“Although, it’s one of the toughest questions for me; still I would love to introduce myself as a Bihari, who is entirely dedicated to developing Bihar in most possible way,” says Ranjan Mistry, the 25YO social entrepreneur who also considers himself an educationist, journalist, researcher and thinker! Staying in Bihar, working for it and contributing to its development is one of the best things he says he’s doing, which he loves to flaunt.
Over the last one year, Ranjan worked with different organisations, entrepreneurship cells and incubation centres to develop innovation, covid-19 related activities, and enhance women-oriented jobs across the country. He worked with startups and community enablers like Hanuman, Medishala, etc., from idea to execution phase and supported startups in reviving their dead business.
An optimist and a strong believer in dynamic smart work, Ranjan believes that moral support and entrepreneurial spirit is something that keeps the business going. NextBigWhat interviewed this young entrepreneur and discussed what the future for startups and the development sector looks like. Here’s a quick glimpse of our conversation and the insights Ranjan brought to the table.
You never really did a formal college, yet are known to so many coding languages, several skills and course curriculums. What kept you going?
It entirely depends on your passion for learning something new; if you stop learning, then your knowledge and growth will also stop at some point over time. Being from a lower-middle-class family, I always faced a financial crisis, and somehow my learning helped me in executing my startups & ventures at zero cost.
You started Campus Varta at a very young age. What was the vision behind that? How many people have you reached so far?
The vision was to connect rural schools, colleges and universities on a digital platform, and enable students to explore the outer world with the right information at the right time, especially in states like Bihar, Jharkhand, UP, West Bengal, Assam and so on. Till now, we have directly and indirectly reached more than 3.5 million students with more than 1800+ College, 150+ Universities in more than 22 States. We have done more than 2000+ partnerships in the last four years, including several Bollywood movies.
Tell us about your other initiatives – Patna University Incubation Hub, Womenia Chakra, Hunar Didi, & Womenia Story.
I have been working toward developing the Entrepreneurship Cell and Incubation Center at University in Bihar for the last three years. So, In 2019 Patna University finally decided to bring their own Incubation centre to their campus after doing more than 750+ meetings with students, professor, VC, etc. Patna University Incubation Hub is the first Incubation Center at any University level in Bihar.
Womenia Chakra is a platform to empower rural women via online and offline mode by providing opportunities to influence the status of women, both economically and socially- through employment practices, sourcing, product and service development, partnerships, supplier relationships, and marketing campaigns. It has several subsidiary organisations like Hunar Didi and Women School of Entrepreneurship.
Womenia Story is a digital platform covering women stories from rural India to inspire and empower women and enable them in their branding.
What is your idea behind WSE? How are rural women entrepreneurs taking it?
Women School of Entrepreneurship (WSE) is a section 8 non-profit company registered as Womenia Chakra Foundation, which aims to create, leverage and nurture the last mile girls and women entrepreneurial leadership talent in India’s social, entrepreneurial, and startups sector by educating them about entrepreneurship.
WSE is a non-profit learning and entrepreneurship development organisation that aims to build and strengthen last mile girls and women entrepreneurial leadership talent in India’s social and startups sector. We enable girls and women leaders from various sectors—such as schools, colleges, corporates, and government services— to make a meaningful contribution to the social and startup sector; we also offer capacity building opportunities for leaders in the social sector. We endeavour to build critical entrepreneurial and leadership skills that will allow us as a sector to create better, more innovative and sustainable solutions for greater impact at scale.
It was set up on 14th March 2020 with the aim of creating a learning and entrepreneurial leadership development organisation that will help build and strengthen last mile girls and women entrepreneurial leadership capacity for India’s social and startup sector.In November 2020, Deepti Kiran,Juhi Smita, Md. Amanullah joined it as a co-founder.
It has namely three programs, i.e., Kanyapreneurship, Herpreneurship and Didipreneurship.
Kanyapreneurship is a Nine Days Certificate Program in Entrepreneurship for school going girls offered by Women School of Entrepreneurship. It has been designed as a Womenia Chakra Foundation initiative to fuel entrepreneurial leadership spirit among kidopreneur girls. We will cover almost 27 modules under this program in vernacular language.
Herpreneurship is a Nine Days Certificate Program in Entrepreneurship for College, University going girls and women or Women’s Founder offered by Women School of Entrepreneurship. It has been designed as a Womenia Chakra Foundation initiative to fuel entrepreneurial leadership spirit among girls and women. We will cover almost 27 modules under this program in vernacular language.
Didipreneurship is a Nine Days Certificate Program in Entrepreneurship for College, University going girls and women or Women’s Founder offered by Women School of Entrepreneurship. It has been designed as a Womenia Chakra Foundation initiative to fuel entrepreneurial leadership spirit among girls and women. We will cover almost 27 modules under this program in vernacular language.
It has three fellowships, i.e., WSE Fellowship, Womenia Fellowship, Women Innovation Fellowship.
