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Small Steps to New Markets
Enterprising students tend to be social more often than not. Sometimes, they tend to mix their entrepreneurial spirit to meet social goals. On other occasions, they just add on to the entrepreneurial spirit of the grassroots entrepreneurs. The E-cell of the Vasavi College of Engineering in Hyderabad chose the latter option when it chose to involve street vendors in its B-plan competition.
The idea was simple and heart-felt. Ten teams of students went around the college to study and improve the business models of street vendors. They chose fairly successful vendors, dealing in car mobile chargers, local Hyderabadi snacks, etc. whose micro-enterprises could benefit from such an interaction.
It wasn't a vertical sharing of knowledge though. The students were asked to share the alternative or improved business plan with the vendor in question and record their opinion, which counted in the business-plan competition.
One such alternative business strategy stood out. A local vendor sold car mobile chargers. A common complaint of users of these chargers is that they work only for a few days. The Vasavi college team suggested to the vendor that he take the responsibility of the product. The vendor immediately took note and got stickers carrying information on his name and contact details pasted on these chargers. Now, he promises to replace the charger if it goes bust within a few days. Though it is too early to see a significant change in the sales, the vendor is happy about the change he has made.
The E-cell team plans to collate the learning from this year's exercise and then build on it the next year. It wants to train micro-entrepreneurs in implementing the improved strategies from the next year onwards.