Final touch up is still in progress on some parts of the institute, as men painted new coat of color on the walls and leveled the pathway. A group of ten student volunteers arrived to the newly constructed International Institute of Advanced Technology (IIAT) early morning, where a buzz of activity has already started. Together with SRF Foundation employees, these volunteers from Singapore Management University (SMU) brought with them laptops, papers, and other materials, to facilitate an entrepreneurship workshop. The workshop is called Project Gazaab, which in English means, “out of the box”.
With the collaboration of SRF Foundation, SMU and Pertapis, Project Gazaab aims to identify potential entrepreneurs in the Mewat village and help them set up their own enterprises. Thirty rigorously selected participants aged between 18 to 24 years were taught basic business skills such as market research, operations management and even financial accounting. The workshop spanned from 21st to 29th June and it attracted many interested participants from the 19 villages of Nuh, Mewat. Interactive discussions and engaging activities were conducted to make their learning more enjoyable. One example was the brainstorming session which had participants excited as they were encourage to offer tame, wild or even out of this world business ideas.
Group activities and sharing sessions were not the only things that drew participants in. SRF Foundation also invited a guest speaker Mr. Govind Singh, a 55 years old land lord who, through sheer discipline and dedication, created a profitable farm selling vegetables such as cauliflower, wheat, and corn, just to name a few. During his ten-minute speech, he shared his entrepreneurship journey, and successes and failures in setting up his business. He recalled how, despite his poor background, strived to educate himself and worked long hours in order to make his business profitable and sustainable. He concluded with a simple advice to the participants, “work hard and you will succeed!”
One participant who was inspired by Mr. Singh is Mr. Imran Khan. Mr Khan, a 25-year old from Ghazada plans to start his own business selling accessories for women. He plans to work with his family of six brothers and two sisters to publicize and market his goods. He also hopes to gradually expand his business to selling wedding gifts. He said, “Gazaab is a good training and it is useful for us in starting our business. I learnt a lot during the training and I enjoy talking with the students from Singapore”. Not only was the workshop educational, it seems Project Gazaab also extended cultural exchanges between the locals and Singapore through their casual interactions.
The program, however, has not without its shortcomings. Some students were unable to understand complex business concepts such as inventory keeping or forecasting cash flow. This is particularly challenging when spoken in English. Due to this language barrier, SRF Foundation has offered trainers to teach the participants in Hindi together with the Hindi speaking SMU volunteers. They also tweaked the initial lesson plan to make it more relevant to the culture in Mewat.
Additionally, the Manager of Gramin Bank, Mewat Mr Azaz Ahmad was invited to analyze the feasibility of the Business Plans prepared by the participants on the last day of the training. He liked a couple of business plans and appreciated the initiative of SRF Foundation. He also assured that the possible micro financial support will be provided by Gramin Bank to the young entrepreneurs.
Indeed, we feel that SRF Foundation and Project Gazaab did what it set up to do. Having observed how enthusiastic the participants in learning the skills, we can foresee that the programme promoted the culture of entrepreneurship in Mewat. As the participants head to their villages with the hope of starting their own businesses, we hope that they will succeed and uplift their community out of poverty.
The 17th edition of Mewat Mondays is brought to you by our interns, Joan, Lyndon and Galvin, who believe that being entrepreneurial is an important skill for the villagers to have in order to reverse poverty in their communities. As part of their field research, they will be spending time in the 19 villages, and will gladly share pictures and anecdotes from these experiences. They can be reached at Joan.firstname.lastname@example.org, Lyndon.Lingbaoan@srf-limited.com and Galvin.Tay@srf-limited.com respectively.