It was getting a bit cooler in the afternoon. The sun had already peaked urging the whole of Bengal to take an afternoon siesta, leaving the streets of Baidyahaat empty. We turned off the high street and made our way down a dead-end alley to see Prosenjit rolling out from underneath the metal shutter of a small-sized office. We’d woken him from his well-earned sleep after he’d finished putting down the flooring of his new business.
Prosenjit was born and brought up in a mud hut in Baidyahaat, a village just west of the town of South Barasat. His father is a labourer, his mother a housewife, and his fifteen-year-old brother is in 10th grade. He himself has just completed school, which means it is now his turn to support the family. With very few jobs in the village and no opportunities for further education, he decided that setting up a business was what he had to do. He chose the Desktop Publishing course offered at Anudip after hearing about it from a friend.
After the course Prosenjit decided to set up a digital printing business to design and produce graphics. He needed to find equipment and a property, both of which required capital, something that neither he nor his family ever had much of. Fortunately, to incubate his business, the computers and printers he needed were loaned to him by Anudip at a reasonable interest rate. He had found the office on the main street of Baidyahaat that would be perfect. But he still needed the finance.
With the help of his trainer, he was able to submit a bank loan application for 50,000 rupees (about 900 US dollars) to Kiva, an internet-based microfinance company.
“Even though I found the content of the course useful for my business it was the guidance of Ravi-da that has got me so far,” Prosenjit told me. (Ravi Kumar Sah is an Area Manager at Anudip).
But still there’s a lot of work to do before Prosenjit can relax. The business isn’t making any money yet and so he’s been selling ice creams in the evening at village fairs. He also tutors secondary school students in English, Math and Science. Prosenjit went to his old school and told them about his venture. His plan is to train the older pupils in digital printing. The school was very supportive and said it will mention his course to their students. As Ravi-da explained to me, “there is only one school in the area and no university. By tutoring the children he can also train them as adults in the future.”
We spent nearly two hours talking to Prosenjit. Mostly he and I listened to the advice my guides, Ravi-da and Dibyendu-da (Anudip’s Entrepreneurship Manager), were giving him. They helped him with his accounting and discussed the business opportunities he should focus on. But most of all they reassured him that he’s going in the right direction. He confessed that his original passion was for the army and he wanted to become a soldier.
“I was the teacher of my defense club at school,” he said. “But I was rejected by the army.” Prosenjit is still disappointed, “But I have a duty to support my family.”
With so many things to think about before the business has even started, it was no surprise that he had reservations about his capability. I only then realised the respect he had for Ravi-da and Dibendyu-da. They were giving him support which was more than anyone else had done.
About the author
Abhiram Nandakumar was born in Chennai, India and lives in the UK where he is currently doing his Masters in Chemistry from the University of Southampton. Recently he has become the Chairman of UNICEF on Campus where he will be organising events to raise awareness. Last year he raised over £10,000 for charities including Amnesty International, British Red Cross and Greenpeace. He has strong ties to India and loves to visit regularly. In his spare time he enjoys writing, travelling, tennis and playing the classical guitar.