No one could predict the future that would unfold when the Janata curfew was imposed on the 22nd of March 2020. This sudden lockdown and the economic disruptions it triggered left lakhs of people jobless. Among those that were severely impacted by the pandemic were rural micro-enterprise owners. 

During this period rural micro-entrepreneurs were particularly impacted by factors such as the complete halt in transportation, unavailability of raw materials, disturbances in supply chains, the prevalence of psychological stigma associated with Covid 19, lack of financial resources and the knowledge and skills to adopt e-marketing techniques and the lack of awareness about relief schemes. These factors severely impacted many micro-enterprises driving them into a state of deep crisis. 

In order to address these challenges faced by rural micro-entrepreneurs and with an objective to restore their livelihoods, Traidcraft implemented a COVID response programme – “Building resilience and facilitate restoring of livelihoods amongst rural micro-entrepreneurs to combat COVID 19 through sensitization, capacity building, digital empowerment, market access in Mewat and Gurugram (rural) in Haryana” – with support from UNDP between July and December 2020.

The project was intended to:

  1. Identify and Train 40 Biz Sakhis (Community Cadres)
  2. Reach out to at least 2500 community members (existing and potential micro-entrepreneurs) and sensitize them with information about the evolving Covid 19 scenario, combating stigma and providing psychological support
  3. Build capacity of at least 1000 community members (existing and potential micro-entrepreneurs) on entrepreneurial skill, digital/ marketing skills, and build awareness on available entrepreneurial/ livelihood opportunities
  4. Provide intensive support to at least 200 community members (existing and potential micro-entrepreneurs) to restore/generate their livelihood opportunities by starting enterprises and creating market linkages. 

The strategy and approach of the project was designed keeping in mind the context and nature of the project – including the challenges presented by the pandemic and the high targets that were set within a limited time-period (July to December 2020). Innovative approaches and strategies were used to reach out to target communities, to sensitise and train them. Some of these approaches have been listed below

  • The Use of Community Radio Platforms such as Alfaz-E-Mewat and Radio Mewat in Mewat and Gurgaon ki Awaaz in Gurugram were extremely useful. Well-defined programmes and episodes were designed to reach the target population.
  • Strategic Partnerships with the Haryana State Rural Livelihood Mission (HSRLM) in Mewat and Gurugram helped in identifying Community mentors (called Biz Sakhis under the project) and target communities.
  • Collaborations with local NGOs and CBOs like Agrasar and Literacy India in Gurugram helped in identifying Biz Sakhis in Gurugram.
  • The Development of self-learning material for selected micro-entrepreneurs to provide hand-holding support.

The results, both quantitative and qualitative have been encouraging. The innovative strategies used helped the project surpass its targets well within the short period of time allotted for the project. 44 Biz Sakhis (community cadres), against a target of 40, were identified and trained from Indri, Nuh, Punhana, Pinangwan and Tauru blocks of Mewat; and Gurugram and Pataudi blocks of Gurugram. The prior association of most of these Biz Sakhis with HSRLM was beneficial as they joined the project with a prior understanding of working with communities and particularly on micro-enterprises and related activities. Within a month i.e, by September 2020, the project reached out to 3016 community members through these Biz Sakhis, against the target of 2500 and sensitised them on Covid 19 protocols, combating stigma and providing psychological support.

Out of these 3016 individuals, 1254 micro-entrepreneurs (existing and potential) were selected based on a pre-defined criterion. These members were further trained on strengthening their enterprises through 10 radio episodes. To ensure that no one is left out the Biz Sakhis adopted different mechanisms such as informing them about the time of the broadcast, sharing recorded episodes through whatsapp as well as organising group listening sessions. Subsequently, by November 2020, we were able to identify 289 micro-entrepreneurs (against a target of 200) from the group of 1254 based on pre-defined criterion and provide them with further training – both radio based and class-room trainings to restore/generate and strengthen their enterprise.

With support from Biz sakhis, these 289 Micro-entrepreneurs are also being provided handholding support by building linkages with banks/financial institutions, providing printed reference material including information on related schemes/entitlements and record keeping methods for small businesses. While we have already linked 15 micro-entrepreneurs with the Mudra loan scheme, and 126 micro-entrepreneurs with the Start-up Village Entrepreneurship Program (SVEP) of HSRLM in Mewat, the project aims to reach out to all 289 micro-entrepreneurs selected in this phase.

