By Rigya Singh:
SIFE or Students in Free Enterprise is a Non-Profit organisation striving to change the world through the medium of business. SIFE SSCBS (Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies) is a branch of the international organisation operating in Delhi. Recently, I received the opportunity to see for myself how the students of SIFE SSCBS worked to leave their impact in the society.
Currently, there are two on-going projects with SIFE SSCBS; Project Akshar and Project Sanition Solutions. Project Akshar is an eco-friendly project that provides income to socially disadvantaged people. At present, hearing impaired women who have been taught book binding skills are employed and this provides them with a source of income. Project Akshar has partnered with Delhi Foundation for Deaf Women (DFDW) to manufacture environment friendly notebooks which are sold for a small profitÂ benefitingÂ the makers. These notebooks are made out of one side used sheets, following the concept of reusing paper, lessening the carbon footprint of 8480 kgs. At present there are four hearing impaired women earning up to 3000 INR per month, a significant increase from their earlier income of a measly 300 INR per month. They have also aligned themselves with an NGO named Butterfly to provide notebooks free of cost to poor students. This reduces the indirect costs of purchasing necessary tools needed to learn and write. (Due to luck not favouring me, I was unable to visit DFDW)
The other project is named Sanitation Solutions. People living in less prosperous areas have been known to pass sanitary napkins in favour of cloth. They are unaware of the hazardous use of cloth as it can cause various diseases like cervical cancer and infertility in young girls. 70% women have been known to contract Reproductive tract Infection (RTI) use to unsanitary conditions during the menstruation cycle. Through this project, sanitary pads are sold at a cheap price to these women, moreover, women entrepreneurs from these very disadvantaged places sell them for a small profit margin.
I was fortunate to talk to two women entrepreneurs named Nirgila and Rekha. My talk with them was very informative. While they managed to sell these sanitary napkins, not everyone is willing to try them. Also, some people find them an unnecessary and expensive luxury. Roughly, only 25% of the women in that particular area were regular buyers. While there was no roll back case, family income had a great impact on the usage of sanitary pads. There is a social stigma associated with menstruation. Women do not openly talk about it. They have to be coerced out of their shells and not every time it has proven to be successful.
The women who sell these napkins too have not experienced a dramatic change in their income. The marketing technique has many loopholes and their strategy is not enough to garner many customers. While educating the women about menstrual cycles has been affective, they need to be taught about selling their product is they want to see a sizeable profit. However, SIFE SSCBS continues to make tremendous efforts to over come these challenges, and the sheer passion of the team makes it evident.Â In Delhi, 17 slums are under this project with the aim to extend the size in the near future. With the hope to make an impact on the society by business concepts, SIFE SSCBS has a bright future ahead of them.