vyapaaris were mentored by their peers from similar backgrounds. Udhyam Vypaar effectively just organised the session and most of the impact was created by the vyapaari ecosystem. Furthermore, 3 of the 11 vyapaaris expressed interest in becoming mentors for future batches. The mentors reported a boost in their self confidence, their public speaking skills and their happiness from giving back to the community. One mentor was also able to charge a small amount for mentoring. This means this could possibly be a revenue source for these vyapaaris as well as a positive sign for the sustainability of this model.
With very little input, we sparked a chain reaction. Vyapaaris taught other vyapaaris and these vyapaaris want to teach more vyapaaris. This a promising sign of a scalable intervention without deep involvement from the non for profit.
This experiment was just the first iteration. Staying true to our roots in design thinking, we hope to iterate on this experiment, inculcating the learnings from the first iteration. The mentors have faced some challenges in organising group sessions but they have been able to find new mentees to mentor on a one on one capacity. We hope to conduct a session to improve the mentor’s operational skills in the next iteration. The customers of some mentees are still apprehensive about ordering online so we also plan to add sessions on building trust with customers. In our future iterations, we also hope to test out different curriculum modules as well.
We hope that with more iterations we will be able to create an ecosystem of co-dependent, self learning nano-entrepreneurs.