SURE : Creating Women Entrepreneurs

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sure_sakthi_iconSakhi Unique Rural Enterprise (SURE) incorporates a legion of rural women(Sakhis) marketing eco-friendly products within their community. By helping these women set up their own retail business, dealing in energy efficient products, not only are the women made more self-sufficient, their lifestyle is also altered for the better.

In this conversation with Rajashri Sai of SURE she tells us more about the work they are doing.

Origins and background of  SURE

SURE is an associate organisation of Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP). SSP is a grass roots based learning and development organisation focussed on women empowerment and entrepreneurship nurturing at the grass roots. SSP is currently working in 6 states in India  and has impacted over 10,00,000 households over the last 2 decades.

Our journey of creating Sakhis started almost 2 decades earlier post the Latur Earthquake in Maharashtra where SSP initiated rehabilitation building and construction through women Self help groups and providing masonry and community development training to such SHG leaders. Over the years the Grassroots women leaders approached SSP for acquiring entrepreneurship skills as they wished to also economically empower themselves to make a difference to their households and community at large.

At the same time SSP was selected by the Late C.K.Prahalad to work with British Petroleum to create a rural network of women retail entrepreneurs to develop and sell smokeless clean energy based cookstoves – Oorja cookstove.

SURE was initiated as a co-creation effort between Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP ) and BP Energy to prototype a clean fuel cook stove. From 2006 to 2009, the clean fuel and advanced cook stove business resulted impacting over 70,000+ families by reducing indoor air pollution and fuel savings of 1 crore month on month. In 2009 marketing efforts were consolidated in a multiple retailing platform as SURE. At the same time, the network and portfolio to include water, energy and agriculture products that could create an impact in health and wellbeing of over 5,00,000 consumers.

Current Areas of Focus 

From 2012 to 2015, SURE has partnered with SSP to scale up its network model to add 1000 women entrepreneurs in the clean and green product sector in Maharashtra and Bihar over the next three years through wPOWER a one million dollar USAID supported project.  SURE will partner with private sector product developers, FIs to ensure Eco-system support to women entrepreneurs, while SSP will train women, form networks and create public awareness on clean and green products.

  1. SURE currently has a network of 500 Sakhis working in 2 different states and across 8 districts.

  2. It is also involved in prototyping and development of clean energy products considering the needs of the BOP market –  co partnered with leading corporates like Godrej – prototyped Chotukool, First Energy (Erstwhile BP Energy) – Oorja Cookstoves, Biolite – Smokeless cookstoves etc.

  3. Microbusiness – It is partnering with leading organisations like First Energy and Eureka Forbes to enable micro pelletisers and water purification plants owned and operated by Sakhis.

 Beneficiaries:

“Beneficiaries are – Sakhis the community at large, we are looking at creating a rural to rural energy chain in the future which impacts the whole community as a whole. By rural to rural energy chain we mean enabling production and distribution  and servicing of  clean energy products in rural areas in partnership with the community and corporates or product developers to reduce the cost of the same and ensuring an increase in the  uptake of such products in the community in the long run,” saya

In June 2013, SSP was awarded a grant by USAID  for  the transfer of business models and partnerships to Africa. A unique feature is the creation of Energy Hubs as clean and green product promotion zones to enhance consumer experience and education in Africa. SURE is currently partnering with SSP on the same.

Best and worst experience in this journey so far

As we are trying to create a rural distribution network through women entrepreneurs we face many social challenges and logistic challenges and limitations on which we continuously keep innovating and working on. We are currently working at improving our MIS and monitoring systems. Our best experience is having created and sustained this network of over 300 Rural Women Entrepreneurs. Involving the SAKHIs has ensured that a rural to rural energy chain in clean energy health and sanitation solutions is slowly but steadily being established.

The awards and accolades

2006

Late C.K. Prahalad and team select SSP/ SURE for co- creation in BOP Market with BP Energy

2008

Late C. K. Prahalad in Harvard Business Review – On SURE Business Model

2009

SEY Finalist Khemka Foundation Award on Social Enterpreneurship

2012

wPower award by USAID/ India for SSP is committed to empower over 1000 women entrepreneurs until 2015, to launch small businesses around innovative clean technologies.

2013

  • Presentation and case study of SURE business model at SHELL Foundation and Hystra.

  • Winner of Sanklap – Global Cookstove Alliance for Innovation in Clean Cooking  Solutions 2013.

  • Featured in Silicon India Website.

  • Finalist in Artha Venture Challenge 2013

  • Winner of ICICI Foundation and CNBC TV 18’s Inclusive India Award.

What according to you can ordinary citizens do to solve problems in India?

 Ordinary citizens must understand that they are a part of the community and they benefit from change too. Creating a change is not a prerogative of a few but is a prerogative of the community at large. We shouldn’t wait for creating a change when we are retired, when we have the free time or will etc we should engage in creating a change in our community this instance by participating in community issues, engaging in discussion and debates with all stakeholders concerned and encouraging community lead initiatives and solutions in this regard. Only those solutions shall last in the long run which are by of and for the community.

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