Upaya Social Ventures and Drishtee Development and Communications Ltd. are proud to announce a social venture collaboration that will create new opportunities for rural artisans to rely on their trade to earn a stable and dignified living. This pilot project with Drishtee will fill gaps in regional value chains by connecting groups of producers in rural communities across Assam, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh with raw material suppliers and wholesale buyers of their products.
The pilot provides these groups - known as Community-Owned Enterprises (COEs) - with the technical training, management infrastructure, and market linkages needed for community-level entrepreneurship to thrive beyond their immediate area.
“In building Drishtee, we saw a new opportunity in organizing and formalizing the thousands of sole proprietors in or adjacent to our network,” said Drishtee Co-Founder and Managing Director Satyan Mishra. “Right now, village level producers are generally on their own. They are sole proprietors with very little reach outside their immediate area, and do not have the means or ability to develop customer relationships with larger clients for their product or service,” said Mishra.
Drishtee is a social enterprise that provides goods and services across rural India through locally owned village kiosk franchises. The kiosks provide services such as health, education, banking, microfinance, and livelihood services, as well as market linkages for independent farmers and other agri-processors. The Drishtee network currently serves the needs of over 14,000 rural households.
“This pilot with Drishtee - a successful company in its own right - is somewhat different from the typical business Upaya incubates through the LiftUP Project. However, the pilot’s ambitious and unique model provides an opportunity to secure stable, dignified livelihoods for small scale rural producers by connecting them with larger regional and national buyers,” said Upaya’s Director, Business Development Sreejith Nedumpully.
The initial pilot will focus on incubation of three to four COEs in the handloom textile and apparel production value chain. Per the initial plan, each of the prospective COEs will perform different steps in the process including thread spinning, weaving, sewing and garment finishing. Over the initial months of the pilot, Drishtee will organize and formalize the groups, provide training in design and quality control, and provide the necessary connections with wholesale customers. Each COE affiliated with Drishtee will employ at least 10 -15 people on a consistent basis.
“By building individual skills and allowing each person to focus on a piece of the production process, each participant can earn a living without fully bearing the burden of managing their own sole proprietorship” said Nedumpully.
At the time the company is launched, it will be lead by Vikas Mukundan, a Drishtee veteran who was selected to head up the new project. Throughout the process, Vikas will be supported by Mishra as well as members of the Upaya team.
As the pilot reaches its one-year mark, Upaya and Drishtee will review the progress toward the milestone goals and consider an expansion of the program.