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Good Afternoon. Thankyouverymuchfor beinghere.
It was November2012. Life wasgood.I had justturned50 inMay and Persistentwasdoingwell.Sonali andI
have had casual conversationsabout ideasonhow we could contribute tocommunity developmentandsocial
programs for manyyears.My friendSridharJagannathan wasvisitingusduringone suchconversationand gave
the wise advice of dividinglifeintothree parts - LEARN,EARN and RETURN. Call it the itch to dosomethingmore
or you may call itmid-lifecrisis. Itwastime tomove beyondcoffee conversationstoreal actionand we started
to conceptualize deAsrafoundationwithamissionto findandsolve some hardprobleminIndiathatwould
benefitlarge numbersof people. Somethingthatwouldmake adifference.
I have beena bigfan of Bill Gatesfor nearly30 years. He has alwaysbeenaninspiration. Microsofthasbeen
one of Persistent’searliestcustomersandIhave beenaregularvisitortothe Microsoftcampus since 1992. I
have alwaysbeenveryimpressedby Bill Gates’ abilitytodefineabigvisionand thenpassionatelydrivethe
organizationtomake ithappen. Naturally,Ihave beena keenfollowerof the Bill andMelindaGatesfoundation
fromthe time they startedin2000. Like Microsoft,the Bill andMelindaGatesfoundationhasdefinedan
ambitiousvision tosolve large problems inglobal healthandeducation. The GatesFoundationwebsitequotes
Warren Buffett’sgreatadvice aboutphilanthropy:“Don’tjustgofor safe projects, take onthe reallytough
LivinginIndia,itisnot difficultto findtoughproblemstoworkon. Ourpopulationcontinuestogrow and is
nearly1.3 Billion anditwill exceedthatof Chinaby the year2030. As of 2015, more than half of our population
isunderthe age of 25. Thinkaboutit, we have more than 25 millionpeopleateveryage from0 to 25; that’sa
lotof people! Educationandhealthcare are the mostobvioustoughproblems toworkon. Whenitcomesto
addressingthe challengesin educationandhealthcare inourcountry we are lookingat three constraints –
availability,accessandaffordability. Affordabilitymustbe addressedintwowaysbymakingthingscheaper
and byfuelingthe eco-systemwhere people have more moneytospend.
Havingspent25 yearsin the technologyindustry,Iwantedtofinda problemwhere IcouldapplywhatIhave
learnt-- technologyandscale. Ialso wantedtofocuson a problemthatcouldkeepme goingformany years. I
have reallyenjoyedmy25 yearsof runningof an entrepreneurialventure,andIgot veryexcitedaboutfocusing
on “job-creation”as ourtoughproblem towork on. Steadyincome canhave a verysignificantimpacton
individualfamiliesandultimately onthe society. Astheysay,“give aman a fish andyoufeedhimfora day;
teacha man to fishandyoufeedhimfora lifetime.”
Withthisbackground,we setourselvesatargetof creating100,000 new jobsinthe next 5 years. Aftersome
quickanalysis,itwasclearthat we couldnot achieve these targetsif we focused only onthe jobseekers. We
neededtofocusonjob-creators. Ina country like ours,small businessescanbe a powerful engine forgrowth.
To quote the McKinseyGlobal Institute’sStudyfromFebruary2014, “urbanization isbound tohappenat a rapid
pace inIndiaand we need tofocuson manufacturing,constructionandnon-farmservicesjobsasadriverfor
Withthisin mind,we changedourgoal of creating100,000 new jobsto enablingatleast25,000 new small
businesses withaspecial focuson“services”businesses. Businessessuchascatering, tiffinbox service,snack
counters,tuitionclasses,beautysalons,photography services,healthcare servicesetc. These businessestypical
employbetween2-10employees and25,000 such businesseswouldeasilyhelpusachieveour goal of 100,000
We startedour journeybymeetingagenciesthatwere alreadyveryactiveinthisarea. We met withBanks,
Vocational institutions,MITCON,DIC,SIDBIVenturesandlooked atothermodelssuchas the Deshpande
Foundation,Kherwadi Social Welfare Association,BYSTetc.andspoke to friendsandfamilymemberswhohave
experience inrunning servicesbusinesses. We realizedthat these fineinstitutionsare already doing
phenomenal workinthisarea. The Governmentalsoconsidersjobcreationapriorityactivityandthere are
many Governmentschemesforemploymentgeneration,fortrainingandforsupportingentrepreneurs. The
National Skill DevelopmentCorporationhasaveryambitioustargetof trainingmore than150 millionpeopleby
2020. The Banksare alsoverykeentofundsmall businessesandtheyevenhave schemestoprovide collateral
free loanstoentrepreneursformicroandsmall enterprises. Despite all of the above we foundthatthere was
somethingmissingandaspart of deAsraFoundation,we have attemptedto addressthat.
