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Creating the “unstoppable” Entrepreneur

The story of a small village heading to a bright future!

A couple of weeks ago, I spent a day in Bhageshpura, a village in Hassan District which has given us one of our most promising 1Bridge Advisors – Shashi Kumar! Shashi has been a part of the 1Bridge family for a little over two years and, and in May – he achieved a milestone of tripling his income!

He is 24 years old, comes from a family of farmers in Bhageshpura, a gram panchayat village – around 30 kms from Hassan Town, with a population of around 10,000 (~2000 households). He grew up learning farming and attending school, and performed reasonably well in both. After completing his 12thGrade (PUC), Shashi did not have the resources to enroll himself in a college. He was also uncertain about his career options – farming was not an option due to fragmented land holdings & water scarcity. He wrote several Government exams for jobs, but his economic situation did not give him the luxury of spending time or money on this. An early marriage caused a dent in his saving as well, which led to further economic pressures – he needed a source of income desperately.

Shashi Kumar, 24
Bhageshpura

When we started the on-boarding process in Hassan, Shashi came in for the interview and was selected for the training.  We were impressed with his initiative and the trust he had garnered in his village. He took quickly to our 1Bridge Task App to provide assisted commerce solutions to consumers in his village – including running awareness campaigns, sales origination and door-step delivery. Over the years we have partnered with multiple e-commerce platforms like Amazon & Myntra to create income generating opportunities for our 1BAs. Shashi has always been an active promoter and has grabbed every opportunity given to him! In fact, he recently started off working with our Hassan Delivery Center to effect rural last-mile deliveries and he has seen a huge jump in his total monthly earnings – upwards of Rs.12,000 per month while staying in his village! 

His wife now studies Arts at a university in Hassan and Shashi sponsors her education, while supporting himself and his mother.  While last mile deliveries occupy a major chunk of his morning, Shashi spend time with consumers in his village helping them with online shopping, mobile recharges and dispensing cash. He spends some time in the afternoon to work in his fields and manages to take tuition for the school kids. We met some of his students, who dote on Shashi sir for his patience with teaching mathematics.  He is also a member of the youth community of his village, a non-political forum to unite the youth and help each other with resources.

I sat down with a group of young men in the school veranda. I discussed their aims and aspirations. Most of the men and women have completed their education till PU, yet have limited opportunities and dwindling incomes in the agriculture field. The key income for Bhageshpura’s inhabitants has been farming – largely coconut, pepper, potatoes and ragi. This however has changed in the recent years, mainly due to the shortage of water and electricity supply. Now, the villagers mostly grow only potatoes and coconuts. Even though agriculture is still the main occupancy of Bhagespura, the educated youth are looking for more opportunities to supplement this income. 

The natives of Bhageshpura share more than just their birth land; they share produce and share their destinies. They are brought up in community where family extends to every person in the village. Locks on doors isn’t a familiar concept here, women enter their neighbor’s house for masala without hesitation. Men just bring out furniture or hitch a ride with a fellow villager without seeking permission. It is just how it is – there’s trust and interdependency among the people. Our 1BA would ask just about anyone for a chair or a cup of tea for us, and they would oblige with utmost enthusiasm. I’d like to acknowledge this as a symbol of the deep sense of belonging & community that the rural folks have for their village

It gives me immense satisfaction that our program is engaging youth like Shashi – folks who are changing the lives of people around them. Shashi has made a huge impact by taking up an entrepreneurial role which enables communication of his world to the outside, while providing access, choice & convenience to his community. He has the drive to change his life by doing whatever it takes and doing it well. Moreover, in this process, he takes his people along with him to a better future!

-Madan Padaki

Story of a female entrepreneur carving out a new identity in Kalla Village!

As we delve deeper into India’s roots – the villages, we get an opportunity to meet people who have created extraordinary opportunities in their daily life.  People in our villages live like big families, constantly supporting each other and striving every day to make their life better. One such community is Kalla, around 20 kilometers away from the Hassan Town, in Hassan District Karnataka. 

