1. What problem are we trying to solve? Why this problem?
- Employability and Engagement Problem of Blind Youth by engaging them as entrepreneurs & employees of an organization which they can identify as their own and build on it.
- Blind Youth several million in numbers some literate, some semiliterate and some educated through Blind Education System or the regular education system hardly get an opportunity to get trained into gainful employment, and exceptionally some of them are employed. Gainful engagement is sometimes a challenge as an average employer finds it much convenient to employ a sighted person, then taking on the enhanced involvement in gainfully engaging one. Many a times the blind youth are heavily exploited as their expectation towards living a standard base dignified life is quite low. So a monthly extremely low salary, with food and accommodation provision are more than enough wrt their expectations, which is exploited.
2. What is our solution approach? Why do we think this will work?
- Arrange and implement hands-on training through partners and our own hands-on training facilities in our project field site and food processing site, which will give direct gainful employment in our expanding start-up
- Typically all training is imparted with hope that the trainee will be gainfully employed somewhere, the focus is more on the training then the outcome orientation of gainful engagement or employment. In our project, the blind youth will be trained exactly as per the need and the requirement of the engagement or employment in our own expanding start-up world of Mushroomers. The number of intake in training will be exactly as per the requirement for the organization, which we want to actively expand across several regions.
3. Who are our customers? How do we reach them or intend to reach them?
- All vegetarian and non-vegetarian individuals in the society who are looking for a very high protein, high vitamin alternative option, other than soya bean derivatives or meat and fish products, are our target client and prospects. The numbers can be given subjectively quantatively, but the outreach program wrt awareness of mushroom and its enhanced products, and our marketing and sales acumen will finally determine our outreach. We intend to provide fresh, vinegar/oil marinated, dry organic mushroom as staple as an alternative of other high protein dietary ingredients now readily available in the market and also create further refined products from mushroom with high protein value with organic branding as alternate healthy snack items, e.g. mushroom bars, mushroom jerkies, mushroom, mushroom salty munchies, etc.
- We have a very strong notional branding as we are creating an organization, cofounded by the blind and engaging new blind youth on a consistent continuous basis. This along with the product appeal we have of providing organic high protein healthy alternative of both staple food and snack item, gives us a veritable edge. As our organization will have spread also at the district levels in the rural India, we will definitely approach all the Government Food Schemes for Early Childhood Nutrition, School Midday Meals, Hospitals, etc. wherever we have our proximity presence and beyond. In urban area with our staple we will create a branding through directly daily or weekly buying approach through direct marketing and delivery system using our urban area based blind youth brigade giving them further engagement and gainfull employment opportunity. We will also use large volume sales possibility B2B channels like caterers, organic food chains, online fruit and vegetable aggregators and sellers, state level wholesalers etc.
4. Are there any other social profits or nonprofits doing similar work? List names and list 1 primary reason we are different from them.
- Many nonprofits have training programs for blind youth, based on the ability for the blind to be gainfully employed. Some of them have sporadic employment opportunities, or employment opportunities for a handful of blind youth.
- Mushroomers provides the framework to gainfully train and employ a growing large number of blind youth
- Mushroomers instils the pride and dignity by making all employed blind youth who are gainfully employed as a shareholder of the company and in select cases of early engagement of one of the distributed units as a cofounder.
- A Social Profit Enterprise cofounded by Blind Youth and run and managed by them is an exception
5. How would we describe our organizations’ key achievements till now?
- Running a blind student hostel for 10+ year. 20 blind youth can reside at any point of time.
- Training the students at the blind student hostel on entrepreneurship for last 2 years at our blind youth entrepreneurship development center
- Engaging on Blind Youth Entrepreneurship Development program with our partner Blind Boy’s Academy, Ramkrishna Mission Ashrama with 20 students engaged in agribusiness training in Horticulture and Animal Husbandry (eg., Vegetable growing, mushroom cultivation, poultry, goat farming, dairy farming, etc.) since last 2 years
- Creating Mushroomers – A Blind Youth Enterprise (www.mushroomers.in) as a not profit startup initiative but a social profit enterprise under TotalStart Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Developers, a section 8 company www.totalstart.org
- Gainfully engaging initially 7 blind youth as cofounding entrepreneurs in Mushroomers since January 2017
- Project Site with first mushroom farming unit is up in a river island in Choto Shalbari, Sitalkuchi, Coochbehar, West Bengal
- Established strong relationship with North Bengal Agriculture University for mushroom seed and expertise, with Horticulture Board of both West Bengal State and National Horticulture Board, GOI, Mushroom Research Institute – ICAR, Solan, Himachal Pradesh, Estabalished Mushroom Entrepreneur called Mushroom Lady of Uttarakhand for advise and handson technical and business knowhow of mushroom business, nationalised banks to support the program, Social Welfare and Justice Department at GOI for general support for Blind Youth, MSDE Department for training and entrepreneurship development of blind youth, etc.
- Sales and Marketing: We have set up marketing channels through Spencers Retail, Select Caterers, ITC Hotel Chain, Hospital Chains, etc.. We are working on selling through citymandi.in an online wholesale company. Bigbasket, etc…
- Already made sales of around Rs 50 thousand since production is up since wrt the pilot project
6. What is our strategy for the next 1,3,5 years?
Now to end of Next 1 Year:
- Learn all the tricks of the trade in mushroom farming and mushroom based new product development and production
- Set up 3 mushroom units for cultivation of mushrooms two in Bengal (one already done) and one in Meghalaya. Set up one mushroom fine food processing unit near Kolkata
- Get eligible for a large investment as a not for profit but sustainable and profitable organization from a financial institution as a grant or a loan with minimal interest
- Profitable at the year end, with part sharing of profits with the blind youth shareholders, part loan repayment and reinvestment with the rest of the profit generated
- Direct Engagement of at least 30 blind youth in year 1 and indirect engagement in the sales and delivery process to several
- Sales Turnover of around Rs.30 lakhs
Now to end of Next 3 years:
- Growing Mushroomers organization with 6 more units each in second year and third year, totalling to 15 units by the end of year 3, spread across Bengal, Meghalaya, Assam and Uttarakhand,
- Creating two more food processing units, one in north east and the other in Uttarakhand
- Direct Engagement of at least 150 blind youth at the end of year 3 and indirect engagement in the sales and delivery process to several
- By year of Year 2 setting up a Mushroom Fish Production Lab
- Sales Turnover of around Rs.1.5 crores
Now to end of Next 5 years:
- Growing Mushroomers organization with 10 more units each in fourth year and fifth year, totalling to 35 units by the end of year 5, spread across Bengal, Meghalaya, Assam and Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh,.
- Consolidating and expanding the existing ones.
- Creating three more food processing units, one in AP, one in Uttar Pradesh and one in Odisha..
- Direct Engagement of at least 350 blind youth at the end of year 5 and indirect engagement in the sales and delivery process to several
- Sales Turnover of around Rs.3.5 crores
7. What is our operational plan for the next 6 months? How would you measure your progress?
- Roll out and implement the setting up of the Mushroom Based Food Processing Unit
- Backward integrate Mushroom Farmers in North Bengal, South Bengal for supply to the Mushroom based Food Processing Unit in Bengal near Kolkata
- Planning for Setting up a Mushroom Seed Production Lab or forward integration with an established volume driven quality oriented mushroom seed production lab
- Setting up one unit in Meghalaya for Mushroom Farming
- Expanding and consolidating Mushroom Production Unit one in North Bengal
- Sales Turnover of around Rs. 10 lakhs