“I am from Umloo village in Kolar District .I was working in a garment factory near my village. It was a struggle managing the home along with going to work. After coming to Buzz India training I asked myself why shouldn’t I start my own business so that I can earn my livelihood at the same time be around the home. Hence I started my own shop in front of my home. I sell bangles, clothes, stationery, snacks and I have my tailoring machine to sew clothes. I sew when I do not have customers. With multiple items in my shop I cater to the needs of the villagers. The training has given me the confidence to be independent to run a business and take care of my family”
BUZZ AFRICA……Within 2.5 years of buzzing in India we are exploring buzzing in Africa with a local partner. We cannot divulge more details until it is finalised but there is a lot of positive movement in that direction. We did a needs assessment study on the ground in Kenya along with the partner to see how Buzz India can be customised to the environment there. The good news is that Buzz can be implemented as is, given that the all the lessons learnt during the pilots and after that have been incorporated into its current form . The bad news is that the communities that we met seem to have the same problems that the communities in India are facing with regards to financial capability.
The people we met to have a conversation are at the base of the pyramid doing small business or are daily wage labourers in agriculture. In the picture above you see one such meeting with a community group near Limuru conducted in a government school. All of them seem to think that money is the only solution to their poverty. When they were asked what they would do with the money, what is their business plan, how much is their current income and what is the projected profits for the future given the influx of capital, all of them drew a blank barring 1 in the group. By the end of the conversation they all acknowledged that they do need some capability building to understand the nuances of business and to manage their finances. This was the validation for our process. It is a great feeling when the beneficiaries come up with the need rather than it being formulated in a meeting room.
At 8.30 am on a sunny morning we left Bangalore for a 2 hour drive to the village Malur. We couldn’t find the exact location we were looking for. Some wrong directions from the villagers didn’t contribute. It is funny to experience they prefer to give a wrong direction than no direction. Twenty minutes later we arrived at our destination. Uthara, Nicola, Dave and I walked in this dirt road and there we saw it. The Buzz! A strong, solid orange bus with two big opened doors and 25 chairs prepared. Dave knew his dream became reality, but now he could see it with his own eyes.
The bus attracts many curious villagers and a group of interested boys and men are sitting at large stones. Soon the 25 chairs were filled with women of all ages so the training could start. With all his enthusiasm and a big smile, Chandru the Buzz trainer made sure the women were feeling comfortable. They were doing roll plays, got explanation about household expenses, and savings. What I saw were the interested and sincere eyes of the women, laughing with each other and the opportunity to learn again. Imagine yourself a woman of 40 years old who went to school until the age of 12 and couldn’t continue because of work and marriage. Now, 28 years later, after attending a Buzz training she said to Chandru: ‘You really made me think. Nobody ever asked me, what is your dream?’ When Uthara told me this story, i got goosebumps. This is why Buzz exists…
In the afternoon we went to 6 different women who attended the Buzz training 3 months ago. The first woman we met, Miss Amarawati started her own vegetable business now. In the past she used to take care of the household. Full of pride with her beautiful blue sari, she was telling that she found the courage to start her own business. Her husband said he was very proud at her, I totally agree.
When we arrived at the house of Miss Laxmy she invited us to come in and they made us an lemon juice (I really admire the Indian hospitality). Soon some other women of the village came in as well. ‘What mark would you give your life before and after the Buzz?’ I asked her. ‘I’m for 100% happy right now. My husband used to take care of us, but now I can contribute in a financial way as well’. I can imagine what it does with the self-esteem and self-confidence of this women… She also would love to learn more and is willing to pay for it, because she knows how valuable it is. For us the confirmation to work out the Buzz + program. The other women in the house were holding a sign-up paper for Buzz in their hands. It makes me pride that Miss Laxmy became a roll model for them.
I really believe in the fantastic and touching concept Buzz. We made a simple but genuine strategy plan which we can present to Indian cooperates. My motivation for Buzz in Holland became very simple: For each founder I find, 400 women in India can attend a Buzz training and will have the opportunity to a more beautiful life.