Kalla is known for its ancient temples and lush landscapes. As the morning breaks, life seems fairy ordinary while children rush to school, their mothers hurry with lunch boxes and the men depart on bikes to the fields or the nearby town. However, for us it is home to a 42-year-old woman, rewriting her title from a homemaker to a businesswoman.

Gorour is a 1Bridge Advisor who had been a homemaker for almost two decades. The Indian rural women have limited employment options outside agriculture, they are employed as either laborers or are expected to completely devote themselves to their domestic responsibilities. One would imagine that this transition would be difficult, but the fearless Gorour says,” The concept is easy. Very beneficial for women with household responsibility because they decide their business hours and location. We want to work and we find a way”. 

“The nearest town is Hassan and that is where people used to go to get their recharge and withdraw money, but now they don’t have to,” Gorour says. 

A year back Gorour decided that she wanted to do more, despite her domestic responsibilities. Her husband, who works as a clerk in a nearby college, explained that both his children must be educated till degree, even if it means going to a private university. “I have seen girls and boys getting jobs directly from here and then they move to the cities for proper jobs, I want the same for my children,” says Satish, her husband. Supporting his vision for their children, Gorour decided that she could manage a “gig” like the one that 1Bridge offers and started her training.

Gorour with her son on the left and husband on the right.

During the training, Gorour was a curious student and asked all the right questions. She asked the instructor about expansion and to date has kept herself updated on the various programs run by 1 Bridge.

Her plan for 2020 is to expand her business into a cyber centre and include more services required by Kalla and nearby villages. Her vision is to include women who do their daily household work in the business so that they can expand their knowledge and skill.
The women in rural India are becoming agents of financial sustainability and change. Our female 1BAs are carving out their titles, away from what the society expects them to do, and most villagers are supporting them.
The humility and hardwork of our Advisors inspire us to create a better world for them & our rural consumers every day, and we feel honored to be associated with women like Gorour!

Understanding the market at 21: The story of humble rural entrepreneur from Kora, Karnataka

Rural India is a fascinating market to operate in, not only is the market challenging and rewarding but the countryside and the spirit of its people are refreshing. Recently we visited  Kora, a silent village with a population of mere 200 people. Away from the bustling daily life, Kora is located in Tumkur District, northwest of Bangalore in Karnataka. As we turned into a narrow lane next to the highway, a kaccha road leads us into a single lane surrounded by green fields on both sides. Houses scattered across a large area, with sunflowers and coconut trees made for a lovely landscape.

The 1Bridge Associate (1BA) here is a talented man who is just 29 years old, and is one of the most successful entrepreneurs at 1 Bridge, Vinay. 
Entrepreneurial journeys of all our associates are enticing, you see, at 21 Vinay was able to identify a market niche which wasn’t catered for in the area: Stationery. He did so without any training or experience; he used his savings from newspaper distribution to open a stationery shop on the outskirts of the village. 

Vinay, outside his home in Kora

1Bridge identified him in Tumkur and decided to onboard him in 2016. However, Vinay was a tough nut to crack, he was apprehensive about the technology, its intricacies, and the payment system. His commitment to his consumers was evident in his questions.

He was extremely thorough, he said, “Money is a big thing in our village, the people trust me, I want to deliver their money’s worth. Here we don’t have a lot of information and that’s why a lot of people have lost a lot of money which they thought was for comfort but ended in a scam”

After training and a scrutinizing q&a, we were successful in onboarding Vinay as our entrepreneur for Kora. Once he understood the scope of the services, he shut shop in his village and moved closer to the main Tumkur highway, while remaining a mobile resource for his village. He has vision – he figured that if he moves to a more accessible place, the shop would become the hub for PAN card services, online purchasing, MiniATM, and digital services for at least 4-5 villages around the highway. He added a Xerox machine to make his shop a one-stop-shop for all documents and digital requirements.

