Partnering with villagers for socio-economic empowerment

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    What are your strategies and vision for the growth of your companies?

    First of all, I follow my instincts to make right choices. I believe that instead of waiting for the right business opportunities, one needs to create them. I also believe in sharing the benefits of growth achieved by my Group with those who are deprived of the right opportunities due to their economically disadvantaged position. As one of the co-founders of SUIT (Societal Upliftment Initiative Trust), I work towards educating underprivileged children in rural areas. The SUIT is currently working in 5 states (10 districts) with the support of 10 implementing partners. SUIT is supporting education of 500 children.

    Is SUIT a corporate social responsibility wing of the GPA Group for rural people?

    It is much more than that. SUIT has initiated 12 informal education centers, 1 evening class center and 11 night classes centers and impacted lives of more than 3,000 children. SUIT has transformed more than 25 villages through health education for disease prevention. We have been conducting numerous activities including hygiene awareness campaign etc. Moreover, we are making villagers partner to our small businesses and this partnership would be linked with our social responsibility.

    How would this partnership model work? Are you experimenting it somewhere?

    This innovative and unique public (villagers) and private (GPA Group) partnership would create a win win situation for the both. This is being implemented through SUIT. We are piloting this in some villages of Kandhamal district in Odisha. We are setting up small businesses like making salai leaf, agro businesses like turmeric production, handicrafts and organic farming. We were piloting this at Padasi, Banda and Nuagoan villages of Kandhamal district in Odisha. In the first phase, we would implement this partnership model at 30 villages in Odisha. Farmers of these will be our partners on the one hand and their children would study at schools which we will be setting up. So, farmers will not only work with us but they will be sharing profit. Their children will study in a school set up by us in their villages. We plan to engage 1,000 villagers and 3,000 students.

    What are drivers of growth for the Group?

    At the age of 28, I became Managing Director at M-Tech Informatics, established in 2010 and it embarks on an ambitious journey to provide quality affordable innovation along with a promise to deliver high end after sales service to the Indian market. With its Head office in Kolkata and a strategic office in New Delhi, M-Tech has a network of sales and service channel throughout India. We focus on rural markets mainly as huge potential exists there. In span of four years, M-Tech has turnover of Rs 100 crore (FY 2014-15) and projection for 2020 is Rs 1,000 crore.

    The Group acquired Belgachi Tea Estate in 2010, a 2,500 acre tea garden and Tea Factory which was declared a sick unit in the year 2010. Was turnaround a difficult task?

    Today the company manufactures 15 lakh kg of tea every year and gives employment to more than 1,500 rural people. At Belgachi in Siliguri (West Bengal), when we acquired the tea garden it was not only sick but passing through a complicated labour unrest and farmers were against the management since last three years. After acquisition, we took farmers into confidence and with extensive interaction with village elders, we won their trust, now it is a turnaround and a success story. Nearly 1,500 farmers/labourers now happily work at the garden and they are all from nearby villages. When we acquired the garden in 2010, it was producing 1.50 lakh kg of tea and now in 2015 we are at 15 lakh kg annually.

    What about your e-commerce and cashback venture?

    It appears that our digital commerce Compare Munafa vertical does not cater to rural masses. But I tell you, here also we are focusing on rural people because for the urban audience a discount of Rs 100 may not matter much, but for a farmer it is really a great incentive, be it in form of mobile recharge or other. So our cashback business is poised to grow tremendously with Digital India. We have carved out our strategies to reach rural people.

    Why is and from where cashback business getting momentum?

    Cashback model does require trust from customers. Earlier, this trust was missing. We, as a customer, love to have some discount and once customers on e-commerce platforms start getting cashback, their trust in this model increase. For example, Compare Munafa not only provides a platform for comparison but also gives options to choose products of different companies from our site, thereby increasing munafa points. So, gradually they earn more and save decent amount. Once this trust is established, there is no looking back.

    What about cashback market?

    Cashback market in India constitutes nearly 5-7 percent of total e-commerce volume. The way we are going, it is expected to touch 20 percent soon. With awareness and widening of digital networks, cashback will play a major role in future. In 2015, I stepped into the world of e-commerce. In April 2015, we launched comparemunafa.com, an e-shopping portal with a difference. Compare Munafa brings together leading online stores and help buyers select the best deals by comparing product / shop prices online while offering added advantage of munafa points and discount against every purchase. Cashback is a major component of this.

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