Sunil Kumar; February 2005
A partially blind woman has been one of the success stories of a special mentoring scheme developed by an NGO for small entrepreneurs. Providing not only the monetary impetus but a crucial support structure as well, the Bhartiya Yuva Shakti Trust (BYST), an NGO headed by Rahul Bajaj, CMD of Bajaj Auto, gives loans of up to Rs 50,000 for starting a business and also provides a mentor to advise young entrepreneurs.
Neeta Jain is one of those who has benefitted from this scheme. Partially handicapped (she is 70% blind and suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, a case which slowly leads to blindness), this Hansraj College graduate and mother of two realised that self-reliance was the only way to ensure a secure future. She managed Rs 45,000 from BYST for a computer, spent another Rs 15,000 on a printer and started a DTP unit.
"I had some experience in DTP work," says Ms Jain, “but it was my mentor whose advice took it forward. Ashok Dayal, managing director, Bellman India Pvt Ltd, advised me on the latest software and reduce the cost of printing.”
But with the fact that most business houses were starting to have their own computers and produce DTP work in-house, she needed to diversify. "I have since gone into a less competitive, highly profitable business of producing hi-tech stickers and further into the gumming business," adds Ms Jain. “Again, it was my mentor Mr Dayal who saw me through all the diversification. Today I have innovated to produce some machines to make specialised products to suit the needs/ demands of my customers and he has also been instrumental in all this.”
Today, her company has a turnover of Rs 20 lakh and the clients for her posters include Hutch, Pepsi and Lays.
Says Mr Dayal, who is also the chairman of the BYST's mentor body, "Initially some of them have eyed us with suspicion but our role is purely advisory. Once the relationship has been established, they (the entrepreneurs) realise that we are not policeman but their friends. Our advise is not binding on them and we advise them on not only technical issues but just any problem."
BYST has a pool of over 1,000 mentors all over India and invites volunteers on board from trade associations and corporates. Depending upon their skill sets, they are aligned with entrepreneurs to match the needs and skills.