Imagine you buy a sapling from your local nursery. It has enormous potential for growth and seeing this, you sow it in the best possible soil you can find. Now, there are two possible outcomes that can follow – the sapling grows tall stretching towards the sun or it wilts and dies.
Micro-enterprises are no different. No matter the quality and quantity of nutrient-enriched soil, read financial assistance, you provide them with, there are other factors at play that determine their growth trajectory. If you simply leave them to their resources, they might fight to survive and make it or like our metaphorical sapling, their businesses might wilt over time. It all depends on whether you water them regularly, provide support where needed, and make sure they’re facing the right direction.
That’s where Aye’s not-for-profit company, the Foundation for Advancement of Micro-Enterprises (FAME) comes in. A response to the need for long and sustained guidance, FAME works with Aye’s micro-entrepreneur customers to help them deal with business
challenges. As Mr. Brij Mohan, Chairman, FAME puts it, “FAME has been established to power the growth of the 60 million micro-enterprises of India by providing them non-financial guidance and support and becoming their partners in their journey towards new-age India.”
Behinds the scene of FAME
Everyone wants to be famous, but the people who’re actually willing to put in the work required are few and far between. At FAME, the entire team is acutely aware of the hours and hard work needed to accomplish their mission of making India’s micro-entrepreneurs FAMEous, and their jam-packed days are a testament to their commitment.
The Ground Work – Before a FAME workshop is conducted, there are a number of things that need to happen on the ground to enable the endeavor. This involves selecting target clusters for the workshops, running diagnostic studies on the identified clusters and conducting field visits.
Expanding Our Operations – For a CSR operation like FAME, it is integral to create awareness about the work being done and invite people to join our ranks. For this, we are constantly on the lookout for individuals to collaborate with and new clusters to add to our roster.
What do FAME’s workshops look like?
FAME has organized informational sessions for the dairy farmers of Bharatpur and Meerut, the sports good clusters of Meerut, and the footwear clusters of Agra. Given the diversity of these different clusters, every FAME workshop has a different focal point and is tailored to the unique needs of its participants.
The Dairy Development Program – For the dairy farmers of Bharatpur and Meerut, the agenda comprises animal health camps, understanding the how’s and why’s of scientific dairy farming practices, and overarching awareness sessions about making fodder at home, maintaining hygiene, and more.
Sessions For Other Micro-Enterprises – While the dairy farmers have uniquely standalone needs, the sports goods and footwear clusters fall under the broad umbrella of commercially driven micro-enterprises. For them, the focus areas are financial literacy training, tips on quality improvement and standardization, and how to identify diverse avenues for selling and buying their products.
FAME’s COVID-19 Response
Until the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent national lockdown, all FAME workshops were held in a physical group with all participants present, or in other words, normally. But when that stopped being an option, the entire team put their heads together to pinpoint our next step.
While no one was in favor of halting the workshops for the foreseeable future, the only other option was conducting them online. In all honesty, it was an option that made everyone a little hesitant. We were talking about reaching a group of people who were not used to attending online events, and some didn’t have the means to either. But with no other answer
on the horizon, we set out to do our first virtual FAME workshop. To our delight, the workshops were a huge success. All the members of the different clusters found ways to attend and were just as receptive as they had been during our past sessions.
This just goes to show – when we step out of our comfort zones, great things can happen. For now, we know that there’s no mountain too high or no valley too low to keep us away from our micro-entrepreneurs – if we can’t reach them physically, we will virtually!
From that day forward, we embarked on completing a long list of workshops and made COVID-19 prevention and care a must for all our sessions across clusters. For the dairy farmers, we also gave them tips on how to ensure their cattle remained infections free and healthy.
The Future and FAME
With three different clusters and numerous workshops under our belt, what’s next for FAME?
In the coming year, scaling up is definitely something that’s in the books for us with a planned increase of 10,000 members to our impact size by 2021. To do this, we are planning to expand our operations to 10 cities and include three new categories to our target clusters- female entrepreneurs, Kirana store owners, handicraft artists and potters. In the words of Mr. Brij Mohan, “Reinforcing our commitment towards creating an inclusive India by empowering these bottom-of-the-pyramid businesses, FAME will build on its affirmative action programs in the coming years. In addition to these, FAME will also undertake projects targeted specifically towards the women micro-entrepreneurs and support them in creating transformative enterprises to drive economic growth. We will also leverage technology tools for creating solutions to tackle local challenges and increase the expanse of our interventions.”
All in all, we’re all set to make India’s micro-enterprises FAMEous, one micro-entrepreneur at a time.