APPROACH AND METHODOLOGY
In India, many business sectors already are supported by a Chamber of Commerce; however, no Chamber exists for rural entrepreneurs. To meet this need, Mann Deshi Bank commits to address the needs of micro-entrepreneurs, specifically women, by establishing a Chamber of Commerce for this target group. The new entity will operate in four areas: 1) mentorship services, 2) access to markets, 3) a network of like-minded peers, 4) advocacy tools, and 5) increased access to capital.
Mann Deshi will set up this new Chamber of Commerce to resemble existing national chambers, and set up an office located in Mhaswad (Maharashtra). Initially, the Chamber of Commerce will be fully integrated within the structure of the broader Mann Deshi organization: the board will have one representative from the Mann Deshi Bank and one representative from Mann Deshi Foundation. Most staff of the Chamber will also serve as mentors to the women and be hired and trained based on the needs of the micro-entrepreneurs. Needs could range market expertise (i.e. agriculture, mobile technology) to business operations knowledge (i.e. marketing, finances, management). Initially, the Chamber of Commerce will organize monthly workshops for members, then begin more targeted support to address each member's specific needs. In addition, Mann Deshi Business School will provide business and management trainings to selected entrepreneurs.
The Chamber will also build up a network of vendors and suppliers to help women identify the most suitable products for their business needs. In addition, the Chamber of Commerce will foster a community of likeminded entrepreneurs to share lessons learned and exchange best practices.
Leveraging the experience of Mann Deshi in microfinance, the Chamber will be able to provide collateral to enable members to take credit from the Bank (contingent by review of client history and business). Finally, the Chamber of Commerce will engage the government in policy discussions on behalf of its members.
Women will apply for a yearly membership through the payment of a fee, initially set at ~$2.20 (INR 100). Later, women will be able to apply for a permanent membership, costing ~$6.60 (INR 300). The two memberships give access to different kinds of benefits; with the annual membership women will have access to workshops, a mentor, and opportunities to shadow existing micro-enterprises, while the permanent membership will also include policy discussions and give women a chance to voice their grievances to their government officials.
IMPLEMENTATION, TIMELINE, AND DELIVERABLES
The Chamber of Commerce will be implemented in two phases.
The first phase will launch the Chamber of Commerce through securing office space and hiring staff. Mann Deshi plans to start operations with a base of 27,000 women, who are current or past clients of the Mann Deshi Bank and Foundation. By 2015, Mann Deshi Bank and Foundation aim to reach 50,000 women entrepreneurs with services provided by the Chamber of Commerce.
The second phase is to grow the Chamber of Commerce to a self-sustainable and independent entity through the collection of membership fees and funding from outside sources, including alumni contributions, government funding, and strategic partnership, especially with private funders and organizations offering technical assistance.
The implementation of the project, therefore, will include the following steps:
1) Define organizational structure of the Chamber of Commerce.
2) Hire and train staff and build the board of advisors.
3) Evaluate costs to reach self-sufficiency through membership fees and additional funding sources.
4) Define key performance indicators (KPIs).
5) Establish programs for women entrepreneurs.
6) Develop strategic partnerships with technical assistance organizations.
7) Develop into an independent, self-sufficient Chamber of Commerce.
Women in rural areas of Maharashtra are seldom integrated into the formal economy, and as a result lack access to capital and business expertise. From ten years of experience in the field, Mann Deshi witnessed women entrepreneurs expand their business initially, but then be faced with several challenges inhibiting them from scaling further. These women are in need of strong management skills, business operations knowledge, guidance from experienced entrepreneurs, and access to a structured network of customers and suppliers. In addition, current government policy does not promote an enabling environment for female micro-entrepreneurs; such barriers include lack of access to capital and difficulty in securing business licenses and property deeds. To address these gaps, Mann Deshi will undertake this Commitment to Action to establish a Chamber of Commerce, providing women with the necessary support and expertise to build and expand their businesses.
Mann Deshi Foundation, along with its sister organization, Mann Deshi Bank, provides management training coupled with access to finance for rural, female entrepreneurs in Maharashtra and Karnataka, thus bringing business school courses and financial services a client's doorstep. Specially, Mann Deshi Foundation provides mentor programs, market linkages, and expose to other networks for women clients while the Bank's role is to provide working capital loan and capital to microfinance clients.
Seeking Partnerships for Financial Resources, Knowledge Partners, Implementing Partners, and Media/Marketing Opportunities.
Types of Partnerships:
Indian businesses and NGO partners-to provide or recommend business professionals for mentorship, business need survey, evaluation etc.
Financial Resources, Media/Marketing Opportunities.
Funding to cover operational costs