From our conversationwithentrepreneurswe quicklyrealizedthatoursystemsare notwell setupfor
entrepreneurstosucceed. We have systemsandprocessesthatseemsocomplex thattheyappeartohave
beensetuptotrap the entrepreneur. Entrepreneursneedsupport,trainingandguidance ona continuousbasis.
While manyotherprogramshave the conceptof mentors,we have introducedthe conceptof the UdyogMitra.
The Udyog Mitra is a well-trainedandpaidemployee of the Foundationwhosupportthese businessesastheir
friend,philosopherandguide.We propose tohave one UdyogMitra for eachof these 250 businesses.Each
Udyog Mitra will guide 100 similarkindsof businessand hasdata and bestpracticesaboutthe businessand will
be able to provide precise guidance toensure continuedsuccessof these businesses.
The target on handof helpingmake 25,000 small servicesbusinesseshappen wasdauntingandunlesswe
streamlinedourprocessesandmade themself-service,there wasnowaywe couldgetthere. We decidedthat
the bestway to go aboutthiswouldbe to focuson automationandrepeatabilityby buildingplaybooksand
templatesforentrepreneurstogetstartedand to helpthemruntheirbusinessesveryefficiently. We call these
playbooks –“businessinabox.” We are in the processof building250of these andbelievethatif we have
abouta 100 businessessetupforeachof these 250 “businessesinabox”we will gettoour goal of 25,000 small
businesses. We hope toshowyousome of the templatesthatare ready. Onour website http://www.deasra.in,
any registeredusercanaccessdetailedtemplatesthatguide the entrepreneuronhow tostart and run a
business. Ourtemplatesare basedona six-by-six grid. The process isdividedintosix stages -- Plan,Start,Fund,
Setup,Marketand Run andeach stage is furtherdividedintosix steps. We are focusingonprovidingcomplete
and detailedtemplatesonall aspectsof startingandrunninga businessfromanindividual entrepreneur’spoint
of view. We have about25 such templatesreadyandare able tocreate about 6-8 everymonth. We observed
that many of the entrepreneurs we metare notcomfortable withEnglishandwe plantoconvertthese
templatesintootherlanguages. Marathi versionsare available online formanyof ourbusinessinabox
Beyondbusinessinabox andthe UdyogMitra, the deAsraFoundationhas established apartnershipwith
Legalogictoprovide a backoffice forsharedservices. Many entrepreneursdonothave precise knowledge
aboutthe paperworkandcompliance requirementsand businessesstruggle tomaintainthe necessary
documentationand compliance. We believe thatourbackoffice forsharedservicescanprovide agreatservice
to these businessesinhelpingthemstaycompliantwithregulationsandprocesses.
We already have an understandingwith 8Banksfor fundingthe businesses we identify. We are keento
establishmore suchpartnerships. We are workingcloselywithBankstohelpentrepreneursbecomeloan-
worthyand then we are helpingthemsucceedbytrackingandhelping themthroughvariousstagesof theirlife-
Most small businesses alsoneedtoinvestin technologyandautomationtobe successful. We have built a
technologysolutiontohelpsmall businessmanage theirtransactions. The conceptisforpartiesto deAzzle their
transactionsbetweeneachotherovercell phone. We have setupa few partnershipstosupportmobile wallets
and mobile bankingallowingsmall businessestoefficientlytransactina peerto peernetwork.
Finally,customersare the life and bloodof anybusiness. Withthe large numberof businesseswe will have in
our network we have workedon differentschemestouse oureffort,credibilityandthe collective powerof the
So to summarize,the deAsraFoundationisaSection25 PublicCompanyandwasincorporatedonthe 31st
2013. To increase ouroutreachandto encourage self-employmentwe are launchingourmonthlymagazine
यशस्वी उद्योजक today.
I am proudto state that Sonali andour childrenRiaand Arul are fullyon-boardthismission. InfactASRA is
actuallythe firstfourinitialsof the familymembers –Anand,Sonali, RiaandArul. We addedthe de from
Deshpande tohelpingettingdomainnamesetc. Iwouldalsolike toacknowledge the supportIgotfrom the
Board of Directorsof PersistentSystems,theirguidance andencouragementwere crucial inourgettingthisfar.
Clearlywe have setourselvesuptoaddressa toughproblem. We have an ambitiousplanandwe don’thave all
the answersbutwe have the resolve andthe passiontomake a difference. We need yourhelpandyour
support. I hope we can showcase some of whatwe have done so far and getyour guidance onhow to proceed