From the Field
UNDER THE MANGO TREE - MUMBAI, INDIA
Vijaya Pastala believes in “bees for poverty reduction.” Vijaya founded Under The Mango Tree (UTMT) a social enterprise to provide training in beekeeping to subsistence farmers in rural Maharashtra. Vijaya was well versed in sales and marketing, she was struggling with UTMT business structure, and with very little operational expertise she faced all the challenges that come with being an underfunded start-up.
In 2012, we sent Ravi Kurani, a Frontier Market Scouts Fellow, to work with Vijaya through the FMS partnership with Sanghata partner, Village Capital. Ravi brought his strong business and operational skill and for six months he worked with Vijaya as her chief operating officer. He developed a supply chain, a financial plan, a pricing strategy and other logistics, thus creating a solid financial foundation for her business to build on and thrive. With Ravi’s assistance, Under The Mango Tree went on to win a World Bank grant, helping Vijaya to develop her enterprise even further.
This is an example of how FMS works in low-income areas. There are always two main beneficiaries: the entrepreneurs, and the clients the entrepreneurs serve. In this case, Under The Mango Tree was the entrepreneur and Bhakari-ji was one of its clients.
Bhakari-ji is a subsistence farmer. As an enterprising person he also operated a small “store”, out of a window cut into the side of the house, selling dry goods. Between his farming efforts and his village store, Bhakari-ji had a net average income of around $2 a day, enough to feed his family of four, but not enough to pay for essential family needs.
After learning to keep bees, Bhakari-ji bought 20 bee boxes and set them up around his farm. On an average, the 20 bee boxes now produce about 10 kilos of honey per year which brings him an additional annual income of $1500. Integrating bees into his mango farm helped him increase his mango crop yields and he now makes an additional $75 every year from the sale of mangoes. As a result, Bhakari-ji has been able to set-up savings accounts for his children’s education and his family needs.
V-Shesh - CHENNAI, INDIA
V-shesh specialises in training and finding employment for disadvantaged job seekers.
In India, the disabled are at an extreme disadvantage. For the entire hearing impaired population of India, there are only eight universities that teach sign language. But even if deaf university graduates do find a job, their employers generally pay them a fraction of the market rate salary.
FMS Fellow, Yi-Ching Hwang helped V-shesh develop an affordable vocational training program for the deaf that would increase the disadvantaged applicants’ chances of finding employment.
Thanks to Yi-Ching’s interventions, V-shesh now places around 200 disabled job seekers a year in market-rate jobs with major employers like Flextronics, Infosys, Barclays and Wipro. In addition to their vocational training programs and job placement services, V-shesh now also operate other businesses which bring additional revenue. They train families in sign language, and host movie nights for the deaf so they can watch movies with subtitles.
Saravanan is a good example of how hearing impaired people have benefitted from Yi-Ching’s six months of work on the V-Shesh program. A university graduate, Saravan was earning $1.75 a day. Thanks to V-shesh's improved vocational training program he was placed in a job at Flextronics where he now earns $300 a month.
F123 - Curitiba, Paraná, Brazil
Fernando Botelho, an inventor built F123, a software-plus-operating system that can transform any PC into a device for the visually impaired. Visually impaired himself, Fernando was computer-literate and had worked for the United Nations where he built an early global web portal called esight.org. He had also worked in Switzerland for UBS Bank, where he managed philanthropic services for ultra-high-net-worth clients. In the mid-2000s Fernando moved back to his home country Brazil, thinking that Brazil would fare better in the global stock market crash than other countries.
Frontier Market Fellow, Grace Andrews helped Fernando transform his software system into a viable business, with the potential to reach millions of blind individuals who otherwise wouldn’t have had access to computer technology. She also helped Fernando develop a business model and map out his fundraising plan.
As a result, Fernando launched his software in English, Spanish and Portuguese and is developing platforms in Mandarin, Hindi and French thus potentially helping around 2.2 billion blind people. Fernando’s invention provides professional grade computer services that enable blind people to become computer literate and use computers as stepping stones to better work choices.