Job Description: Superhero Entrepreneur-cum-Managers

Goodwill Catalytic Philanthropy is excited to be hiring for a Micro-Enterprise Entrepreneur. The successful candidate will be responsible for the management of a micro-enterprise.  The pay will be competitive, at Rs. 100-200 per day.

Qualifications

  • Highly skilled in managing production processes
  • Ability to deliver products according to production schedule with high-quality
  • Ability to prepare cohesive business plan and present to investment committee
  • Ability to keep accurate accounting ledgers
  • Excellent client management and communication skills
  • Ability to manage working capital and cash cycle
  • Ability to do accurate product costing, a plus
  • Understanding of risk management

Oh, and you have to do all this with minimum levels of education and training.

As anyone can see, this is not going to work.

But there are many businesses that are being started without thinking this through.  A small group of 5-8 women (or men, or both) is created to initiate a production oriented business.  These groups are expected to be dedicated entrepreneurs (taking risks), superhero managers (handling production, marketing and HR related issues in stride) and individual contributors (producing the product).  And of course, with the expected income of about 1-2x the minimum wage.

All startups face the same issue.  However, in mainstream startups normally entrepreneurs do not confuse livelihood (income) with entrepreneurship.  In a real startup you may have no (or little) income in the beginning.  And more likely than not, your business is expected to fail within 3 years, unless you have some unique skill or product idea that will enable you to reach scale and any hope of success.

Secondly, mainstream entrepreneurs, at least the ones that become entrepreneurs with their eyes open, know that their business becomes their life. They would be putting in 90 hours a week without a break for many years to come.

So why is it that when we talk about rural businesses, most well-intentioned organizations try to initiate micro-enterprises without giving thought to these complexities?

I recently came across an NGO that intends to initiate about a 100 micro-enterprises across India.  They will invest Rs. 5-15 Lakhs over a period of time.  The only requirement is the submission of an application and screening by an “investment committee” like entity.

This is not a unique scenario.  It is repeated over and over again across the thousands of micro-enterprises being started by NGOs, grant agencies, government agencies and lately various micro-finance institutions all over India.

Many of them haven’t thought this through deeply enough before initiating the enterprises.  Is it better to start 100 sub-scale micro-enterprises or 20 small businesses with good-enough scale to generate Rs. 500-1000 per day per person for full time work?  Out of the group of 5-8 “entrepreneurs” in each group, is there a single person with an entrepreneurial mindset and capability?

Do they have the capability and capacity to take risk?  Yes I know, everyone is fond of saying that all Indians are entrepreneurial in nature. After all, isn’t jugaad an everyday thing in India?  After all, aren’t all farmers entrepreneurs?.  But are they really?  And are they by choice? Do they really have a choice to quit farming and start a more profitable business?

Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur.  Even in mature economies, only one in ten people probably is.  That number can’t be 70% (the entire rural population) for India.  And if entrepreneurship is the pancea to all problems, why apply it to only the poor?  Entrepreneurship for the poor, but jobs for my children, thank you.

Till we start thinking about this critically, there will many more job descriptions like the one above.  We will continue looking for Superhero-entrepreneur-cum-managers enticed to perform these roles for lack of other economic opportunities.

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2 Responses to Job Description: Superhero Entrepreneur-cum-Managers

  1. ruchi says:

    In the name of strengthening the local economy, mushrooming of small enterprises is being promoted without any serious thought on the relevance of the business to their immediate context. Even before the women can understand the ropes of entrepreneurship, they have to grapple with competition from the similar enterprises.

  2. Pingback: Is Entrepreneurship Bad for the Poor? | Stirring the Pyramid

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