Subhash, Umesh, Sydney, and Pawan - Four Rang De Social investors embarked on a field visit to Dang, Gujarat, to witness Rang De's impact first hand. They journeyed early in the morning by train to Navsari, where their pick up was arranged by Rang De’s Impact Partner (Aga Khan Rural Support Program) AKRSP.
Upon their arrival at their district office which was an hour’s drive from Navsari , they were warmly greeted by Jagadish and Kamlesh of AKRSP. Here, they were introduced to AKRSP's community initiatives through a brief presentation. The focus was on skill development programs, such as computer classes, retail marketing and rural entrepreneurship, which have been instrumental in fostering sustainable livelihoods in the region.
Visit to Bamboo Entrepreneur Ashwinbhai’s workshop
After the presentation and initial briefings they were set to meet Rang De Investee - Ashwinbhai at his bamboo workshop.
Ashwinbhai, born in Khirmani with limited educational opportunities, began his career in a glove manufacturing company before transitioning to daily wage labor. His pivotal moment came when he joined his brother-in-law's bamboo workshop, where he honed his skills and developed a passion for bamboo craft.
In 2010, he and his wife founded AGC Bamboo Hand Craft in their home, starting with pen stands and decorative items. They faced challenges in expanding their market reach, but Ashwin's quality work soon attracted orders from various states.
In 2021, he built a temporary shed to manage increasing demands, but seasonal weather affected his production. But this did not deter Ashwin bhai’s entrepreneurial aspiration and vision. With the support of the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (India) and a loan from Rang De, he constructed a permanent workshop, which improved productivity and allowed for year-round operation. His workshop, now with 15 employees, achieves a yearly turnover of 12 to 13 Lakhs.
This success has enabled his children to receive a better education and improved the community's socio-economic status. Ashwin now plans to diversify into bamboo furniture, explore online sales, and empower more community members through employment and skill-sharing.
Prospective Community Tourism Entre[reneur Dalvi bhai
The Rang De social investers group’s next meeting was with Dalvi bhai who sees a business opportunity in Community Tourism based on his past experience with Mahindra Finance.
He had reasonable success with families visiting his place with children and enjoying first hand experience of agricultural activities during the day and bonfires / folk songs during the night.
But Covid affected Dalvi bhai’s business though he remains optimistic about its potential. He has a business plan which he is discussing with AKRSP team and is hopeful of starting with the financial help from Rand De soon.
The CSC Entrepreneur - Chandaben
Their next meeting was with Chandaben - a woman with tremendous grit and entrepreneurial ambition.
Despite only having a high school education and basic computer skills, she faced the challenge of supporting her family of six, including her agricultural laborer husband and two children. Initially, Chandaben joined her husband in agricultural labor, but soon decided to leverage her computer skills to open a CSC (Common Service Center) in her village.
Her journey was not smooth; her initial loan applications for the CSC were rejected due to insufficient documentation. However, she learned about the AKRSP(I)'s Tribal Youth Initiative program, which supports tribal youth in entrepreneurship. Her business idea was shortlisted, and she received the necessary equipment to set up the CSC.
Despite early challenges due to a lack of technical knowledge, Chandaben received training from an existing CSC, enhancing her computer, communication skills, and confidence. This led to significant growth in her business.
Capitalising on her location near schools and colleges, she expanded her services to include stationery sales, boosting her income to Rs. 18,000-20,000 per month.
Her husband has since joined the business, and they plan to further expand by adding women's clothing and cosmetics. Chandaben's story is a testament to resilience, skill development, and the positive impact of support programs for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Reflecting on these encounters,the Social Investors were deeply moved. The stories of Ashwinbhai and Chandaben exemplified how even modest social investments could have profound impacts on people's lives. They left Dang with renewed determination to contribute more meaningfully to the lives of fellow Indians.
This field trip to Dang was not just a journey across states; it was a voyage into the heart of human resilience and the power of collective support. It's a testament to how small acts of investment can weave stories of empowerment and progress, inspiring each of us to be a part of this transformative narrative. We invite our readers to explore the world of social investment with Rang De. Your investment can ignite hope and drive change in countless lives across India. To know more about Rang De visit rangde.in