Derek Newberry

From the Back-Yard to the Boutique: Entrepreneurship in India

“India may be better-known for its high-flying entrepreneurs who have turned the nation into a high-tech center and outsourcing mecca. But the still largely rural country also is gaining a name as a center for smaller-scale innovation.”
This came from a recent Chicago Tribune article on entrepreneurship in India. The piece continues:

“In farm sheds and machine shops and on small rural plots, India’s back-yard inventors are coming up with creations that their backers hope will make it big, solve a few of the world’s problems, boost India’s exports and continue cutting the country’s dismal poverty rate.”

Meet some of these back-yard inventors, the founders of Indian enterprise, Conserve HRP:

Conserve is a fascinating fusion of sustainable business values and localized labor contexts. As I’ve written before, what makes the founders truly entrepreneurial is their ability to tap into a very common practice in India, rag-picking, and add value to create a product that connects to high-demand international markets.

The YouTube video linked above was kindly produced by a CNN crew on behalf of WRI – it provides a very real anecdote of the back-yard inventors referenced in the Tribune article. You hear the story of a woman who now earns three times what she made before gathering material for Conserve accessories. These operations turn entire heaps of otherwise useless plastic into $50 bags sold in European boutiques.

It’s a very bittersweet story, as it shows the limitations of even well-intentioned entrepreneurs who hardly have the power to change the social conditions they must live and work within. But in an imperfect world, where rag-picking is a fact, it is comforting to know as Shalabh says in the video, that they can dramatically improve the lives of at least some of the BoP.