Set up in 1992 with JRD Tata as its founding chairman, the NGO has been nurturing entrepreneurship at the grass root level. It has generated employment for almost 25,000 people and financed approximately $3 million for over 1,700 entrepreneurs
When Prof. Y.S. Rajan, Principal Advisor to the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) was asked to name a few steps that can help aspiring entrepreneurs make a headstart, pat came his multi-pronged response. Having co-authored the book ‘India 2020: A Vision for the New Millennium’ along with former President of India Abdul J. Kalam, Rajan’s prompt reply was, “There are five doors, that entrepreneurs can knock on, to grow”. Former Executive Director, TIFAC (Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council) of the Government of India Department of Science & Technology, Rajan is an authority on Technology Development and Business Management. His overview is undoubtedly a treasure trove of tips and advice for budding entrepreneurs.
|There are five doors, that entrepreneurs can knock on to grow. Among these is Bharatiya Yuva Shakti Trust, a strategic partner of CII. |
Prof. Y.S. Rajan
“Among these”, as Rajan elaborates, “are the Technology Business incubators launched by the Department of Science & Technology, the Technopreneur Promotion Programme (TePP) of TIFAC, patent-buying company Intellectual Ventures and BYST, a strategic partner of CII. And finally, the ‘Knowledge Intermediation’ process which reduces uncertainties (technical, business and market) for entrepreneurs involved in future products and services.”
We will open this treasure trove by closely examining one of these five “doors”- the BYST (Bharatiya Yuva Shakti Trust). Set up in 1992 with JRD Tata as its founding Chairman, this registered NGO has been levelling the playing field for small businesses by nurturing entrepreneurship at the grass root level. And it has generated employment for almost 25,000 people and financed approximately USD 3 million for over 1,700 entrepreneurs.
Founding trustee of this not-for-profit organisation is Lakshmi V. Venkatesan, daughter of India’s former President, R. Venkataraman. Speaking of the ethos of BYST, she recaps, “BYST has supported the entrepreneurial dreams of the underprivileged youth of India and is modelled along the lines of the age-old guru-shishya (teacher-student) tradition”. Since its inception 16 years back, BYST has successfully expanded its operations across five states with regions of operations in urban Delhi, Chennai, Pune, Hyderabad and rural Haryana and Maharashtra. Mentoring is key to BYST’s Entrepreneurship Development program where mentors, mostly senior business professionals that have volunteered their services, provide guidance and advice to underprivileged young entrepreneurs to succeed in their fledgling businesses. Venkatesan explains that, “The process is inbuilt in such a way that each entrepreneur is handheld from Day 1 of counselling, to firm up his/her business plans, attend a expert workshop, get loans sanctioned and finally be assigned a business guide who guides him/her on effectively running the business”.
BYST’s Board of Trustees reads like a Who’s Who of India Inc. BYST’s corporate partners include the Tatas, Bajaj, Godrej, American Insurance Group (AIG), DIAGEO and The Keep Walking Fund. As a Founding Member of Youth Business International (YBI), UK, BYST is working closely with HRH Prince Charles to set up similar programs around the world in Asia, Africa and Latin America. And the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) is its strategic partner, providing infrastructure and administrative support to BYST.
CII’s Deputy Director General Dr. Sarita Nagpal describes CII’s association with BYST. “With a view to proactively address & mitigate issues being faced by the MSME (micro and small, medium entrepreneurs) sector, an apex National Council for the MSMEs as well as the BYST are the two key activities presently being operated for CII membership” Dr. Nagpal mentions. CII proposes to launch the following two key initiatives for micro-entrepreneurs this year-‘I’msme’ and Entrepreneurship India (EI). According to Dr. Nagpal, “I’msme (I am SME) is CII’s unique initiative to create a brand for MSMEs in India. This will help integrate them into the global economy. And I’msme portal will nurture communities of MSMEs to connect to other SMEs, service providers, institutions, access knowledge resources for tangible benefits, ask and find solutions to their business problems and showcase their products and services in a business to business marketplace. The second CII initiative is an entrepreneurial movement to catapult Indian entrepreneurship into the high growth phase of global economic development”.
As job markets tighten, the BYST model which has successfully helped job-seekers become job creators, deserves to take centre stage. Heartening are the voices of BYST entrepreneurs such as M.C. Raja, the proprietor of Rexmiller Garments who recounts, “I came to know about BYST on Doordarshan. There are many trusts in our country working for very serious issues like safe guarding old age, providing food for the pavement dwellers, providing education for poor children but I think BYST is particularly unique and special”. Raja overcame the common funding challenges that micro-entrepreneurs face, but experienced BYST as a differentiator. “Before approaching BYST for a loan, I had approached commercial banks and other micro-financial institutions for financial help, but I could not avail those due to lack of property. BYST is able to provide a permanent solution for the problems and difficulties of a businessmen or an entrepreneur by providing financial assistance without security and valuable mentoring. It also brought changes in my life style and I now have over 25 people working with me”, says this grateful businessman.
As pointed out by Raja, BYST emphasises end-to-end support to disadvantaged young dynamic micro-entrepreneurs in the form of loans, business mentors, training, networking & marketing. BYST’s professional outlook is ingrained in its operations and the team’s outlook to their mission. Referring to some of their above-mentioned achievements as their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), the team at BYST took us in detail through the role of mentors and the process adopted to encourage entrepreneurs along their growth path. The role of mentors is described visually in the illustration (1) provided.
With the emphasis on mentoring of entrepreneurs, training of mentors is key to the success of BYST. A 6-hour self-paced, interactive, user-friendly “Mentor-Online” (MOL) tool is available for potential mentors. Mentors who complete MOL courseware and provide on-the-ground mentoring to entrepreneurs (10 hrs in a year) become eligible for an International Accreditation. This accreditation ensures consistent training standards across the country. 1000 mentors have already been accredited by City and Guild, UK’s largest and best known vocational awarding body. Having created a pool of 3,000 volunteer business mentors across the country, BYST has established 21 mentor chapters in all its regions of operations, to encourage formal grouping of business mentors and effective networking and exchange of ideas amongst them.
The mentor network also plays a vital role in the second key element of the BYST model, that is, money. Selection and screening of entrepreneurs is done through mentor networks. Once selected by BYST, entrepreneurs can receive funding from banks that are in financial partnerships with BYST. Currently, in West and North India, BYST has tied up with Bank of Baroda and South India through Indian Bank. BYST has funded 300 entrepreneurs with Rs 100 million loans, a 20-fold increase in yearly financing compared to previous years. Additionally, a BYST growth fund has also been piloted in partnership with International Finance Corporation to support high growth grass-root entrepreneurs through social venture capital. With a corpus of USD 3 million, the fund will make its first disbursements to the top 50 BYST entrepreneurs.
written by Shree Bhagwat, January 06, 2010
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