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[Startup Bharat]: How Jagriti Yatra’s Purvanchal is connecting entrepreneurs in small-town India with biggies like Amazon and Fabindia

Sindhu Kashyaap ( )

In 2008, Jagriti Yatra, started its first 15-day-long train journey of 8,000 km that traversed the length and breadth of the country. The primary aim of the train journey: to build India through enterprise.


For over 11 years now, the journey has focused on intellectual discussions, debates, brainstorming, ideation around entrepreneurship, and even funding (towards the end of the journey).


“We have been able to impact close to 5,000-plus entrepreneurs, many of who are running successful ventures across the country,” says Ashutosh Kumar, Executive Director, Jagriti.


What are the key aims?


However, the idea was to take this spark of entrepreneurship deeper into towns and villages in India. It led the team to start - JEC-P or Jagriti Enterdprise Centre – Purvanchal, which was incorporated in 2018 to support enterprises and create leaders in Tier III districts of India, where real India lives.


“Jagriti Enterprise Centre - Purvanchal aims to nurture and incubate enterprises in a backward yet promising region of the country (Purvanchal) starting from a Tier III district, Deoria. Our vision is to motivate local and national leaders to start and grow local enterprises,” Ashutosh says.


The JEC-P model is unique as it provides on-ground enterprise support through its Udyam Corp and Udyam Mitra leaders who handhold and monitor the incubatee along with providing access to its wide national network for mentoring, and market connect.


“We attract leaders from our national network of 5,000 Yatra alumni and well-wishers to provide market connect, mentorship, and funding to entrepreneurs. We aim to generate over 10,000 local jobs in this area in a five-year period and create a district ecosystem that can be replicated in other Tier II and III districts across the country,” Ashutosh says.


Startups working at the Purvanchal incubator

Also read: [Startup Bharat] Are investors finally backing startups in smaller cities and towns?


Why is this needed?


The team believes that at present India’s growth narrative faces one big problem - unemployment - and that “we need to create over one million jobs every month.” Ashutosh explains that this problem is more pronounced in Tier II and III India, where the reach of corporates is negligible.


Unemployed youth in search of lowly-paid jobs are migrating to cities, adding to urban stress and leading to decline in social indicators back in their districts.


“The only solution, Jagriti believes, is creating local enterprises in Tier II and III districts, which can generate local employment and livelihoods, and address local developmental challenges. To achieve this, we need to have a robust entrepreneurship ecosystem in these places, which is the mission of Jagriti,” Ashutosh says.


Also read: Why Tier II cities are actually better startup spots


What do startups get?


Enterprises under the incubation programme broadly get three services - market access, mentorship, and funds. Beyond these services, they get support from the on-ground team of Udyam Corps and Udyam Mitras (facilitators of enterprises) through entrepreneurship training, and operational support.


“The most interesting feature of our incubation programme is our wide network of people and organisations (created by Jagriti Yatra, the entrepreneurship train journey programme, over the last 11 years), which brings the said services to the enterprises,” Ashutosh says.


For market access, the team has built partnerships with organisations like Fabindia and is also collaborating with players like Amazon and logistics players like Delhivery.


“To bring funds to these enterprises, we have partnerships with funding bodies like IIT Kanpur, SIDBI Incubator, Unltd India, and HNIs. We are sector-agnostic. So, we have enterprises in agro-processing to handicraft to services. These are early-stage enterprises (0-2 years), with a promising business model to scale up in future,” Ashutosh says.


The current incubatees at JEC-P are:


1. Rural Roots


Rural Roots sells pickles unique to rural India and handmade by women.

Rural Roots is a food-processing company aimed at generating employment for local women. Started by ex-Jagriti Yatris Keshav Parthasarthy and Shagun Setia, it focuses on food products where Deoria has an existing comparative advantage. They produce and sell niche food products that are unique to rural India and are handmade by rural women. They currently produce nine types of pickles, including stuffed red chilli, papaya, jackfruit, and mango. Since inception, they have trained more than 50 women in producing pickles and currently provide employment to 20-30 of them.


2. Deoria Design


This handicraft company empowers underprivileged women of Deoria to be economically independent and earn from what they are passionate about. The company trains local women in international craft and designs via the internet in the most challenging environment. Pooja Shahi, a local resident of Deoria and an alumna of Jagriti Yatra, started Deoria Design out of her deep passion, and partnered with Priti Jantre, a Mumbai-based marketing person, through the Jagriti network.


3. Rural Shores


Rural Shores Deoria is a social enterprise that assimilates youth from rural areas into the knowledge economy by setting up rural BPOs. The purpose of the BPOs is to bring disadvantaged youth from rural areas into the mainstream by providing them training and sustainable economic opportunities.


Currently employing 250 local youth while serving a telecom and an ecommerce client, the Deoria call centre aims to employ an aggregate of 500 youth by the end of the year. Rahul Mani Tripathi, a local serial entrepreneur of Deoria, invested in necessary infrastructure and partnered with Indian company Rural Shores to run this BPO, creating employment opportunities and in arresting excessive migration from the area.


4. Apparel Cluster


Apparel Cluster works with local apparel entrepreneurs in Deoria and Kushinagar to develop a quality-driven apparel cluster in Deoria. This cluster has the potential of creating around 1,000 direct jobs in the districts (in skilled tailoring) and many other indirect jobs.


5. Internet Saathi


Internet Saathi is also a part of JEC-P. It is a digital literacy programme implemented by Jagriti in partnership with Foundation for Rural Entrepreneurship Development (FREND), a social initiative by Google and Tata Trust.


Under this project, 30,000 Saathis with devices trained around 12 million women in internet literacy through mobile and tablets across seven districts around Deoria, Uttar Pradesh. In the next stage of the project, Jagriti is implementing this as an Udyam Sakhi project where digital livelihoods and entrepreneurship opportunities are being created for these women.


The social venture will be incubated by JEC-P and will be provided with access to key services and training support. As a first step towards this, JEC-P has started formation of self-help groups through Internet Saathis. These groups will enable women to convert their skills to entrepreneurship through the power of collaboration and develop solidarity, enabling them to deal with the socio-economic issues they face.


The JEC-P Centre is at the Jagriti Centre in Deoria at present. The team is, however, working to build a centre at Barpar in Deoria. This centre will provide infrastructural support to aspiring entrepreneurs.


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