A tribal household in Odisha’s Rayagadha district could not earn ‘the minimum’ as per the Minimum Wages Act in a month. As TCS’ novel BridgeIT idea created an entrepreneur in this seven-member family, over eight months, it catapulted their monthly income from a meagre Rs 4,000 to more than a lakh.
The 27-year-old entrepreneur, Bapi Raita, is a Saura tribal. The Saura tribe is among the most ancient tribes of India and Saura paintings are one of the favourite subjects among anthropologists. The entrepreneur recalls those days when the entire family could not go on a full-stomach. Starvation-fear in Bapi’s community is stark as starvation death in Odisha have claimed several from the Saura tribe.
Bapi had to fend for his Diploma in Civil Engineering by doing odd-jobs, working as a driver and offering tuitions. He started on odd-jobs right from his school days in Gunupur so that he could pay his fees, and was determined not to dropout. When he was in high school, he offered tuitions to students up to class 10.
With his Diploma in hand from Balaji Institute of Science and Technology, Gunupur, he went from pillar to post for a job, but could not find one. He then began doing work related to construction on contract. It was during this time that he also got married. He moved to Bangalore, sure to land a job in a big city. He worked in a garment factory for eight months but had to return to his village as his wife was taken critically ill.
Roaming jobless again, Bapi came across a representative from a local NGO, PREM. He introduced him to the BridgeIT program. He appeared for an interview to get himself enrolled in the program and was eventually selected. On completion of his training, Bapi started his online business.
Initially, e-business was alien to him. He hardly had any business acumen. Gradually he learnt how to do business in the digital space with the training and mentoring provided by the BridgeIT facilitators. His business slowly started picking up. Internet was a huge challenge, every time he had to do some online work, he would take his laptop and go to a small hill nearby where he could get connectivity. Nearly 300 to 400 customers visit his shop daily for services. His current monthly earnings touch almost Rs 1.30 lakhs.
Bapi also wears BridgeIT Cluster Lead’s hat for the area where he operates. With this comes the responsibility to mentor seven other digital entrepreneurs from nearby villages. He gets a great sense of fulfilment when he carries out his role as a leader. Besides mentoring the seven, he visits other entrepreneurs nearby to equip them with business ideas and motivate them to try out new business opportunities.
Very proudly Bapi says, “BridgeIT has changed my life and has brought hope of a good future for me and my family. BridgeIT has brought brightness to our lives and our community…”