Social Entrepreneurship by Sex Workers
Ashodaya has received a grant from World Bank for reduction of Stigma and Discrimination through creation of Social enterprise. The idea behind starting the social enterprise was that it can provide Ashodaya fund for the activities for which currently grant is not available like supporting PLHAs and at the same time as it involves interaction with general population hence it will result in reduction of stigma and discrimination against sex workers. The different stages involved in creation of social enterprise were given below-
1. Identification of potential business –
In order to identify the potential business areas a meeting of Ashodaya board and members were called. During the meeting the community comes up with valuable suggestions and insights into the condition of local market. In the meeting it was decided that
a) The scope of expansion of Ashodaya’s existing business venture i.e. Community kitchen and selling of goods at Urban Haat should be also explored
b) Community members also suggested that opening of commercial laundry will make a good business sense as the number of singles in the city has considerably increased over the period because of industrial growth in Mysore. Hence a feasibility study for the setting up laundry should also be conducted.
2. Feasibility studies –
In order to select the business and understand the business environment feasibility studies were conducted for setting up a restaurant and commercial laundry. Different activities carried on were-
a) Visit to existing restaurant and commercial laundries to understand the nature of operation, machinery requirement, client load and profitability
b) Meeting with equipment supplier to collect information about machines, their cost
c) Survey of clients in order to find out the potential demand, their requirements and the nature of services they are currently getting
d) Study of existing similar business in the locality to understand the competition, pricing and clients load
e) Analysis of profitability to find out financial sustainability and break even point
3. finalization of business
A meeting of Ashodaya board and members were called to select the business. All these finding were presented to board and member. The board and members decided to start a restaurant because-
a) Ashodaya already has some experience in the food business gained from successfully running community kitchen
b) Ashodaya members along with participants coming for attending the training provide a significant client base for the restaurant
c) As it involves high interaction with general population hence it will help in reducing stigma and discrimination
d) Initial equipment cost for setting up commercial laundry were quite high
e) For restaurant Ashodaya was getting a running hotel with equipments
4. Starting of Restaurant
In order to set up the kitchen and start the restaurant a professional person with more than 15 yrs of experience in hotel industry was hired as consultant. The different activities carried on were-
a) Restaurant and kitchen were renovated to improve the operational efficiency and hygiene
b) Some of the equipments and utensils which were not there were purchased. Also some new equipments were purchased to improve the quality and hygiene
c) A modern sink for hygienic washing, geyser and water filter were fitted
d) Storage room was renovated and made insects free. Proper arrangements for storage of food grains and other items were made.
e) Financial system for managing cash and accounting was set up along with system for regular monitoring.
f) Procurement system for purchasing the raw materials, depending upon the frequency of purchasing and perishabilty, was set up
g) Staff requirement were worked out depending upon the roles and requirements
h) Staffs schedules were worked out,
5. Running the restaurant
The following activities are carried on for successfully running the business-
a) Proper monitoring of cash transactions
b) Regular checking of accounting records
c) Proper storage of goods
d) Monitoring of procurement of raw materials
e) Quality check and hygiene maintenance
f) Marketing strategies to increase the customer base
Way Ahead –
Ashodaya has successfully started the restaurant but now there is need to capitalize on its initial success and decide its future course of action. While deciding its future course of action, Ashodaya should also consider its future expansion plan like starting of new Targeted Interventions and migrant projects, as it will increase its member base resulting in opening avenues for some new business ventures and activities. Some areas which can be considered by Ashodaya board are-
1) Ashodaya should maintain the focus on increasing the customer base of restaurant which in necessary for both increasing the profits and reducing the stigma and discrimination.
2) Ashodaya can also explore the other business areas depending upon its capacity and availability of funding. A business plan for setting up commercial laundry is already there.
3) There is also need of exploring the potential of offering financial services like saving, loans and micro insurance as per the need of the community. Ashodaya is currently having 3000+ members hence the requirement for these services is low. But if we add the potential membership base from new migrant and targeted intervention project then these services becomes more feasible. The micro insurance to PLHAs can be offered along with similar service to migrants which will result in sharing of risks by much larger group. Also many of these members might be not in position to approach formal banking sources for loans and saving. Hence Ashodaya might like to fill the gap. The new cooperative form allows to offer such services to its members.