Be! a hero

When 37 year old Archana Hegde realised that her husband’s income would not be enough to send their nine-year-old daughter to school, she decided to take bold steps. She had an idea about what she wanted to do, all she needed was the capital to give shape to her dream.

Hegde visited a factory 10km away from her home in Sirsi, Karnataka to learn how to make plates from Areca leaves. She realised she would have to take a loan for the initial investment. But banks turned her down for the absence of collateral. Which is when she asked Be! Fund to help her out. And they did.

Be! Fund, launched by Going to School, started in Bangalore with a seed capital from entrepreneurs Phaneesh Murthy and Dev Roy. After its success in Karnataka, new investors in Be! Fund decided to take this model to Maharashtra.

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“While working with Going to School, we wanted to give children real stories to be inspired enough to stay in school. It was only then that we realised that there are heroes amongst us. But we don’t know about them because they haven’t had the opportunity to shine. Heroes would not emerge unless you gave them the initial push to kick-off,” said Lisa Heydlauff, Director, Going to School.

Be! Fund works in villages, slums and families with low income. These are the people who have an idea or a solution to some problem, but cannot get a loan because of the absence of collateral or because of the family’s income.

The fund looks for people whose ideas will solve a problem of their community in which they are directly involved.

Which is why Be! Fund came to help Chitradurga’s Neelakantesh M. Neelakantesh worked in a honey-making company for six years. He decided to make a business of his own and started with two boxes. With help from the government, he managed to procure 25 more boxes and Jaivika Honey was born. With Be! Fund’s help, Neelakantesh will soon be expanding to 100 boxes of bees to make pure honey under his own brand. Since, Jaivika Honey is created by shifting the bee boxes from farm to farm – mustard, sunflower, sesame, castor among few – it would be possible to pollinate four square kilometers of farmland now.

Most of the people who approach Be! Fund heard about them from the television and radio. The have also done movie screenings in some communities to spread the word. Movies of 22 minutes’ duration and radio plays of 20 minutes’ duration have been playing on local channels for some time. They are also planning to make graphic novels on the heroes. Word of mouth publicity has also helped since they hope that personal success stories would encourage more entrepreneurs to come up. According to Heydlauff, the target audience for the fund is within the age group of 18-29 years or mainly those who have the physical and mental zeal to give shape to their dreams.

The selection process is not easy either. With multiple rounds of interview, market surveys, research and community visits, Be! Fund makes sure only those who are serious get selected. The process is transparent with numerous people being involved in the interview round, including partners Deutsche Bank and UBS Bank India.

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“The whole concept which is structured around young entrepreneurs caught our eye. And we thought it would be the perfect platform for more women to come out and be self-sufficient as well,” said Shrinath Bolloju, Group Chief Operating Officer, Deutsche Bank India. The bank funded around 10 projects in the first round and has made commitments worth Rs 50 lakh in the current round of funding undertaken by Be! Fund.

That, the project helps in making the community more independent is evident from the success stories. Take Malliah T for example. Malliah’s village did not have a diagnostic testing lab for 25 kms. This meant that over 15,000 people rarely travelled to get medical tests and would ignore health issues. Coupling his 10 years work experience in St John’s Hospital with the Be!Fund moneey, Malliah managed to build a diagnostic laboratory for medical testing. Over the last three months, the centre has catered to over 3,000 patients with an average of 3-5 tests each.

According to Heydlauff, the team must make sure that only the most deserving get the opportunity since Be! Fund considers it as an investment and not a loan. The organisation takes the money back after a specified period. This is not to make a profit but to put the money in another such investment. A financial report is submitted to the organisation every month so that they can keep a track of the progress. So far Be! Fund has funded around 25 people in Karnataka and 15 in Maharashtra. Out of these over half of the people have already paid back 50 percent of the initial investment. With Be! Fund’s plans to expand its reach to Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal and Gujarat soon, giving shape to your dream is just a matter of time.

Read the full story here: Funding for local heroes

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