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Volunteers interview potential women entrepreneurs at the Be! Fund Interview Day in Mumbai

November 2012 │ Mumbai

17 volunteers from Deutsche Bank, CIB Centre and DBOI GS had an unusual start to their week. On Monday, 15 October, these volunteers participated in the Be!Fund Interview Day to assess business plans of five young women entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurs – Shoiba, Sultana, Bindu, Kavita and Sheeba – came from different impoverished parts of Mumbai to pitch their business idea for funding from the Deutsche Bank-Be! Fund partnership.

Developed under the aegis of Deutsche’s CSR program for India, the Deutsche Bank-Be! Fund partnership is a not-for-profit venture fund which invests in start-up businesses proposed and designed by young women from impoverished backgrounds in India; to help them solve local problems, generate income and create jobs.

Be! Fund is a new model, a new way to solve poverty on a large scale, by encouraging entrepreneurship. Be! Fund provides young people, who live in poverty, with access to risk-capital (up to Rs. 500,000) to start businesses they propose. Be! Media is aired on local radio, TV and invites young people who want to start businesses to apply to the fund. Once they apply, interviews are conducted to learn about their business models, and help create business plans for them. When they make it through the three-gateway selection process, these young people get direct investment into their businesses, skill support and monitoring. They pay the investment back once they turn a profit. If the business fails, the  loan is written off.

After investing in 8 young women entrepreneurs in Karnataka, the Deutsche Bank - Be! Fund partnership is now looking for women entrepreneurs in Maharashtra.
The process of selection of these entrepreneurs heavily relies on the expertise and involvement of various stakeholders, especially the interviewers. The Deutsche volunteers were grouped into five interview panels and spent over 3 hours with each emerging entrepreneur, discussing their motivations, assessing their plans and guiding them towards evolving financially sustainable business models that solve local problems. It was a two-way process where the entrepreneurs gained enormous insights from the interview panel while the interviewers were themselves inspired by the spirit that defines these entrepreneurs.

Here is the outcome of the interviews:

Shoiba, 27, from Trombay wants to start a Garment Embellishment Business
Named a firebrand, Shoiba came across a passionate and well prepared potential entrepreneur, and left a mark on her interviewers with her confidence. Her business model is simple where she takes assignments to embellish dresses from wholesalers, but in the process creates consistent employment for 15 women from her area. These women do not have access to jobs and have restrictions on travelling outside the area.

Sultana, 32, from Wadala wants to set up a Kids Garment Making Unit
Sultana is experienced in making these garments, and this aspect was visible during the interview. The interviewers pointed that she was very confident of her business financials. Here again, through this simple business, she would create 19 jobs; for 12 women and 7 men in her community.

Bindu, 35, from Malad is planning to make cushion and pillow covers from scrap cloth
Bindu is a housewife who identified an opportunity in upholstery waste and decided to start a business of making cushion and pillow covers. The interviewers appreciated her creative aptitude but had to guide her when it came to business aspects. She is currently working on the issues pointed out by the interview panel.

Kavita, 39, from Dahisar believes she can impart sales skills and create employment for others
Sales are a weak area for women of Kavita’s area given the lack of exposure and confidence. But Kavita defies the general norm and has been selling Sarees door-to-door for the past 15 years. She now wants to employ women, train them in door-to-door sales and help them earn a decent living. Interviewers were amazed by her presence of mind when she mentioned she should have brought some stocks along to make spot sales to the panel.

Sheeba, 26, from Kalyan wants to set up a decentralised PDS shop
In the community where Sheeba lives, items of daily necessities are difficult to access for most people. This outrages Sheeba, and after seeing the local government apathy to complaints, she has decided to start a PDS (Public Distribution System) shop which will sell ration in accordance to PDS rules, with good customer service. Interviewers commented that she has the drive to do something positive for her community and can run the business well if correctly guided.

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Last Update: November 12, 2013
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