17 December 2017

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BYST: The Launch Pad for Budding Entrepreneurs

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Bharatiya Yuva Shakti Trust (BYST) is a non-profit body having a long-term goal of supporting 5,000 entrepreneurial ventures within the next, half a decade.  The organisation is the brainchild of Lakshmi Venkatesan, daughter of former President of India R. Venkatraman, who way back in 1992 thought of setting up a trust for budding entrepreneurs.

She co-founded BYST with the doyen of industry, late J R D Tata and with the support of HRH Prince Charles. BYST works, with the captains of Indian industry, to support young underprivileged entrepreneurs and helps to create employment across the country. Over the past 17 years, many of these “bottom of the pyramid” entrepreneurs have become millionaires, winning national and international awards. She also partners with Prince Charles and his Youth Business International to train and set-up similar programs in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Today, Laxmi is the BYST’s Founding Trustee and Executive Vice-President and under her able leadership, the trust has within the country helped around 2,000 entrepreneurs (about 500 of them being women) and helped in creating 25,000 jobs. Moreover, through its training initiatives, the trust has reached out to over 75,000 young entrepreneurs. It has more than 3,000 mentors, mainly from small and medium enterprises (SMEs), who have come together to assist the BYST team. The trust also has on its board the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) as a strategic partner and several industry leaders. The CII provides the infrastructure and administrative support to the Trust. BYST responds to the massive global challenge of youth unemployment through a youth leadership based on enterprise-based model.

The BYST head honcho, Lakshmi informs “BYST’s major focus is on the youth, both men and women entrepreneurs and those with physical disabilities. Amongst the young population, young entrepreneurs are particularly at a disadvantage, as no banks are willing to finance them, as they cannot furnish collaterals etc. Moreover the youth today also face several economic disadvantages. In fact, there are several levels of disadvantages youth face viz., economic, social, gender based etc. And money alone also cannot solve entrepreneurs' problems, guidance and hand-holding is equally required,” she adds.
Further she says “The idea basically is to have an eco-system which is more nurturing of the young people. According to estimates 69% of the population is below 35 yrs of age. So a huge majority of people are under employed. Solution should be found or else it will be a demographic disaster. Therefore, the need of the hour is to turn this disaster into dividend. Create an eco-system in which young entrepreneurs can set-up their own business, thrive and become self-sufficient,” Laxmi advises.

The BYST was therefore created with a view to empowering dynamic young micro-entrepreneurs who are disadvantaged and integrating them into the economic mainstream.

It works with people in the 18 to 35 age bracket, who are either unemployed or underemployed, but have sound and imaginative business ideas, along-with the will to succeed. It helps them by providing end-to-end support in the form of loans, business mentors, training, net-working & marketing. Mentoring is of two kinds - one-to-one mentoring and through mobile mentor clinics. The young entrepreneurs are nurtured till they reach a level where they are not only self-sufficient, but also in turn make a valuable contribution to society through creating wealth and employment. Currently, BYST have four mentor chapters in Chennai and branches in Hyderabad, Pune, New Delhi, rural Maharashtra and Haryana. Soon they will be venturing into Rajasthan, Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir and Assam.

As to what inspired her to start this initiative, Lakshmi says that she had studied and worked abroad for several years. The immediate inspiration to start the trust came to her after she met Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, in London. She was deeply influenced by the foundation run by the Prince, which was mentoring school drop-outs and equipping them with skills and work experience.  Moreover, she says “In 1990, I witnessed first hand in UK, the work of many successful young entrepreneurs of Indian origin and they inspired me to start this trust here. In 1991-92 in India, there was no real liberation, no revaluation of SME segment, no IT wonder boys, mentorship etc. In fact terms like ‘mentoring,’ we were the first to invent and carry forward,” she says proudly.

Asked a specific question about her take on business incubators for up-coming entrepreneurs and whether BYST has its own business incubators, Lakshmi responds “In some sense, we were the earliest to bring about our own ‘virtual incubators,’ into the country, which was way back in the early 1990’s.  As part of our initiative we first look at youth as potential counselors, next we try orientation methods and then move them on to supervisory level, with full access to mentors.

This mentorship lasts for 2 years until the young participants become full-fledged entrepreneurs. The only difference between us and others public sector business incubators is the absence of physical incubators which we lack. The public sector/state/district/panchayat may have their own physical business incubators, but they have not succeeded in reaching the rural entrepreneurs, those at the grassroots’ level. You will note that any partnership either between private/civil or public/private partnership have not really succeeded despite having fully equipped private incubator nor have they succeeded in raising any awareness or produced anything concrete on the ground level,” she opines.

Furthermore she says “The grass-root entrepreneur may be lagging behind in terms of science, technology and education in the literary sense, but is street-smart. In-fact bulk of such poor entrepreneurs is in the informal sector which account for 93% of the rural labor force. They are scattered and not formally registered, self-employed with poor quality output/input, low technology, struggling and fighting against odds. 93%, not going into employment issues of majority – inclusive majority. They do not have access to funds. It is this 93% majority that BYST is targeting. We gave a small sum of money and today they have become ‘Crorepatis’. It was in 2003, we gave one young entrepreneur Rs.50, 000; today his turnover is 9 Crores. BYST has in fact supported around 375 such enterprises,” she declares proudly.

When asked as to why student coming out of business schools like IIMs IITs are not taking-up entrepreneurship and who according to her comprise the present day entrepreneurs, she says “This is a complex question. In a developed country like India there are two types of entrepreneurs; one is a necessity entrepreneur (NE) and other a opportunity entrepreneur (OE). NE accounts for 93% of the entrepreneurs in the informal sector. OEs are those with IIT and MBA degrees, who have many options and avenues open to them. They prefer salaried jobs in IT sector and other multi-national companies. NEs on the other hand, are those guys who have fire in their belly, a hunger to succeed and so ready to take risks with business because they have nothing to lose. They have no distractions and so are totally focused on their goals and want to succeed at any cost, and therefore BYST targets this group; and supports and mentors such dynamic entrepreneurs,” she confides.

With regard to the source of funding by BYST she says “When we started off we had no funds. We approached Banks and even went to public sectors but got no support. For 12 years we gave our own funds through credit guarantee scheme for upcoming entrepreneurs. We supported them via growth funds such as the micro equity funds. Subsequently through IFT, SIDBI and some high net individuals we would take and give Rs.50, 000 and turn several entrepreneurs into crorepatis. We have given loans of 10,000 to up-coming young entrepreneurs and today they are crorepatis. We have six centres, one at Chennai, Hyderabad, Pune, Rural Maharashtra, Rural Haryana and Delhi. We have strong good case studies to prove our claim,” she adds. Here is a case study presented by her.  32 yr old Manisha P. Kirad from a lower middle class family in Pune decided to set-up a plastic molding business. She took BYST loans of Rs.50,000/- & Rs. 7 lacs (sanctioned under PPP), on Sept. 2002 and October 2008 respectively. Her own contribution was 1.7 Lac/- along-with other loan of Rs. 10,000 taken from a relative making her total investment a tidy sum of Rs. 2,36,250/-.

Today she has 30 employees working under her. Her annual turnover in 2007-2008 was Rs 25.95 Lac. The projected amount for 2008-09 is Rs. 35 Lac. Her BYST mentors in this successful business journey of hers are Deepak Hejib, Consultant,  Nitin Rajore, MD, Krenn Radar (I) Ltd and Harshvardhan Ranade, Founder partner, S.H Consultant. Today Manisha’s dream is to establish herself as a quality provider in the field of plastic moulding business.

 

Comments  

 
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