The fruits of entrepreneurship
Jackfruit, a superfood rich in antioxidants, vitamins and protein, grows all over the Jirang Block sector of Meghalaya in north eastern India and is a cornerstone of local diets. However, the fruit has a short shelf life, and until recently, much of the crop went unharvested, even as many local women struggled to find a steady source of income.
In response to a proposal from the Society for Action in Community Health (SACH), and in alignment with the strategic objectives of our Reshape Tomorrow™ initiative, Moody’s provided grants to teach local villagers about processing and marketing dried jackfruit, along with other fruits and vegetables. Women took part in the training last summer and visited nearby markets to get advice from other small entrepreneurs. Our funding also helped purchase equipment for the enterprise.
“For many rural Indian women, the biggest roadblock to entrepreneurship is lack of information about things like how to create a business plan, negotiate a fair price for their products and qualify for a bank loan,” says Avadhesh Dixit, head of human resources for the India region, Moody’s Corporation. “With our support, more women are building the confidence and receiving the guidance to keep a business growing.”
The villagers launched a thriving farm-to-retail cooperative in summer 2018. Today, dried jackfruit chips and other products from Jirang Block generate an average of INR250 (about $3.50) per day for more than 40 women entrepreneurs — triple what most of them were earning a year ago.
Because the jackfruit growing season lasts only about seven months, women in the program have diversified their product portfolios to sell in regional shops and at local markets. SACH expects nearly 100 families to participate during the 2019 jackfruit season.
“Beyond improving their livelihood and quality of life, the business has inspired the women to think bigger,” says Punyasil Yonzon, a Moody’s Analytics Knowledge Services CSR professional in India. “They’re now taking the initiative to pursue new retail opportunities in nearby communities.”
The Jirang Block co-op is among several microenterprise successes that we helped nurture last year in remote and underserved parts of India. Working with various nonprofit partners, Moody’s provided grants to train more than 300 women in financial literacy, organic farming and the basics of small business development.
Women farmers thrive together
In the remote eastern state of Odisha, we partnered with Self-Reliant Initiatives through Joint Action to teach more productive farming methods, along with marketing techniques, to about 200 women last year. Trainers helped introduce low-cost agriculture technologies, better-quality seeds, organic cultivation practices and affordable bamboo poly houses to the villagers. Participating farmers also learned how to sort their produce into different quality classifications, negotiate with wholesalers and manage financial accounts.
Forming aco-op has helped the women increase harvest yields, sales and margins and created jobs for villagers who do not own land. Farmers are earning at least 15% more on average, says Dixit.
A way out of the sex trade
Sex work can seem like the only means of economic survival for some Indian women who feel a lack of skills limits their options. In 2018, we teamed with the Best Practices Foundation to help 30 former female sex workers in Bangalore start microbusinesses.
Through its Market Oriented Value Enhancement (MOVE) training module, the foundation teaches basic sales, marketing, product research and customer service principles. Most participants should be ready to launch a business in as little as a year.
“It will be amazing to see these women sustain themselves with the skills we’ve helped provide,” says Sangeetha Purushothaman, director of the Best Practices Foundation. “They have the determination to take their lives in a new direction, and MOVE gives them an organized pathway to follow.”
Digging deep to help a village prosper
Our work with nonprofit Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organization (HESCO) on a multifaceted development project in the remote northern Indian village of Salga helped us see how economic health can require more than business skills and financial knowledge.
“HESCO helped us recognize that as part of equipping women with skills to start their own microenterprises, we needed to target other challenges in Salga,” says Shailendra Gupta, CSR Committee chairperson for Moody’s Analytics Knowledge Services. “We essentially adopted this village.” Efforts included funding new household amenities and upgrades to the water supply, in addition to hands-on entrepreneurship courses.
Villagers were making a 4-kilometer round trip to transport water for household use. To improve residents’ quality of life and free up more of the women’s time each day, we helped fund a water pipeline and install rooftop rainwater-collection systems. Our $42,821 grant also helped purchase low-cost toilets and more fuel-efficient stoves.
These and other improvements smoothed the way for local women to get trained in running a bakery and launching other small enterprises such as beekeeping and pickle making. Anil Joshi, environmentalist and founder of HESCO, says his office hopes to adopt another village and repeat the type of success that we are creating in Salga.
“A lot of the infrastructure that we’ve introduced to Salga, with financial assistance from Moody’s, is very environmentally conscious,” he adds. “It’s going to make a lasting impact.”
“With our support, more women are building the confidence and receiving the guidance to keep a business growing.”
HEAD OF HUMAN RESOURCES, INDIA REGION, MOODY’S CORPORATION
“Beyond improving their livelihood and quality of life, the business has inspired the women to think bigger.”
CSR PROFESSIONAL, MOODY’S ANALYTICS KNOWLEDGE SERVICES
Indian women trained in financial literacy, organic farming and the basics of small business development through programs we sponsored
Funding provided for small business training and other economic development projects in several communities in India