Planet Kerala, Research Consultants email@example.com
During 2003, the district government in the women's locality organised a six-month training course in desktop publishing covering below-poverty-line families as part of a computer literacy and self-employment programme. Meanwhile, the local government discussed starting a hardware assembly micro-enterprise and the president asked the then Minister for Local Gvoernment to sanction such a unit, given the sales potential for such a venture. Kudumbashree – Kerala State's poverty eradication agency – then initiated the efforts to form a group suitable for the micro-enterprise by linking with the women being trained on the DTP course.
This lead to the formation of a work group by September 2004. Financial credit to the tune of US$4,700 was obtained from the Dhanalakshmi Bank of Kasargod along with a subsidy of US$2,222 from the local government. This funded a computer system, hardware devices, furniture, and designing and painting the room for PC assembly. US$3,900 was spent in setting up the unit. The remainder was used to buy hardware components for three computer systems all of which were sold on the very first day, one to the municipal government and the other two to individuals. This greatly boosted the group's confidence.
A Computer Centre in Kasargod gave initial training about computer hardware and assembly. The same centre also helped the group purchase necessary materials from a state level computer component marketing company in Cochin. Now the women do business with that company direct.
Kudumbashree's Central Office paid for additional training to unit members during 2004 on the Performance Improvement Programme (PIP) in Trivandrum, which covered a variety of topics on business enterprise. Kudumbashree's District Office also delivered formal and informal training. And the unit members were exposed to business opportunities through their participation in various District and State level events, which helped them make connections and led to business deals.
Starting with small-scale computer system supply in and around their hometown, the business slowly evolved to cover various institutions within the District and now supplies orders from five northern Districts of the state. It provides quotations to customers who are attracted either through newspaper advertisements or through personal contacts.
The main activities of the unit are PC assembling and installation, service and sales. Supply to institutions includes the computer system, its accessories and peripherals, and the required furniture. The unit buys components from various vendors and then assembles and supplies them. It charges 75% of the estimated price in advance and collects the rest after the order has been delivered. In order to utilise spare capacity in terms of computer and manpower, the unit also undertakes computer training and data entry operations. During the summer vacation in 2004, for example, training in basic computer operation, MS office and DTP was offered to school children. It has done data entry work for the State Electricity Board, and also does small-scale DTP work such as designing wedding invitations and notices. Currently, the unit is planning a further (limited) diversification: to supply reconditioned second-hand computer systems from a minimum price of US$200 since demand for cheap systems is rising. However, it is hardware assembly that still forms by far the bulk of the enterprise's activity and income.
The unit has ten core women members including the group leader and the secretary, all in their twenties. The group leader has a postgraduate diploma in electronics, the others are all qualified in DTP and trained in hardware. The group leader conducts weekly unit meetings, collects cheques from customers, handles bank transactions, assembles and installs systems, markets the unit and so on. The secretary acts as her deputy and supervises the other staff. The members also handle money transactions, assembling and installation, marketing, and servicing. Three men are employed full time as service engineers in order to undertake installation and servicing work at distant locations (such as those that might require an overnight stay), which the women do not feel comfortable undertaking. The men also help with assembly when required.
The unit's customers for hardware include local governments in five Northern districts of Kerala State, the nearby municipal government, schools, banks, shops, DTP centres and individuals.
The unit uses one landline telephone, two mobiles, one PC and printer, an Internet connection and software including Windows98, Windows XP, Linux, Office XP, Script Easy (Malayalam software), Page Maker, Photoshop and Corel Draw. It benefits from an uninterrupted power supply.
Currently the unit employs thirteen staff (the ten women cooperative members plus three male staff). In 2004/5 it achieved total sales of US$82,000 through selling 160 PCs, delivering two IT training courses and completing one data entry contract. This represented a net income of US$9,000 (i.e. value of sales minus cost of purchasing inputs). Two more people are now employed than were in 2002 and sales have increased.
Excluding the cost of purchasing inputs (which represent almost 90% of total expenditure), then the main expenditure is around US$330 per month on salaries. Couriers, travel, food and accommodation, and rent are the other major expenses. After all expenses are accounted, the unit makes around US$60 per month profit.
1. Excellent customer care and service.
2. As well as benefiting from the reputation of women's IT enterprises run under the agency of Kudumbashree, the unit achieved popularity through newspaper features and advertisements on local television channels.
3. The unity among the members.
1. They can support their families financially by, for example, paying their siblings' school fees and repaying housing loans. They can also provide support through representing their families and carrying out bank transactions. Their parents allow them travel alone to different places – reflecting the parents' increased confidence in them.
2. Their communication skills and self-confidence have developed. They also have opportunities to go to different places and interact with different people.
3. Their knowledge of IT has increased.
1. Currently no problems are reported. However, if another unit were to open a similar hardware assembly activity within their service area (something which several local governments are keen to support) they feel this might pose a challenge for them.
2. As most of the women are unmarried they are unsure about their future involvement once they are married.
Author Data Sources/Role: Interviews, Observation and Documents; No Direct Role
Region: South Asia Start Date: 2003 Submission Date: April 2005
The "Women's ICT-Based Enterprise for Development" project is coordinated by the University of Manchester's Institute for Development Policy and Management. The project is funded by the UK Department for International Development's Knowledge and Research programme.
http://www.womenictenterprise.org/kasargod.htm September 2005