I hail from Mahabubnagar district of Andhra Pradesh, where there is a high level of poverty and illiteracy and where thousands of families migrate to cities like Hyderabad, Mumbai and Goa during summer in search of work leaving their children at home. Having grown in such an environment, I began thinking of addressing these challenges and during my college days as a member of N.S.S. I was actively involved in promoting better irrigation practices and educating people on preventive health in the villages surrounding my college. The satisfaction I got during these days developed in to a passion for rural development.
But in this busy competitive rat race, like many others I kept my passion at the back seat and started chasing high paid jobs and at last I landed up in one of the top software MNCs with 6 digit salary even before I completed my graduation. As it was my first job, with all enthusiasm I lost myself in proving and improving my capabilities. After 2 years I started realizing that I am not loving what I am doing. At this juncture with thorough retrospection I realized and decided to pursue my further career in development sector because my passion lies in it. I left my software job and joined Masters in Social Entrepreneurship course in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.
Social Entrepreneurship is all about bringing a positive change in the society with a business like discipline ensuring the sustainability. These valuable two years expanded my horizon of developmental thinking and provided hands-on experience in approaching a social problem. Having faced challenges in my personal career, I started a social enterprise to guide rural students in career decision making and connecting them to their dreams. I started this in my district Mahabubnagar and was able to guide 1,000 students in one year.
By the end of my course when I was planning to launch my social enterprise, I came to know about the PMRDF scheme. By looking at its objectives, I thought this is a wonderful opportunity because I was sure that by working with the government I could influence more people’s lives than working on my social enterprise for next 2 years. Also I could realize that the resources and support I can get by working within the government will not be available to a private social entrepreneur, to bring a social change. This was my motivation to join PMRD Fellowship.
In the beginning TISS has provided us with enough knowledge, skills and confidence to understand and analyze the challenges faced by people in rural areas. They provided us with multiple perspectives about the challenges of development and the 10 days village immersion in tribal areas has helped us in framing our own perspectives. Once I joined the district, I along with another fellow toured extensively all the remote villages and have done a participatory survey about the needs and demands of the people and available resources in the villages. This helped us in planning our next course of action. I found that most of the families were dependent on agriculture, forestry or handlooms but these sectors were no more profitable and hence they all went in to poverty. I started working on developing alternate livelihood opportunities for these people based on the available resources and skills.
Using IAP funds we established Mini Apparel Parks where women groups trained in tailoring come together to prepare garments based on the market demand and earn their livelihoods. Similarly to put an end to weaver’s suicides, we designed a project to make weaving profitable. Here we established a raw material bank, which provides raw materials throughout the year without any collateral as a loan and weavers repay the corresponding amount after they sale their product in the market. The project also helps weavers in marketing their produce at higher price and develops their skills by conducting necessary trainings to improve their productivity. Further I am planning to work with the youth, where we will do a basic profiling and then provide necessary skill development matching to the industry needs and also provide opportunities for enterprise development. Apart from this, I am also involved in the study of implementation of several rural development schemes such as MGNREGS etc. where I find lot of issues in effective implementation and required solutions to solve those issues.
The satisfaction that we will get when a weaver says “I got rs.100 more on a sale of 1 meter cloth is all because of you” provides us enormous energy and motivation to involve more in such activities, and it makes us forget all the pains that we have undergone in establishing this project. I could now see what I was missing while was working @ Bangalore in a software MNC firm.
Narendar Garidi is based at Karimnagar, Andhra Pradesh. Narendar is a B.Tech in Electronics & Communications From Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Hyderabad and an M.A. in Social Entrepreneurship from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.