Mumbai: Visually impaired entrepreneurs pitch business models

Visually impaired entrepreneurs pitch their business models and impress a tough jury

Blindness is not an impairment, but a mere inconvenience’ is the mantra Sushmeeta Bubna, founder of NGO Voice Vision. To propagate this, the NGO along with K J Somaiya Institute of Management and Research, Vidyavihar held an entrepreneurship idea award over the weekend. Here, 10 blind persons from across the country pitched their business plans to the jury, with help from sighted Somaiya management students. The common thread was the blind’s aim to be self sufficient and independent.

A group of students along with the visually impaired entrepreneur present their ideas
A group of students along with the visually impaired entrepreneur present their ideas

Business models included online retailing of Warli print t-shirts, chocolate making, to websites for the blind. All these had to pass the very discerning eye of a tough, and eminent jury panel of Sanjeev Saraf, vice president of CII, Dr. Gaurav Buch, head HR at Rasna Ltd, Paroma Bhattacharya, incubation associate at Un Ltd. India and Vasant Sanke, former managing director of the National Handicapped Finance and Development Corporation. The jury put the management students, accompanying each blind entrepreneur, through a real roasting, with questions about business plans, feasibility and the revenue models.

Dr Gaurav Buch, judge took the students to task. “Ask yourself, is this idea feasible? Is the profit margin achievable? Apply the knowledge you have gained in classrooms here, otherwise this is pointless," he said.

A cash prize of Rs. 51,000, 31,000 and 21,000 respectively were given out to the top three ideas, to kick-start their businesses. Lions Club of Malad, IVFA Foundation, Taksheel Foundation and Rasna Ltd funded the cash prizes.

The winners

1st prize: Dilip Mane, candle-making business
After setting up a small candle making business in Vangani on the outskirts of Mumbai, Mane wanted to expand his business, but minimum resources and machinery made it difficult.

Dilip Mane (in grey) believes the light at the end of the tunnel is by candle
Dilip Mane (in grey) believes the light at the end of the tunnel is by candle 

The student team assigned to Mane pitched for marketing his candles in the corporate gifting space, making it the most practical and feasible project. Mane proposed opening a candle making training centre for other visually impaired persons.

2nd prize: Naushaad, Rasheed and Ajeesh
Naushaad, a former programmer with IBM in Bangalore pitched for audio-assisted technology for web accessibility.

Naushaad (in white) pitches his audio idea to the jury who was impressed
Naushaad (in white) pitches his audio idea to the jury who was impressed

Without changing the source code of the websites, his idea was to voice options for banking websites, e-commerce websites so that the blind can do net banking and online shopping. Minimal requirements like five computers and skeletal staff, was the plan’s plus point too.

3rd prize: Vidya Pawale
A freelancer masseuse from Mulund, Pawale and her team of management students pitched for a spa run by the visually impaired.

Vidya Pawale (second from r) believes in the power of the tactile
Vidya Pawale (second from r) believes in the power of the tactile

Pawale, who currently provides massages at people’s homes, opted for three visually impaired masseurs who would be trained by her to perform professional massages in Mulund. The judges were impressed with the clarity and short term goals Pawale presented.

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