So we’ve had an insight into the Dialogue on Business training methodology in practice in urban Ahmedabad, Gujarat (Welcome to Gujarat: Lessons from the Field in Ahmedabad); we’ve seen its popularity, its ability to engage the enthusiastic women entrepreneurs and to effectively impart the fundamentals of business training in innovative and adaptable ways. But how do the entrepreneurs get to know about the DoB training in the first place and how do they decide whether they even want to get to the classroom? Time to take a road trip.
The destination: Surendranagar. The bus from Ahmedabad to Surendranagar (which took a little over two hours) marked my first experience of riding a ‘real’ Indian bus and it felt good to leave the tourist trails behind and venture into an area of Gujarat even less familiar with foreigners travelling among locals! The district of Surendranagar is home to a vast array of small and medium enterprises and is renowned for being one of the highest quality producers of cotton in the world. I get a taste of the prominence of this chief agricultural product in a variety of forms throughout my visit and my interaction with the entrepreneurs themselves at a mobilisation meeting – the first stage of the DoB programme in which entrepreneurs are introduced to the training in detail and registered for enrolment.
Taking a momentary step back, I’ll explain why we’ve come to Surendranagar to attend this mobilisation. The Dialogue on Business programme in Gujarat has involved the forging of partnerships between Accion and a number of NGOs spread across the state. Each NGO works with their own target population in their respective location and focuses on a different sector, for example agriculture, microfinance, the environment or the production of handicrafts etc. These strategic partnerships have enabled Accion to reach a multitude of entrepreneurs and to offer business training tailored to the advancement of an array of enterprises stationed over a large geographical area.
Accion works with two NGOs in the Surendranagar district, and today a mobilisation meeting was being held by trainer Meena, for a potential new batch of entrepreneurs hoping to attend the next round of DoB training in the area. In the same way that we observed the training module being delivered in one of the larger family homes in urban Ahmedabad, the mobilisation meeting took place in the spacious downstairs entrance of a home in the centre of a small town where women from the locale could easily gather. It also happened to be the home of a successful micro entrepreneur who had previously undergone the DoB training and whose tie-dye business was thriving!
Meena opened the mobilisation meeting by explaining clearly what the DoB training involved, how the entrepreneurs could benefit from its customisable modules and stressing its uniquely participatory nature. She took care to unravel and display the games and activities that are utilised in training to emphasise learning concepts, to show and speak about the workbooks followed and the certificates issued upon successful completion of the training. Audio-visual material has been used throughout the programme in Gujarat, in the form of a short film (created by former DoB Ambassador Asya Tabdili and with voiceover in Gujarati) played on a laptop to showcase successful entrepreneurs to whom the aspiring trainees can relate. It’s a powerful and inspirational tool.
At the close of the meeting and while Meena begins registering the next batch of trainees, I’m treated yet again to the exceptional hospitality of the women and a tour of a small collection of local micro enterprises by their proud owners. It’s starkly apparent to me that although we may be in a small town, within this community reverberates an unmistakable air of enterprising activity, where women are confidently exerting their blossoming statuses as shrewd and prosperous entrepreneurs.