Initiative Education

Giving back to society

Enactus is an international non-profit organisation dedicated to inspiring students to improve the world through entrepreneurial action. It aims at providing a platform for university students to build community development projects that help harness people’s ingenuous talent and improve their livelihood. Guided by academics and supported by business leaders, the students not only learn key entrepreneurial skills, going beyond the limits of textbooks, but also receive a unique opportunity to transform lives and emerge as leaders. Having expanded to over 30 countries and more than 1,700 universities, Enactus is also making its inroads in major colleges of India.

One such initiative has been started at Delhi University’s Kirori Mal College. Since its inception in April 2016, Enactus KMC has been striving hard to create an impact in the lives of the two communities it is working with. Under its project “Patradya”, the team has taught a community of Afghan refugee women the process of making edible utensils. The project works on the lines of social entrepreneurship and aims at creating entrepreneurs out of the Afghan refugees, while simultaneously creating a bio-edible substitute for carcinogenic plastic disposable utensils that are harmful to the environment.

The idea of edible utensils, while having been developed by numerous organisations as a means of promoting sustainable development and moving away from plastic, is still in its nascent stage of finding acceptance in households. Talking about how the team stumbled upon the idea while working on the research and development of their projects, Shivam Shukla, the current president of Enactus KMC, says, “Groups of students eating outside the college and heavy dependency on disposable plastic cutlery are a common sight near colleges of Delhi University. After taking stock of the situation and brainstorming about ways to reduce the problem of plastic being dumped into landfills, our team started looking for alternatives to disposable plastic cutlery. This is when the notion of edible utensils caught our attention.”

Challenges

After the euphoria of the Eureka moment passed, the team became aware of the problem in inculcating a behavioural change in customer’s choice of utensils. Plastic cutlery still dominates kitchen shelves, being more easily available at more competitive prices. It is also important to note that Enactus is a social enterprise and any profits earned or revenue generated is invested back into the project or used for the upliftment of the community. As a result, while pitching the product to investors, the team often faced hurdles as it did not have an attractive profit margin to offer to the investors.

While some advisors encouraged the youngsters and expressed a desire to be associated with the project, others had a hard time believing in its feasibility. However, with the help of online crowd-funding campaigns and fund-raising sales, the project managed to get an encouraging kickstart.

Working with refugee women was both a learning experience and a challenge. Initially, the team faced several problems while communicating and teaching them the production process due to linguistic barriers and their apprehensions to trust students. However, gradually, through various interactive workshops and need assessment sessions, the team worked towards overcoming such issues and developing a good rapport with them. In the process, ACCESS NGO proved to be a great pillar of support in helping the women overcome their inhibitions, contribute to the project and strengthen their sources of livelihood.

After working for over a year on the project, the students have emerged as better leaders, rational decision-makers, and, most importantly, individuals who feel they are part of something bigger, and are able to give back to the society. This is what Enactus organisations have given the students: an opportunity to directly implement their ideas and learn the know-how of the functioning of an entrepreneurial venture which no business school can teach. Working in different departments such as research, finance and marketing gives the students an edge over others and an opportunity to explore their area of expertise. On top of it all, the process of empowering members of the community and receiving, in return, a box full of smiles, is something the students are likely to cherish lifelong.


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Printable version | Jan 24, 2022 7:33:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/giving-back-to-society/article18955223.ece

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