WSE Fellowship is a 2 Month extensive fellowship for girls and women to understand the journey of startup founders and their enterprises by researching them and preparing case studies, which will be published and used as study material. It’s an opportunity for young, dynamic individuals to contribute to enhancing skill and promote entrepreneurship.
Womenia Fellowship is a one-year extensive fellowship for girls and women to learn and understand an organisation’s work culture by working in different partner organisations such as startups, small women-led ventures & enterprises, and NGOs. It’s an opportunity for young, dynamic individuals to contribute to enhancing skill and promote entrepreneurship.
Women Innovation Fellowship is a one-year extensive fellowship for girls and women to learn and understand innovation in entrepreneurship for empowering women by directly working on the Womenia Chakra Foundation Program. It’s an opportunity for young, dynamic individuals to contribute to enhancing skill and promote entrepreneurship.
It has three campaigns, i.e., Stri, Antrik and Sarthi.
Stri: Women Entrepreneurship Awareness Program: It’s a regular campaign to make entrepreneurship awareness among last-mile girls and women through articles, audio, video and several modes in collaboration with startups, government, NGOs and organisations.
Antrik: Intrapreneurship Awareness Program: It’s a regular campaign to make Intrapreneurship awareness among last-mile girls and women through articles, audio, video and several modes in collaboration with startups, government, NGO and organisation to support their founder in the best possible way.
Sarthi: Entrepreneurship Enabler Awareness Program: It’s a regular campaign to make entrepreneurship awareness among last-mile girls’ and women’s family, friends and colleagues through articles, audio, video and several modes in collaboration with startups, government, NGO and organisation to support them in their entrepreneurial journey.
Ranjan, you’ve worked with people from rural areas on a grassroots level & have brought education to Naxal affected areas. Please share your experience and thoughts regarding the present condition of women & children in rural India.
Somehow, after running several government programs and after several decades, the conditions of women and children in Rural India are the same, as we all knew that it’s huge, so we need more organisation in this field for upgrading the conditions of rural women and children. Of the approximately 432 million working-age women in India, about 343 million are not in paid formal work, and 324 million of these women are not in the labour forces, and another 19 million are in the labour force but not employed. Despite being the third-largest startup nation and having over 27,000 startups, India still has only 5% of women startups founders. Gender disparity across the Indian startups’ ecosystem increased in 2020, with nearly 77% of firms having less than 20 % women in leadership roles, compared to 69 % in 2019.
Let me tell you another hidden story of an Indian women-owned business, and it will give you clear pictures of women’s conditions. India has 13.5-15.7 million women-owned enterprises, representing 20% of all enterprises. These are overwhelmingly single-person enterprises, which provides direct employment for an estimated 22 to 27 million people.
Further, a number of enterprises reported as women-owned are not in fact controlled or run by women. A combination of financial and administrative reasons leads to women being “On Paper” owners with a little role to play. I hope you have watched the recent web series Panchayat; the condition of the Lady Mukhiya portrayed is similar across rural India.
Similarly, rural children have the same case as accessing education in the lack of financial help and accessibility.
Please share your working process – how do you identify the pain points and how exactly the work gets started? How many people/organisations/ villages have you worked with so far?
As I always believed to stay grounded for identifying the pain points, no one can pick the pain points within a day; it takes time to understand that’s why we need to be among the people and somehow be part of that community. Once we identify the pain point, then we start thinking to bring the solution, and after that, we execute it. Let’s take the example of Women School of Entrepreneurship; I have been working on this for three years as a pilot project silently to identify the real problem and solutions, and I have executed several things with rural women. Till now, I have worked with more than 20K women across Bihar and Jharkhand.
Given the time you have been operating till now, what are the drawbacks or fallbacks you have found in the startup ecosystem & development sector?
The biggest drawback of the startup ecosystem & development sector is the ignorance of Bureaucrats. We can’t develop a healthy ecosystem without government support, and government schemes, plans, programs have been implemented and run by Bureaucrats, and somehow they didn’t support the startup ecosystem. Let’s take an example of Jeevika, one of the biggest organisations of Govt. of Bihar, several startups write down mails for support or new ideas for collaboration, but they didn’t get any response in the last two years, even they didn’t get any receiving mail. Similarly, the condition of Industry Dept. The Government of Bihar is worse if I talk about support. Somehow, We need to solve it rather than hiding things.
The rural sector is still unexplored; what are your further plans to help the people from the remotest areas?
Yeah! It’s true, and I have been trying to bring more startups that will focus on rural India, and I always believe that bringing startups focused on rural issues is the fastest and best way to help the people from the remotest areas.
What would you suggest to entrepreneurs thinking to enter this domain?
Getting satisfaction after completing the work is the real success, whether you are awarded for the work or not; each & every time you will get some learning &, most importantly, internal satisfaction with peace in mind and heart. Entrepreneurship is just like engineering; it’s not about spoon-feeding; if you have the guts, then you only become an entrepreneur; similarly, if you have the passion, then you only become a true engineer by heart.
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