These student entrepreneurs from TISS are transforming India's villages and small towns 

6th Dec 2017
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Student-led social innovations and enterprises have the potential to become game-changers, enabling an environment of an inclusive and empowered India. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that for the success of the Start-up India, Stand up India campaign, the youth of India must “turn from job-seekers to job-creators”.

Taking a step towards this, many students from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) have turned social entrepreneurs with the aim to provide livelihoods and empower people in villages and small towns of India.

Cowism’s focus is on promoting indigenous cattle farming in Maharashtra

Cowism, a three-year-old social enterprise led by Chetan Raut, is today empowering farmers to become self-reliant and financially independent by using traditional, farm-based agricultural solutions. It focuses on integrating commercially useful assets like native cattle into farming practices to improve soil fertility, lower input costs, and raise farmers’ profits.

Arpan Roy started a student initiative, Skip a Meal, which feeds about 1,300 people every week. It all started when he and a group of volunteers at TISS Tuljapur campus decided to skip a meal, and distribute it to the hungry in and around the college campus. From that very first drive in 2012, they have now shared more than over 53,000 meals across three states in the country.

Both these social enterprises were nurtured and incubated by TISS. The institute is now readying for Ipreneur, an initiative that will be held on December 9 and 10 in Mumbai to support and incubate selected social enterprises.

We list down some student enterprises that are high on social impact.

1. Collective Piggery farming

Napoleon Kerketta is bringing innovation to pig rearing in North East India. In the villages of the North East, pigs are not only a source of protein for poor villagers but also a means of livelihood. Recognising the opportunity and demand for high quality pigs, Napoleon started a pig rearing enterprise.

His pilot comprised 13 farmers in Chirang district, Assam, who were given one sow each. Bearing 50 percent of the cost, he encouraged them to rear the pigs traditionally. Female pigs give a higher return than male pigs. They are reared to be mothers and when they have a litter, the new-born piglets are kept for a maximum of two months and then sold in the market.

After selling, the cost incurred will be deducted from the revenue and given back to the farmers. Calculations showed that for every rupee the farmer spent he got back Re 1 in return when he does it individually. But in my venture for every rupee the farmer spends he is getting back more than Rs 3. From a single mother pig, an income of more than Rs 30,000 can be generated annually, he explains.

2. Bunkaar Textiles

Aman Jain, an engineering student, is on a mission to “do something different” in the handloom sector.

He conducted a pilot project in and around various handloom clusters in Bihar, Bengal and Maharashtra, and realised the dilapidated condition of weavers. This triggered him to start his venture, Bunkaar Textiles, which aims to work towards weavers’ welfare by connecting them to a global market.

Bunkaar Textiles is currently operating in the upper middle-class market using different modes of selling, including online retail through Amazon.in, exhibitions and exports.

Bunkaar has uplifted weavers who now earn as per national standards and have also got new platforms to sell. The range of products includes silk/cotton/linen sarees, Nehru jackets and kurtas. Bunkaar plans to reach at least 50 weavers in Murshidabad and Bhagalpur cluster in 2018.

3. Clay Fingers

Jidhu Chandran conceptualised Clay Fingers with an aim to create a network of manufactures and retailers in terracotta art wares.

Among retailers, the major focus is on architects and interior designers. But presently potters are only skilled in making utility pots, whose market value is deteriorating in the current context, Jidhu explains.

Clay Fingers’ primary focus is to work with traditional potters, who are on the verge of losing their traditional job due to diminishing demand. The organisation defines its vision as “carving out market value for terracotta while empowering artisans with new-age aesthetics tools”.

4. Swabhimaan

With a bachelor’s degree in management studies from University of Delhi, Divyansh Dua (22) is empowering tribal farmers in Jhabua by training them in modern goat management techniques.

Through his venture, Divyansh hopes to reduce early goat deaths and provide tribals with a marketing platform, thereby leading to a means of increased income. Jhabua in Madhya Pradesh is a tribal district of Bhil farmers where two-thirds of the population is below the poverty line.

Training the farmers in proper management techniques and introduction of mineral brick in feeding for additional nutrients is the primary focus of Swabhimaan, Divyansh explains.
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