“Vinay spoke to me about opening a bank account, he knows how everything works, so I ask him for advice. I haven’t ever used a touchscreen phone, but I now know the things we can do with technology are boundless”

Geeta, owner of a chai shop opposite Vinay’s shop

At 29, Vinay has been able to expand his business on his merit, handwork and astute perspective. In fact he has been principle to our market insights at 1Bridge, for example he advocated for an ATM system based on feedback and consumer insight. He shares a tight friendship with his regular consumers, so much so that and makes it a point to ask them about other services they might need which would ease their lives in remote areas. Moreover, he has taken the young son of his landlord under his wing to mentor, they observe him while he goes about his business and learns how he conducts himself while expanding his network and onboarding. 

His modest and unstoppable spirit have earned him a promotion, Vinay now overlooks the BA’s in his districts. We believe that his attitude will teach the youth who work under him the personal life of a business. 

Vinay at his shop

In our journey to build a broad network, we emphasize on the overall development of our entrepreneur, by providing them with better opportunities and training to grab those. We want to provide role-models to the rural youth who encourage them to think out of the box and evolve their perspective of success. 

Answering the aspirations of rural India through Women Entrepreneurs!

A SAMSUNG fridge is unloaded in Maladakal, a village in Devadurga Taluk, Raichur District . Devamma, receives her latest purchase with a big smile, “We used to store our extra vegetables in the next house as they have a fridge!. We saved this year to purchase this new fridge”. Maladakal is a village around 30 kms away from Raichur town

The facilitator of this purchase is our 29-year-old 1Bridge Advisor (1BA ) Naziya said, “I am so happy that I helped them make the purchase. I am part of their celebration!”

Naziya Begum is a housewife and has completed her PUC. She is now the epicentre of digital connectivity for Maladakal, “The village has hugely benefit from me, we don’t go to the ATM anymore as I am helping everyone to do online transactions”, she said.

At first she was worried. Worried that her financial contribution to the household will take away from job as a mother and a homemaker. “I cannot put work before the needs of my family – my children need me, but being a 1BA gives me freedom to do things on my time..”.  

Being a 1BA allows her to have flexibility of her working hours and a portable office, her smartphone!

In Naziya’s case, she is one of the few women who have their own businesses in the village. She has won the approval of the entire village by using her training to put her village on the steeplechase as the rest of digital India! 

Our passion to create economic opportunities in remote parts of India was also fuelled by the need for a resolution to migrate for poorly paying jobs. Migration can be physically & mentally taxing, especially for people who are so closely knit into one large family called a village. When we extend this opportunity to women, we now realize the sheer impact of it in the society. They’re seen with respect; individuals who contribute not only to the wellbeing of the family, but also contribute to financial stability. 

“People come to me for solutions. They need something but not travel for it – they want to recharge, I provide them the comfort of these services from their villages itself. We have many tasks in a day, to take care of the village, our crops, and families and run the community. I take one task off from a person’s to-do list, a small task with big effort, and that is the best part of my day” says Naziya with a big smile!

We dream of a Naziya in every village of our country!

Peace of Mind, delivered.

Noor Ahamed, a young and driven entrepreneur from Thurchagatta Davanagere is one of our 1 Bridge Advisors. He was one of the first people to start digital services from his home in Davanagere. He says, “Previously the nearest recharge shop was about 5 kilometers away, and required travelling” This has changed since Ahamed has been trained to do recharges (mobile, bill payments) , order products online and fill applications for his fellow villagers

“I received my pan card in six days! Directly to my phone”, said Manjappa, when we asked him about his experience with 1Bridge PAN card services. 

Manjappa, a construction wageworker by profession, his income was not taxable until last year. The need to have Permanent account number card (PAN card) arose at the age of 44.

“When the bank asked me for a PAN card, I didn’t know how to get it and what to do, they briefly explained the process, but the nearest office would have cost me my entire wage for the day”

“When the bank asked me for a PAN card, I didn’t know how to get it and what to do. They briefly explained the process, but the getting to the nearest office would have cost me my entire wage for the day”

To save time, Manjappa contacted local businessmen in the district to help him procure one. After weeks of no results, when he checked back, the businessmen said there was an error with his application and a refund could not be processed.

He’d been fleeced!