For Buzz and Better Future Miss Amarawati and Miss Laxmy a great examples. But maybe more important, the Buzz (re)awakened the dreams of the women. And wouldn’t it be great if we could spread it out all over the world and awaken dreams of as many women as possible?
In the last 14 months as a Buzz trainer on the ground for me has not been about just delivering content, It is about delivering a programme which is transformational for the women while empathizing with their situation.
There are many transformations in the women that I see, some are immediate and some take their time to come. But what keeps me going to the field every day is the changes in the lives of the women for the better. One woman named Savitha had given up on collaborating along with her husband in their financial decisions. She felt that the debt created by him was his and not for her to worry about. After coming to the first day’s training she went back home and sat her husband down for a constructive conversation. She told him that she wanted to work along with him to reduce their debt and increase their savings for their childrens’ future. When she told me about how she had transformed her life and how she worked with her husband as a team, it made me realize the importance of the work that we do.
It is not about delivering content….its about changing destinies
It is a story of poverty among affluence. Here was Hasina living among wealth , a house of her own, a thriving business earning her thousands of Rupees a day. Yet she was poor. She came to the first day of training with tears in her eyes. Her husband had tried committing suicide sometime back due to the harassment from creditors. They had taken a lot of loan for his mother’s illness and were drowning in repayment interest.
They also lived a life of extravagance since the business was flourishing. Given the current situation they were struggling to cut down on their expenses and finish paying off their debt. It was a combination of financial planning along with confidence building that saw Hasina through.
Within couple of weeks post the Buzz session, she called us to say that she had taken some bold decision. She had sold off her own house to repay all the debt. She was confident that she would build or buy an equally big house within 2-3 years since the business was doing well. With all the tools she learnt at the training she had rebuilt her life.
During a stay of ten days at the Better Future office in Bangalore I have the privilege to join BUZZ for two days together with the Chief Changemaker of Buzz India, Uthara Narayanan.
After a drive of almost 2 hours outside the city of Bangalore we have a breakfast together in a place where many famous Indian people used to come. People are going in and out, enjoying lovely Indian ‘fast-food’. Uthara explains to me where we are going and what we can expect today. The BUZZ stops today in a village where mainly Muslim women live and work. We will meet the facilitator and the driver near to the restaurant, at the place where they park the BUZZ every evening. The BUZZ is their living room and their bedroom during the week. The office next to the parking place provides the sanitary facilities.
When we change the car of Uthara for the BUZZ bus to travel to the village, and meet Chandrashekaraiah and Suresh it is immediately clear for me how proud these two men are on the work they do. They show me around in the bus and explain about all the specialities: solar power, training materials, chairs, etc. Everything is there to serve the women and let them become better entrepreneurs.
When we arrive in the village and everything is ready to start the training, there are only a few women. The leader of the group explains that there is a funeral in the village. Somebody died this morning and everybody has to share her sympathy to the family. After a while there is a group of about 12 women and the training can start. Around the group of women also some men and children come to watch what is happening. The women are eager to learn what the teacher brings and still a bit shy to share their experiences and participate in the role-plays. But when they take a step full energy and focus is there. Uthara translates a bit what is being said; mostly I enjoy the non-verbal communication of the facilitator and the group.
After the session we sit together with the four of us. Chandrashekaraiah is eager to get feedback. He wants to make the session even better, more interactive and more relevant for the women. On our way back to Bangalore Uthara and me share our purpose in life and conclude that learning will never stop in life.
One week later I join Uthara again to see the same group for their second session. Again we enjoy that lovely breakfast and meet Chandrashekaraiah and Suresh at the BUZZ bus at the same parking place.
When we arrive in the village it is very quite in the streets. We wait and wait and nobody shows up; big disappointment for the whole team. What is it about? Do the husbands of these Muslim women not allow them to go to the training again? Is there a memorial for the person who died last week? Are they not interested? Was the communication about this session not clear? A lot of questions and a hard lesson. But for sure a situation to learn from, so still a great opportunity.
Since there is a lot a time left we visit some business ladies who participated in earlier trainings. A lot of talking starts about how to deal with cultural ceremonies. Those ceremonies cost a lot of money and time, which cannot be spent on the family or business. Is it possible to step out of these ceremonies for a woman in a village? Will she still be part of that community? What is more important, being part of the community or earning money to let the children go to school? It looks like simple choices, but listening to the energy in the discussions it is not.
