Be! Fund : Investing in the potential of young entrepreneurs

10th Jun 2010
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“I told myself if I don’t try I will never know. Anything is better than poverty and so I started this business. There is no point in thinking ‘what if’. I must try to run a business at least once.”

SavitriBahadur, age 24, freelance cook, Jaipur, RajasthanWhat is the Be! Fund?

Be! Fund is India’s first, not-for-profit seed fund that will invest in young entrepreneurs, age 18-29, from low-income groups, to define and pioneer businesses that solve the social, economic and environmental problems they face in their lives and their communities.

From water to waste, energy to sanitation, Be! Fund believes that young people who have grown up experiencing poverty have solutions to practical problems they face; they have simply never been asked before.

So, Be! Media asks young people to submit their business ideas to the Be! Fund.

Be! Media, 13 epic movies, 15 radio episodes and 50 books specifically targets young people age 18-29 from low-income groups with inspiring stories of entrepreneurs and enterprises that solve social and economic problems.

Each Be! story asks young people to submit their business ideas for social and economic change, to the Fund. In this way, Be! Media creates a pipeline of entrepreneurs for the Be! Fund.

Why does India need the Be! Fund? And why now?

By 2020, there will be over 210 million unemployed people in India and 90% will be below the age of 30. Today, 50% of children currently enrolled in school are dropping out, which means the next generation workforce will be largely unskilled. Young people leave school without an education and join the informal economy, which has limited job security or protection legislation, and where incomes average less than US$2/day.

While India’s economy is growing, it can never create enough jobs for everyone, and current social structures mean that young people from low-income groups are often left out of India’s economic success.

Further, India has pressing problems of water, waste, sanitation and a lack of basic infrastructure, problems that are further exacerbated by the growing needs of over 1 billion people, 72% of whom are struggling to survive, facing hunger, illiteracy, unemployment, discrimination, inadequate healthcare and a rapidly

degrading environment.

Be! an Entrepreneur: One solution to the lack of jobs and pressing development problems, are entrepreneurs who create enterprises that solve problems, create jobs and generate income, in local areas.

Making Be! Fund a realityBe! Fund’s mission: Prove the viability –both social and financial –of investing in young entrepreneurs from low income groups to pioneer enterprises that create solutions for bottom-of-the-pyramid communities, their own communities.Funding amount: Up to RS 5 lakh(US$ 12,000) in each entrepreneur’s businessSupport: Includes skill development, training and mentoring.Capital: In the pilot, Be! grants will be deployed, essentially, as equity.

The entrepreneur must demonstrate skin-in-the-game. Be! Fund will be flexible and consider on a case to case basis the contribution by the entrepreneur. 2010: Be! Fund will be rolled out in three experimental phases in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore alongside the Be! Media.2011 -12: Be! Media will be broadcast nationwide reaching 100 million young people. The fund incorporates learning from the pilot and scales with BASIX as a partner in 18 states.Going to School, the thought and media partner to the Be! Fund, will share stories of Be! entrepreneurs over 3 years, inspiring the next generation of young people to choose to become entrepreneurs and pioneer enterprises.

What is the criteria for selecting Be! entrepreneurs?Profile of Entrepreneur

•Young women and men, age 18 –29

•Individual entrepreneurs (not necessarily a group) and first time entrepreneurs

•Entrepreneurs from low income backgrounds who live in slums and rural areas

•Focus on young women entrepreneurs

•Focus on entrepreneurs with enterprise solutions for women and girls

•Focus on entrepreneurs from rural communitiesBe! Fund endeavors to select entrepreneurs for their potential, integrity and for the quality of their idea rather than their on-paper qualifications.The entrepreneur must display a commitment to their ideas. They must be ambitious and demonstrate passion, business acumen, ability to experiment and learn, work in uncertain situations. They must have leadership qualities to execute their plans and to get support for their initiative in their community.

To find out more click here

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