Ahamed is Manjappa’s neighbor. He contacted him for his PAN card once he started his digital services. “He was completely aware of the process and fees was the same as the website” says Manjappa

Manjappa has been one of our most excited customers. He beamed with happiness when he received his PAN card on his phone, and all he had to do was go to his neighbor. 

“The people in the village are saving a lot of time and money because of these services and I am happy to fill applications and place orders, they are my family after all”, said Noor Ahamed.

NoorAhamed
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We generally receive our pan card seamlessly at the age of 18, when our parents decide to open a saving account or to make an FD for us. However, PAN cards and insurances are a very scarce concept in rural India. Everything is subject to necessity and availability of resources.  A construction worker like Manjappa, is aware of the benefits of a PAN card, however, the procurement requires him to travel & get fleeced!

These instances are the reason why we exist – exemplifies our vision to create access for everyone in the country, moving forward together as 1.

Creating Opportunities for those who can grab it!

A story of a village, an entrepreneurial tailor and how he strives for more..!

A story of a village, an entrepreneurial tailor and how he strives for more – by grabbing opportunities with both hands!

It doesn’t always take a business school to teach business sense!

This is the story of Mahadeva, a 34-year-old man who started his own shop at the age of 18 and since has turned it into a hub for diverse services. 

A small tailoring shop in Muttanahalli serves over 70 customers each day, from different villages .. What is he offering that makes him the sole service provider to a long-lasting and faithful customer base for over two decades? Muttanahalli is located in the south of Karnataka in Mandya District and like the rest of the state is rich in culture and flora. Moreover, it is a part of a small cluster of villages between two major cities, Bangalore and Mysore.

Mahadeva did not see any examples of educated youths from his village, who were employed and aiding their family. 

Mahadeva was born and brought up here. His uncle introduced him to the art of tailoring; he was taken to meet customers, practice on waste cloth and was more than happy to assist. In his free time, during holidays and such, he perfected the finer details of stitching and local embroidery. At 18, his family persuaded him to leave his education and take up tailoring full time. He was torn about the decision,but Mahadeva did not see any examples of educated youths from his village, who were employed and supporting their family. So he decided that his future lay in his hands, and tailoring would get him to an early start.

Business was rough at the beginning, there wasn’t enough investment or assistance. With help of his mother, he completed the first few orders from his home in the village. He derived inspiration from the Internet and presented new design suggestions to his customers and slowly built a name for quality work. Mahadeva’s effort, skill and people skills, set the business on an upward path. He applied his enterprise and marketing skills to reach customers. Along with a promise of quality and on-time delivery, he printed visiting cards.

While renting a shop, he looked for a strategic location; a place accessible to villages around, so people can visit him conveniently. On their way in and out of the highway, they place and pick up their orders. Within the first year he received his biggest order yet- clothes for an entire family for their daughter’s wedding including the bride’s apparel. His long- standing relationships aided by the quality of his work travel by word of mouth now, after being in the business for almost two decades.

The integration of digital services has also opened doors to a new customer base; villagers are now able to place online orders for personal and household items.

Mahadeva is a successful entrepreneur, but his ambition is to grow and serve his community. His entrepreneurial spirit attracted us to him – and he is now a 1Bridge Advisor providing a range of assisted digital services at his shop.

The integration of digital services has also opened doors to a new customer base; villagers are now able to place online orders for personal and household items. Since people who visit his shop have to travel no further to fulfill their online services needs, his village has become a go-to hub for other villages around the area. Mahadeva has used this opportunity to fuse his two businesses and help each other build. His go-getter spirit and grounded personality are perfect for his line of work. He is patient with his customers while identifying and placing orders on the 1Bridge catalogue.  Since his existing costumers trust him, he places orders for items such as watches, TV’s etc. He does recharges for mobile and DTH for his existing customers. 

Our team at Mahadeva’s shop

As a last-mile new commerce network , we interact with young men and women, whose stories are inspire us each time. They are people with few opportunities and have no option other than to chose a less travelled path, however; what makes them successful is their customer centricity and resilience. They are truly the Abundance Ambassadors for their villages!