Company: NIR-Bhaya Self Defence Academy
Founder: Ranjini Ganesh
In 2012, the Nirbhaya incident in New Delhi shook the entire nation. With this, the problem of sexual abuse, assault and rape were brought into sharp focus. For Bengaluru-based entrepreneur Ranjini Ganesh (50), it was a turning point in her life.
“My family and I were shaken. I was feeling the pressure since I have a daughter. But I did not want to sit with the problem. I wanted a solution. So, I decided to start my own self-defence academy and teach people from all walks of life to defend themselves,” she says.
It took some time for her to put things together and launch a business. In 2017, her husband G Ganesh helped her invest Rs 2 lakh and launch NIR-Bhaya Self Defence Academy.
“My aim was to train a large number of people in self-defence and martial arts. I wanted to empower them to defend themselves, their friends and family from any kind of abuse or attack,” she adds.
In an interaction with SMBStory, Ranjini Ganesh, Founder, NIR-Bhaya Self Defence Academy, talks of her vision.
SMBStory: Who does your business cater to and what do you teach?
Ranjini Ganesh: My aim is to train the maximum number of children, women and men in self-defence and martial arts. Our courses are popular because we teach karate and kung fu as well. We focus on practical approaches to personal safety, and place emphasis on detecting and defusing potentially dangerous situations.
Our instructors are certified and teach students in an engaging and efficient manner. There is also room for them to start their own training centres.
SMBS: What is your business model?
RG: We go to schools, colleges, corporate offices, etc and conduct self-defence training workshops. For schools and colleges, we usually charge them Rs 5,000 for a two-hour session. For corporates, we charge Rs 10,000 for a two-hour session. These are group training models, but individuals can also enroll and join similar workshops.
With this business model, NIR-Bhaya Academy generates around Rs 3.6 lakh per year. In total, we have trained around 3,000 students already. 90 students are also undergoing the regular training which uses the belt system, like karate.
SMBS: What are your challenges in terms of sustaining and growing the business?
RG: Our main challenges are financial support and research capabilities. Cash flow is very slow. This area needs more tuning as people sometimes do not pay on time. We are trying to manage with the help of our resources but we are looking for funding from the government and other institutions. Our field also requires more trainers, which is not easy to address.
SMBS: How did you decide on the types of self-defence training required?
RG: We started our academy with a belt system. This means that as they undergo the training, each person will eventually become black belt holders, similar to karate. However, we soon realised that this process takes a lot of time. Abuse can occur anytime and our students need to be prepared.
So we decided we need a faster solution. We came up with the idea of quick workshops with courses of different durations. Here, the minimum is two hours, wherein the students can learn enough of the basics.
SMBS: What were some of your achievements?
RG: We were featured in the media in newspapers and TV for our work. This gave us publicity and further strengthened our determination and faith in our idea. The academy also started getting students from outside Bengaluru. An NRI has also trained with us.
We were relieved to hear when one of our first participants was able to escape abuse based on the techniques learnt at our academy. Also, one child from our academy was able to escape a kidnapping attempt.
SMBS: What kind of awareness do you wish to bring about?
RG: There is a lack of awareness around abuse and rape. There are several myths about women’s safety and self-defence. Many women think they are too weak to learn martial arts. Some also think that abuse or assault will never happen to them because they do not step outside the house after dark. Most sexual assault crimes happen within homes and are perpetrated by those who are known to the victims.
Further, we have been conditioned to think that people with a high status in society, such as doctors, teachers or religious people will never attack anyone. But the truth is that assault cuts across all socioeconomic classes. Similarly, there are more areas we wish to bring awareness in.
SMBS: Why is pepper spray not a complete self-defence mechanism?
RG: It is a myth that having a pepper spray guarantees complete safety. Pepper sprays burn a lot but they infuriate the attacker. On Indian skin, it is not very effective unless it goes into someone’s eyes. However, eyes are a small target, they keep moving, and can be easily defended by a person habituated to violence.
Thus, the usefulness of pepper spray is limited. One cannot use it effectively in a closed or air-conditioned room where there is a high chance that you may get affected too. So it is important to learn other self-defence techniques.
SMBS: How do people hear about your academy?
RG: Our customers give us great advertising or publicity through word of mouth. When we conduct workshops, participants are happy with what they learn in just two hours. Then, they ask us to conduct similar workshops for other communities they are part of.
They tell their teachers or employers about our academy and urge them to enrol. A lot of these people are generally unaware of what constitutes abuse, so when we educate and train them, they are more likely to spread the word and get more people involved.
SMBS: What are your plans for the future?
RG: We want to continue building awareness around abuse and what steps can be taken to prevent or deal with it. We want to train more students in this. This way, we hope to build a community around the academy and have good facilities to execute our programmes. I envision a day when parents ask schools whether their kids are going to be trained in self-defence.
We can achieve this goal if we get government support in the form of grants to train kids in government schools. We hope to train at least 2,000 students per year in Karnataka.
(This story is published in partnership with the MSME Ministry to showcase success stories of MSMEs)