Bharatiya Yuva Shakti Trust, a non-profit organisation, aims to support 5,000 entrepreneurial ventures in the next five years.
Lakshmi Venkatesan" height="120" alt="Lakshmi Venkatesan" hspace="5" width="100" align="left" src="/newsimgfiles/2009/november/16112009/111709_06.jpg" />What do Bhausaheb B Janjire (coming from a lower middle class family in Pune) and Sarala Bastian (a shy housewife from Chennai) have in common? Nothing, it would seem: Janjire assembles electronic items for two- and three-wheelers, while Bastian’s company — Arokia Foods — produces and markets mushrooms, pickles and soups in and around Chennai.
However, both were helped in their entrepreneurial ventures with initial funding and mentoring by the Bharatiya Yuva Shakti Trust (BYST), a non-profit organisation formed in 1992 by Lakshmi Venkatesan, who is its founding trustee and executive vice-president.
In the past 17 years the trust has helped some 2,000 entrepreneurs — 25 per cent of them women — who have created 25,000 jobs. It is not money alone that will solve entrepreneurs’ problems, says Venkatesan; guidance and hand-holding are key.
Venkatesan’s goal is to support 5,000 entrepreneurs in the next five years. The trust has over 3,000 volunteers (called mentors), mainly from small and medium enterprises (SMEs), who have come together to help their colleagues.
BYST has roped in the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) as a strategic partner and several captains of the industry on its board. It was created mainly to empower young and micro-entrepreneurs who are disadvantaged, and integrate them into the economic mainstream, said Venkatesan.
The inspiration came to Venkatesan after she met Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, when she accompanied her father, then President of India R Venkatraman, to London.
“I was inspired by the foundation run by the Prince of Wales, which was mentoring school drop-outs to equip them with skills and work experience.”
After returning to India she set up a similar organisation, and the first person to back her was J R D Tata, who joined the founding board. BYST works with people in the 18 - 35 age group, who are either unemployed or underemployed, but have sound and imaginative business ideas, along with the will to succeed.
The trust has adopted the ancient Indian concept of guru-shish parampara, which assigns a vital role to the mentor. The guru imparts skills to the shishya, and also instills in him values and a sense of self-confidence.
The model has been tailored to suit the needs of entrepreneurs who come from underprivileged sections of society. The trust adopted two models — one-to-one mentoring and mobile mentor clinics.
During the first year the mentor is expected to meet the entrepreneur at least once a month in the first model. During this time, the mentor focuses on issues and problems related to the start-up. The entrepreneur has to keep his mentor informed about the progress of his business, and incorporate suggestions given by the mentor.
In the second model — mobile mentor clinics — mainly meant for rural areas, five or six mentors go to the doorsteps of entrepreneurs to lend a hand. Today, with 80 villages spread over 100 sq km, the project area is divided into four clusters of about 20 villages each and each clusters caters to around 30-35 entrepreneurs.
The mentors have a background in marketing, engineering, finance, agro-products and management, and travel once a month to the clusters.
BYST also provides loans through its growth fund. The size of the fund is currently $2.5 million, with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) providing seed funding of $0.50 million. The Small Industries Development Bank of India and high net worth individuals contributed $1 million each. Another $2.5 million is likely to be injected, said Venkatesan.
The fund will invest equity in the business ventures of 10 young entrepreneurs. Two public sector banks — Indian Bank and Bank of Baroda — have also come forward to fund these entrepreneurs up to Rs 50 lakh.