BUZZ, by providing training and coaching, helps the women to make these kind of choices. What is the right direction to make their dream come through? It is their dream, BUZZ gives them a lot of extra tools to live them!
The moment of truth! The Buzz was dressed up and prepped to show to the world. We were all excited to see the reactions of the people. The launch happened on the 8th of February 2013 at the Press Club in Bangalore. It was an event to announce to the world through the press about our Buzz.
What an event it was! We proudly opened up the doors of the bus and explained the workings of it. We set up the place to show how we would do the same at the village.
Commenting on the launch of this innovative association, Suresh Krishna, Managing Director, GFSPL (aka Grameen Koota) said, “Grameen Koota was formed with the objective of bettering livelihood opportunities of women who belong to poor and low income households and therefore we are happy to partner with the Buzz Bus-mobile academy initiative because it supports our inherent aim of empowering women entrepreneurs spread across remote corners of the state who may have the potential but not the opportunity or access to any kind of expertise, be it marketing their business or understanding nuances of business accounting. Being a mobile academy, the Buzz Bus can provide training for such women at their own convenience”.
Adding to the above, Mr.Jaikumar Chandrashekar, Managing Director, Better Future, “Our name is our goal, we want to create a better future by inspiring leaders to change the world. Our initiative with the Buzz Bus is to inspire women entrepreneurs at the bottom of the pyramid towards a better future for themselves and their communities. We believe that the women have the potential and the ambition to achieve their dreams. Through the Buzz bus, our intention is to support those dreams.”
Our guest of honour Dr.Madhura Chatrapathy is a renowned entrepreneur with over 30 years of experience in the field of capacity building and helping entrepreneurs scale their businesses. She was wonderful in giving praise to the initiative that we have taken and how important it is to go to the doorsteps of the women. She said, “When you empower a woman you empower a whole family and community. I am really glad that both Better Future and Grameen Koota have come together to launch this unique initiative for the women of our country. This kind of support will help them reach professional success faster and lead empowered lives.”
Aysha and Shobha, our star entrepreneurs also spoke of how their business has grown since our intervention. It was really nice to see them talk on stage, ‘equal to the guest of honour’ as Shobha’s husband said later.
What a day for Buzz and all of us who have seen this dream! Its just the beginning of an exciting journey.
Different women take home different things from our business consulting sessions with them. Some learn about attracting more customers, communicating better, managing their loans, saving more, cutting down costs etc. It depends on what their learning expectations are and what they struggle with in their business and life.
Shaheen Taj from Tumkur caught on to the book keeping method that we gave her. She was so thrilled by it that she started her own book to keep her accounts that very day. She admitted that it confused her the first few times she tried writing her expenses but she pushed herself to be disciplined about it. A few days of discipline and her challenges vanished. She hopes to take control of her finances through the book and expand her business soon. We hope so too!
It was 21 November, 7.45 am on a shiny morning. The first Buzz founder breakfast would take place in Amsterdam at the nice office Optimix. The first founders were dripping in and enjoyed their breakfast. Half an hour later, we had a group of 12 people and we started our meeting.
‘Welcome, we are proud that we have this group of committed people who wants to contribute to Buzz’ was one of the first things Dave said. The founders introduced their self and told each other why they became a founder of Buzz. Michel told us about the experiences he had during his three-month visit to Better Future India last summer.
At 9.00 am we had a Skype connection with Uthara and the Swiss founders. Uthara explained us why she is committed to Buzz, about the two pilots last summer and about her dreams towards Buzz. The founders really liked it to listen to the inspiring Uthara, also because it’s live from India, the place where this happens.
Later on we had a brainstorm about how the founders and younger people can contribute to Buzz. Visiting India next year, was one of the things most founders really wanted. Then they can see, experience and feel how it is ‘Buzzing’ in India.
After all, the first foundermeeting was valuable. In the spring of 2013 we’ll come together again. Probably with more people, because a few days after the foundermeeting, another person announced that he wanted to become a Buzz founder.
