Innovative motivation of housewives for entrepreneurship
Live sessions often teach us many lessons. We learn very simple but effective methods of communication. Since communication always needs to be customized, one-size-fits-all approaches never work. This article is an attempt to discuss how a school teacher motivated a group of housewives to take up entrepreneurship.
Introduction Self-help groups are ideal small-group formulations. These self-help groups, pan-India have been the biggest vehicles of cooperation and collaboration and good revenue-earning opportunities, with bank help and State Government support in terms of loans.
Very recently, I was invited to a discussion on the methodologies of training a group of 24 housewives to form self-help groups among themselves. Since I did not have any clue, I was directed to a CBSE school teacher of social science, who had done some spade work and had motivated some self-help groups in the past. This highly resourceful person agreed to address the group, but on one condition: I would have to be only a non-participant observer. I will be trained in due course, but not at the moment.
I immediately agreed as I wanted to learn from the gentleman. The first session was conducted this afternoon, the second day of the year 2023. The innovative method of communicating basically seemed to be an ice-breaking session. However, some points emerged regarding the need for innovation.
The session under reference focused on a) Self Role and Identity b) Basics of self-help groups c) Commonsense examples of marketing d) Mobilizing existing resources and e) Participation in future sessions.
Self-Role and Identity Even with a bare minimum initial conversation, the teacher could only hear sob stories. At least ten housewives worried that their husbands would booze every day and beat them up. This went on for around twelve minutes. The teacher merely gives them a chance to open up. However, he immediately steered the discussion to a role model that at least ninety percent of the housewives were very familiar with.
The role model would appear on their screens exactly at 9.30 PM every day. The leading lady is shown as a woman of strong character, who would battle all the politics that happens in the joint family. The heroine is really so sharp and determined. When the teacher mentioned the name of the serial and her name, the women were all charged up. Immediately, there was a sea change and at least four women said that they would rather fight it out and do something on their own.
A few others who appeared to lack any exposure nevertheless agreed that if guided properly, they will somehow come out of their shell. The Self Role and Identify session turned out to be interesting. Each and every single woman in the audience seemed to be suddenly charged up. This was a welcome development.
Basics of self-help groups Self-help groups are small groups of women who organize themselves and start a group. They are trained in that skill and share their knowledge and experience. For example, they make jute bags and market them at a very reasonable cost. Sometimes, they also manage to export them through some agencies that help them to export such goods, by using their expertise in the field.
When there are readymade frameworks of reference, it becomes very easy. Both the existing self-help groups in the small town and one in the surrounding big village were all self-help groups that ran small catering businesses. The women had even tasted the food in these establishments, but never ever wondered that they could have similar self-help groups, where they could do some business.
The teacher then explained that there were many self-help groups, even in the same district, and shared some details. He promised that they would hear from the horse's mouth. That is, four members of two different self-help groups, engaged in non-food activities and businesses, would address them in the next session, and they would get a first-hand experience of the nitty-gritty of the self-help groups. This seemed to trigger the imagination of the participants even more. I was able to see their positive body language.
Commonsense examples of marketing This did not take much time. I was a bit surprised that the teacher mentioned another familiar example of a good mobile repair shop that had a good name in the area. The service mechanics would always take a personal interest and the spare parts were all genuine parts often sourced from Chennai. They would never give any customer false hopes. They would enable every single family to own at least one second-hand mobile, as they were experts at working on huge volumes, but with very small profit margins. The two young brothers would often smile at every customer and developed personalized relationships. The customers were all regular customers. The participants were able to immediately relate to the marketing skills of these two brothers as they knew them quite well. The brothers also did some social work, like organizing blood donation camps for the public. Yet, even ordinary matriculate or non-matriculate housewives understood some bit of marketing ideas.
Mobilizing existing resources
The coordinator who invited me to become a part of the process seemed to have his homework. He knew that there was a big small chit-fund movement in the town and hence mobilizing the initial capital was not very difficult. The women also agreed to pledge their jewelry.
Necessity is the mother of all invention. These women were so happy at being housewives. However, some exposure to real-world problems and the need for them to feel financially empowered is now being felt more than ever before. They were willing to learn and most of them had the permission of their husbands or relatives. In a few cases where the husbands were drunkards, it became clear that the parents of the husbands themselves supported the interest of the women in self-help groups.
The training could be provided almost free. Local resource persons would provide it for a very minimum cost but the women themselves were keen on doing something new. This will be known only later.
Mobilizing existing resources The teacher's focus was based entirely on enabling the group of housewives to understand how they can utilize their own resources. For example, one housewives mentioned that her brother-in-law was based at Bangalore and had a son who was constantly helping the family. She said she could easily seek his help to do research on anything and that this young man was willing to do anything for the society, without charging anything for his services. The teacher immediately probed further and tried to understand on what dimensions the young man could help. The group was asked to engage in many brainstorming sessions where they would share information on such resources and then share all data with the teacher in the next meeting.
Participation in future sessions Four more sessions were being planned and the teacher told the coordinator that they would be informed soon about the dates. However, from today's experience, it does seem that there would not be a single dropout. The teacher has told me to not encourage any conversation from any woman at this stage, as am new to this development process. However, the innovative method of communicating and motivating them really interested me.
Yet another fascinating thing was the ability of the teacher to strike a personal chord by choosing the right common sense examples that the participants knew. Since the proof of the pudding is in the eating, it does become essential to illustrate anything only through common sense examples. Yes, the example of the Tamil serial, which is now number one in terms of TRP ratings and popularity among other serials, was a classic innovation.
Any other example would not have gone down well. Furthermore, the example of the mobile repair shop was also a good innovation. Housewives need to first understand the basics and one session of 150 minutes is good enough to create the minimum enthusiasm.
Conclusion We need to be aware of what is going on around us. Common sense examples are always the live examples that we all see. To anchor such examples to effectively communicate to housewives was a good learning experience. Yes, housewives can be motivated by whatever they see around them. It is too early to predict what shape the entrepreneurship drive will take, but one can rest assured that innovation always helps.
Ladies are good at multitasking and they are very good managers. The way in which they organise their kitchens and how the attend to the needs of all the members of the family will tell us their way of attending to the tasks and bringing them to a logical conclusion.
So it they were given a little training in some of the issues and motivate them, we can expect them to do well. The methodology adopted by the trainer is very good and definitely such role models will make the housewives get inspired.
I am in touch with some of the self help groups in our native place and the way in which they are handling the funds is remarkable and they are trying to improve their financial status by earning though this self help groups.