Shut down: rain and national holidays, but Be! Fund opened for business in the maximum city and the call out is creating just a little bit of steam in the late monsoon.
In search of Mumbai’s young entrepreneurs, we released our Be! Movies. These movies tell stories of young heroes who solve local problems and are aired on local cable channels. We’re receiving calls everyday with great ideas, but we’re getting restless so we went further, on foot, into Mumbai’s slums with posters, postcards, and community movie screenings to find the youngest entrepreneurs who can change everything for everyone. Were they there? They had to be. This was Mumbai, where everyone comes to be an entrepreneur.
Of course new journeys are never smooth, but as ours was particularly bumpy, we thought it may be Murphy’s Law (or just how we look at it): when we went into communities people thought we were selling something, they slammed doors, we ran awkwardly into people doing their laundry, or people with a toothbrush stuck in their mouth, not exactly the right time to ask if they or someone they know, is an entrepreneur. We screened movies and there were power cuts, the power came back on and the rain came down.
The good news is we learned a lot.
After each day in the field we took steps to make our campaign better. We now partner with local organizations in areas we visit so that we are not misunderstood for sales people selling washing powder. We also go well equipped with three different kinds of adhesive tapes because the posters just don’t stick; the walls are too rugged, sometimes they are made of soft cardboards sheets which are moist because of the rains, and rest of the time there are rickety aluminum sheets. To solve our technical crisis, we hired a projector wallah: Sajid, whose key skill is patience with our madness, we now consider him part of our team.
In the past one week, we have focused our efforts on the area near our office in the western suburb of Santacruz and across the harbor line of the Mumbai local train. We started by visiting the areas of Golibar which has around 140 households. We then took it up a notch and visited larger areas of Mankurd which has around 575 households and Govandi with almost 730 homes.
It was my first time visiting the slums of any kind let alone the first time in Mumbai (and I’m from Mumbai!). The slums have an ecosystem of their own; it is like a village within a city. In an instance from the confines of my cozy apartment I found myself warped into another world where basic needs of living turn into luxuries. No running water, scant lighting, terrible sanitation, and garbage everywhere. It was like looking at the insides of something beautiful sliced open to bare all its guts. According to the 2011 census, 62% of Mumbai lives in slums. That is a huge number! With 13 million people it is the country’s most populous city and unlike Delhi where slums are confined to specific pockets of the city, the slums in Mumbai are integrated into every neighborhood. Young entrepreneurs are all around us, we just have to go out to meet them.
I’m excited to be able to say we now have 15 potential entrepreneurs that we have started working with. The ideas are as diverse as the people who have proposed them. Asif, age 23, came to Mumbai at a young age working part time and trying to complete his studies. He is already operating a Support School which targets young people in his community and he wants to expand to two more areas. Tarannum, age 28, wants to set up a fair price shop that would fill the gap in the supply chain and provide groceries cheaper and on credit. We have Vinayak, who is 32 and wants to solve the sanitation and energy problems by converting human waste into fuel.
Watch this blog to stay updated for everything that goes on at Be! Fund. Our next post is a call from Bangalore, where the Be! Fund began. Also, check us out on Facebook to know more about what we do – and if you know of a young entrepreneur who wants to start a business to solve a problem where you live, well you know what to do, call us.
Until next time