So spread the word…
You might remember Shobha from a previous post ‘I want loan’, somebody who changed her stance about expanding her business post our intervention.
I am happy to announce that within 2 months of Buzz reaching her, she has opened her boutique by financing her capital amount partly from her savings and partly from her cousin. She moved her tailoring business from within her home to a shop for a deposit of Rs.5,000 and on a monthly rent of Rs.500. At present she is managing to meet her customers’ demand on her own though she is planning to employ more tailors soon.
The proud owner of the boutique claimed that as there were many festivals in October like Dasara, Mahalaya Amavasya and Bakrid she had many orders, fetching her a profit of Rs.30,000 after meeting all her business expenses.
If this story does not make us Buzzers proud of our work, what else will?
Shobha is a wife, a mother, a tailor, a prudent saver and above all an opinionated woman. From the first session she was very clear that she did not want to take any extra loan. She had a comfortable life and was planning on saving for the next one year to start her business of a boutique where she would employ people to stitch clothes.
On the last day of training the same Shobha went to her loan officer/kendra Manager and asked him if she could borrow Rs.50,000. This took him by surprise because he has been offering her a loan to expand her business for a long time but without success. He was more than happy to give her the loan since he was sure that she would pay back on time and would grow her business.
Shobha changed her mind after doing the session on financial goals and business growth projection. She found out that if she took a loan now she could make Rs.150,000 in one year with which she could easily pay back the loan and use the profit for her son’s education. But if she waited for a year to save she would make only Rs.50,000 to raise her capital. She weighed her options and felt it was better to take a loan today and grow her business with the potential.
I cannot wait to see how this smart business woman is doing in 6 months time.
Although we always knew that we would encounter a woman who is not literate, we had to wait till our second pilot where half of the entrepreneurs who turned up for training did not even know their numbers. The ‘personal growth’ sessions were handled easily since the literacy levels did not matter then. When we came to the point of discussing their income and expenditure, we hit a road block.
What do you do when a woman doing good business is losing out because she is not able to keep an account of her inflow and outflow of money? You introduce the ‘traditional tally’ method. She might resist learning numbers because its difficult. But it cannot be difficult to draw lines. And that is exactly how we got Belagamma, Gowramma and Manjula to get a grip on their businesses.
Uthara Narayanan received an invitation to be part of a panel discussion on economic empowerment of women. It was an excellent forum to present Buzz India. Buzz India was presented as a mechanism to increase participation of women in the economic process through building their financial and entrepreneurial capability.
The past week I’ve spend in busy Bangalore working on Buzz. The overall feeling at the end of the week is one of mega enthusiasm.
We’ve discussed the outcomes of our pilots which have proven that we can change lives with this idea. We thought hard about how to overcome the initial hick-ups. Had lunch with the CEO of our partner Grameen Koota (who turned out just as excited as we are). We imagined real-life busses, identified scaling up plans and ways to involve corporate India. It is great to see that Uthara is 100% passionate about ‘her’ Buzz and that she is taking it forward rapidly. Can’t wait to share experiences at the Dutch Founders meeting in October. Big thanks to the Better Future India team!
Do you remember the feeling you get when you find a 10 rupee/euro/dollar bill in your pocket unexpectedly? Such a thrill, isnt it?
Thats exactly the look that Aisha had on her face after we did the ‘financial goals’ session during the second phase of our pilot. We had asked each of the women to articulate what their financial goals were for the next few months or years so as to go into the next step of deciding whether they need a loan or save on their own to reach the goals. Aisha wanted Rs.5,000 for expanding her milk delivery business and she has been expecting to borrow the same.
Building on her receipts and payments exercise done previously, we asked her to calculate how much she would be able to save per day after her daily expenses. It surprised us as much as her that she could actually save up the capital she needed in 20 days and would not need a loan at all.
WOW! was the expression on everybody’s face. All she needed was couple of lessons on maintaining an account of her expenses and income per day and dividing her financial goal with the savings each day – voila, her needs were met on her own without being dependent on anybody.
Aisha face lived up to the meaning of her name ‘alive’ on finding the bounty in her own ‘pocket’!