The core of the West Bengal Business venture is the Business Incubator concept. The headquarters will be the centre for the business activity and the base for all support services. It will also be the marketing and communications centre and the production development hub, and provide offices and space for the training and social services.
The Incubator Headquarters
The headquarters facilities will provide the following incubator services to support the establishment of the proposed business units:
- Business mentoring
- Project management
- Support and logistics services
- Assistance with the legal and compliance requirements.
- Assistance with the procurement of land, buildings and physical facilities for start-up businesses (FBi will retain ownership of these physical assets, holding them in trust on behalf of the participants and the target communities.)
- Human resources services for the recruitment and training of suitable personnel
- Accountancy services for the setting up of tax and financial compliance systems
The Product Development Hub
It is vital for any new business to have a product that meets market needs and is attractive.
The Product Development Hub will provide a service to the businesses in the West Bengal Freeset Business Incubator programme. A team of specialists will turn design concepts into products to be manufactured by Murshidabad freedom businesses.
Young women with talent for design will be trained under a 12 month apprenticeship to become fully functioning members of the FBi product development team.
Marketing and communications centre
Funds are required throughout the five-year start-up project period to set up and run the marketing and communications department and gain fair trade certification.
Planned Start-up Freedom Businesses
There are four initial business units planned under this 5 year project. Each business will follow the same social business model, with profits either returned to the business or used for the benefit of the target community. Once a business unit is firmly established and functioning it will commence paying for the Incubator services it receives.
The first Freedom Business, Freeset Fabrics, was established in 2015, in the township of Sherpur, 35kms west of Berhampore. It is a hand-loom weaving unit and by early 2017 was already employing over 50 women, producing beautifully designed hand-loom woven products for export. Murshidabad was once famous for its silk industry and hand crafted fabrics which has disappeared in recent decades due to a preference for mechanical production methods and synthetic materials. The current demand for handwoven items in Western markets is paving the way for the revitalisation of this industry.
During 2016 Freeset Fabrics have been awarded a social innovation grant from Harvard University South Asia Institute and Tata Trusts for technical and ergonomic improvements.
FBi’s designers have worked with Freeset Fabrics’ producers to create products targeted at Western markets and they are producing quality hand-woven fabrics for export. The scarves made by the Freeset Fabrics weaving unit are being bought by customers from New Zealand, Australia, the UK and the USA.
A further weaving unit is planned in nearby Valkundi, where a purpose built factory will have space for 200 employees.
Dulian is a township in the north of the District, and is home to a garments production unit which commenced in 2016. An old cinema hall has been leased and converted into factory facilities. The first group of women have completed training, and begun production of “punjamies” (baggy pyjama pants) under contract to another organisation who are exporting them.
Further weaving and sewing units are planned in other parts of the District as these initial units get up to speed with their production.
There is need for significant investment in this project as it includes the lease and/or purchase and refurbishment of buildings, and the purchase of production equipment for each of the business units. If you are interested in backing any of these Start-up businesses, please contact the Banzaid manager to talk through the business plans, staffing and funding needs.