The recent COVID-19 pandemic has impacted communities globally in unimaginable ways. Apart from the healthcare crisis, people had a huge economic impact when they slowly saw it unfolding before them.
The country's migrant labourers returned to their hometowns without any sight of income opportunities, leading to large-scale destruction of livelihoods.
In these tough and challenging times, many NGOs came forward to support the communities to get them out of this crisis.
However, through its innovative approach, one such NGO called 'Jagriti' started building one of India's largest entrepreneurship networks more than a decade back. It aims to nurture and incubate enterprise in a rural but promising region of the country (Purvanchal), starting from a Tier 3 district, Deoria. The vision is to motivate local and national leaders to start and grow local enterprises.
The NGO has a pronged strategy, including women-based micro-enterprises and livelihood programs involving SHGs; and preventing the decline of SME enterprises.
Jagriti was founded by Shashank Mani, a IIT Delhi pass out who had the privilege of exploring the corporate world globally. A pedigree of an Army and Civil services family background kept prompting him to do something for his motherland.
Some of the programs the NGO conducts are as follows:
Jagriti Yatra: Journey Of 7000 Yatris
Shashank undertook several initiatives, including the Azad Bharat Rail Yatra in the 90's to penning down his thoughts on the rising of Middle India (Tier 2/3 India) in 2007. This book's popularity challenged him to start what is known today as Jagriti Yatra in 2008.
It is an ambitious train journey of discovery and transformation that takes hundreds of India's highly motivated youth, especially those who are from small towns and villages of India, on a 15-day, 8000 km national odyssey to meet the role models (social and business entrepreneurs) of the country. The train journey starts at Mumbai, travels down south to the east and north of the country, and finally reaches back to its origin, forming a diamond on the Indian Map. This journey has been taken by over 7000 Yatris that have been part of this life-changing ideology
Yatra in its avatar today is an annual event that is celebrating its 15th year.
Initiating Momentum For Rural Entrepreneurship
Jagriti has also created a network of leaders over 120 districts of the country, that undertake the task of spreading awareness about entrepreneurship. This network is referred to as 'Jagriti Ambassador for District Entrepreneur' (JADE) and is the second pillar of the NGO. The idea is to initiate momentum for a movement of entrepreneurship at the district level of the country that can harness the power of enterprise growth in India.
Jagriti has already invested over 30 crores over the last 14 years of its operations and has successfully created partnerships with institutions such as Google, ICICI, SBI, SIDBI, Niti Aayog, LIC etc. This network has been able to drive impact projects such as Internet Saathi with Google, where they have trained over 1.7 million women in Middle India to be digitally literate.
While Jagriti runs these two pillars successfully, a key learning was the lack of physical infrastructures like new-age capital, incubator, mentors, trainers, talent migration, office infra etc, summing up the startup or entrepreneurship ecosystem is missing at the Middle India level. This is effectively like asking startups in Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, Hyderabad or Gurugram to build business without the infrastructure and ecosystem they enjoyed over the last decade. This is a root deterrent to the budding entrepreneurs in rural India.
Jagriti took a pledge to solve this problem at scale, which was the seed of Jagriti Enterprise Center, the third pillar of the organisation. The idea is to create this missing ecosystem at four strategic points on the Indian map, also referred to as the "4 Dham of Udyamita'', and a research and policy institute, Middle of Diamond Institute. These dhams of enterprise will become exemplar of regional entrepreneurship ecosystems, which can then be replicated by JADE in their respective districts. Every district of the country has an ecosystem for Udyamita is the vision of Jagriti.
The first of this dham is planned in Deoria, Purvanchal.
Supporting Various Sectors, Robust Incubation Process
Jagriti Enterprise Center (Purvanchal) or JECP, is a 95 crore ambitious project with over 15 crores deployed in its phase 1. The centre is designed on a 3-I framework - Incubation, Innovation and Inspiration, and aims to bring world-class facilities and support to the entrepreneurs in Purvanchal (eastern Uttar Pradesh).
The concept of this center is based on two levels. First, being the main center spanning over 6 acres of campus covering a thoughtful ecosystem consisting of a 1 lakh sq ft of Physical infrastructure such as co-working space, conference facilities, innovation lab, video conferencing for startups and recording studios for artists, digital library and auditorium. The institution runs a robust incubation process under the Atal Innovation Mission and Niti Aayog. This is clubbed along with access to Working Capital Fund, Mentor network of Jagriti and the Market connect program. Under Innovation, the centre houses six centres of excellence focused on six sectors - Agriculture, Healthcare, Digital, Women, Rural Urbanisation, and Handicrafts & Apparel - and a Digital Library, an enterprise, culture, and IP resource centre.
The second level is a network of 15 district offices, each of this office shall replicate the center infrastructure at the district level to provide every entrepreneur with ease of working access and presence in each local market in the nearby surroundings. Built on the global concept of flexi office, it gives one easy access to multi markets with a touch of local adaptation to suit the Middle India requirements. Each of these 15 offices provides a 2000 sq ft working area to the entrepreneurs and three are already operational.
The NGO's on-ground operations include creating last-mile connectivity through a team of Udyam Corps and Mitras - facilitators to entrepreneurs. Each team, comprising one Udyam Corp and 2 Udyam Mitras, has a set goal of signing up local businesses and incubating them using a rigorously tested 6-M incubation process. The idea is to provide Farm Prenuer, Solo Prenuer, MSME and women-driven self-help groups the same ecosystem that urban India startups enjoy.
"We are in the process of setting up our seed fund, a Section 8 company, to support our incubated entrepreneurs through debt funding," Shashank said.
Jagriti is incubating around 100 such Micro, Small and Medium enterprises under JECP. The incubation process is drawn to be customised and inclusive of various industries' needs.
"It is our firm belief that the real growth story of our economy would be written in rural India through building business at grassroots level," Shashank added.
Jagriti is committed to support its communities by providing immediate relief, and build resilience through long-term efforts of microenterprise and livelihood programs. The aim is to reduce vulnerabilities of these communities, enabling them to better prepare for, mitigate and repose to any disaster like COVID-19.
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