Second wind for pandemic hit entrepreneurs in the North!

Tharshini is a Weaver who also runs a shop which sells woven products. She is a beneficiary of the WEAVE project which is funded by the H&M Foundation, through CARE Nederland and implemented by Chrysalis with an intention to empower and support small and medium female entrepreneurs who were emerging from a three-decade ethnic conflict.  Just as Tharshini was making good progress to reach her goals, the pandemic hit her enterprise hard to the point that her looms became silent and she had to temporarily shut down her business and lay off her employees.

Sharmini, the proprietor of STR Coir Products was on target to transport a load of bristles for brushes and mattresses to be used in products for export in another province, when the nation-wide COVID-induced curfew was imposed. With mobility and inter-district mobility constraints, her consignment never reached her buyers who then no longer needed the material. Due to the inordinate closure of the airport and lack of large storing space, the coir went waste.

Anuja, proprietor of Akkachchi Food production in Kilinochchi, runs a spicy traditional porridge and food items  business and also caters to parties. Since April she has had no orders even though April is generally a festive month and the following months are also auspicious for marriages. The pandemic had depleted the finances of her enterprise, forcing her to scale down her business operation.

The pandemic has thus, disproportionately affected the ventures of already vulnerable entrepreneurs at grassroots level like Tharshini, Sharmini and Anuja. There are many more similar cases. In this background, it was decided to channel grant-cum-loans to the WEAVE entrepreneurs in order to enable them to restart and sustain their business operation without being interrupted. The stimuli were provided to all the employers to pay two weeks enumeration for their employees as 50% in cash and 50% in-kind so that the employees would return to work in the face of the new normalcy. This was, indeed, seen as oil to reboot their business while adhering to the health directives through the supply of personal protective equipment.

Each beneficiary, as part of this programme was entitled to a total amount of Rs. 10,000. A cash pack of Rs. 5,000 and goods worth Rs. 5,000 were provided. These goods were purchased from other WEAVE entrepreneurs dealing with essential food items, which in turn improved the turnover of those businesses.

The cash paid to the employers is an interest-free loan which has a grace period of one-month, and has to be repaid within a period of six months.  The entrepreneurs were mobilized to form a Savings and Credit Group at district level in response, to alleviate the COVID-19 instigated financial straits that they experienced. The members agreed to make a monthly deposit of Rs. 2000. The repayment of the COVID-19 loan is being channeled to the Savings and Credit Group. With the loan recovery and monthly savings deposit, the Savings and Credit Group can offer a loan of reasonable value to its members when required. This revolving fund will re-instill confidence in them, enable them to weather a crisis of this intensity in the long run and ensure them a chance of survival.