Preeti from Gurugram is a community mentor (Biz Sakhi) and attended the Service Provisioning Training. under the project. She says, ‘I found the training environment friendly, and I gained my hidden confidence and information on new approaches through these trainings. The trainers used activities to make theoretical concepts easy to understand. I even shared my learnings and experiences with my daughters!’

Despite its demanding nature, this journey has been extremely enriching with tremendous learnings for all of us.

Pawan Kashyap

Business Associate

Pawan works at Traidcraft India as Business Associate. He is a development professional with 4 years’ experience of working on livelihood having expertise in sustainable agriculture supply chain, social enterprise development & Women, economic empowerment.

He is an MBA in Rural Management from Xavier Institute of Social Service (Rural Marketing as specialized subject). Previously he has work with BIRSA, a social organization on Forest Rights, Livelihood & Sustainable agriculture in Jharkhand

Subodh Kumar

Sr. Business Associate

Subodh works at Traidcraft India as a Sr. Business Associate. He is a young development professional with 6 years of experience. Subodh is an Agriculture graduate from Allahabad Agriculture Institute, Allahabad, Master’s in Development Management from Tata Dhan Academy, Madurai and Post Graduate Certificate in International Organization Management from the University of Geneva. Prior to joining Traidcraft, Subodh has worked with TechnoServe India and Aga Khan Rural Support Program India. Subodh holds expertise in Institution building, capacity building, sustainable agriculture, value-chain development, and market linkages of the various agriculture crops. He has worked in various states including Gujarat, Maharashtra, MP, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Odisha.

Priyashri Mani

Associate Consultant

Priyashri Mani is the Associate Consultant (Women’s Economic Empowerment) in Traidcraft India. She has 10 years of experience in the development sector working with marginalised communities in the areas of livelihood, women’s empowerment, and indigenous people’s rights. She has a Masters’ degree in Development Studies from the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) University of Sussex, UK and a Bachelors’ (Hons) in Sociology from Lady Shri Ram College in Delhi University.

Jyoti Prakash

Market Engagement Expert

Jyoti Prakash works with Traidcraft as Market Engagement Expert and has more than 15 years of experience in strategy formulation, implementation and management of “Livelihoods, Enterprise development & Market Engagement” projects. His professional strengths include conceptualising and facilitating implementation of innovative strategies and methodologies in the areas of Livelihoods , Enterprise promotion, Market Engagement, Value Chain Development, Institution Building and Development Research.

Rohan Preece

Manager – Business and Human Rights

Rohan Preece is the Manager – Business and Human Rights at Traidcraft India. He has around 15 years of experience across private sector, government and third sector contexts in India, including work with youth, in India and the UK. He has worked on gender-related monitoring and evaluation and documentation assignments for a range of organisations including Save the Children India and, while at Praxis-Institute for Participatory Practices. In his work with Partners in Change, he led a number of projects on business and human rights and corporate responsibility. His work contributed to the establishment of Fair Finance India, a civil society coalition that engages constructively with the financial sector. He has experience of addressing human rights issues in factory settings and in supply chain settings in India and of working with grassroots organisations. His sectoral engagement experience in India encompasses the financial sector, textiles and apparels, footwear and electronics. He holds a MA (Hons) degree from the University of Cambridge and a University of London MA in education and international development.

Dipankar Sengupta

Supply chain expert

Dipankar Sengupta is the supply chain expert at Traidcraft and has a PGDABM (Post Graduate Diploma in Agribusiness Management) from Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, and a PGDRD (Post Graduate Diploma in Rural Development) from Xavier Institute of Social Service. Before joining Traidcraft he worked with Rallis India where he focused on creating agri-solutions. His work experience includes assignments at Bayer CropScience Limited and Tata Chemicals.

Maveen Pereira

Director programme

Maveen Pereira has over 35 years of development experience working at different levels from grassroots to senior management.  As the Director programme, Traidcraft Exchange, she leads strategic planning, program development and management across South Asia and East Africa. Having worked directly with workers, small producers, she has a sound knowledge of the challenges faced by them in their bid to access markets sustainably.  She helped launch the first Fair Trade label in India – Shop for Change – using a multi-stakeholder approach. Prior to joining Traidcraft, she was faculty in the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. She is a graduate from TISS and holds a PhD in Sociology from University of Mumbai.