Woman entrepreneurs fight Covid slump with new business ideas - Climate Home

Woman entrepreneurs fight Covid slump with new business ideas - Climate Home


Woman entrepreneurs fight Covid slump with new business ideas - Climate Home

Posted: 12 Oct 2020 03:00 AM PDT

Three women in Samburu County, northwestern Kenya, started a tailoring business to diversify their income streams and increase their resilience to the impacts of both coronavirus and the climate crisis.

Like many pastoralists in Northern Kenya, these women traditionally depend on livestock markets to make a living, but the government closed them down after the outbreak of Covid-19. To adapt, the group invested in a second-hand sewing machine and are now making face masks, which they are selling across the region.

In pivoting to the new face mask business, the women have increased their resilience to both Covid-19 and the climate crisis – they are now able to make an income without waiting for the government to reopen the livestock markets, and they are less dependent on the rain for crop production.

By adapting to the pandemic, the women have placed themselves at the centre of a thriving and necessary income stream that is independent of the climate crisis.

The new venture has been made possible, in part, by The BOMA Project, a 13-year-old development organisation that empowers women in the drylands of Africa to become entrepreneurs.

The project was originally intended to build resilience to the climate crisis by developing skills and businesses that help lift communities out of poverty, but this has also helped increase resilience to the pandemic.

Under its Rural Entrepreneurship Access Program (REAP), BOMA employs local "mentors" who identify families that are most in need. The REAP mentors then train women from those families in business skills, advise them financially, and give them seed grants to launch new businesses.

Titoo Lenkolos, one of the three members of the face mask venture and a mother of five, lives in the emerging livestock market town of Lekuru and has been coached by BOMA's mentors.

"BOMA encourages us to put a portion of our money away in savings," Lenkolos said. "We were able to draw on those savings to purchase a sewing machine. The business has been incredibly successful, and we've been able to generate sufficient income to feed our children and send them to school."

Beyond the family resilience that comes with savings and education, business success also gives REAP participants a greater stake in the social and political fabric of their community – and the confidence to engage in activities and decisions that affect more than just their households.

BOMA is using a grant from the Climate Justice Resilience Fund to train women entrepreneurs to take part in local committees that govern water use, rangeland management, and the regulation of firewood collection.

By influencing natural resource management practices, BOMA's participants support both their own businesses and their communities' resilience.

"Empowering our participants to start small businesses to earn income and have a voice shaping government policies related to the management of natural resources has such an impact on their lives. It is key to the long-term sustainability of the program and to the resiliency of the livelihoods that we support," said Sam Owilly, BOMA's Kenya programme director.

Grace Nakera Endnog, a mother of five children who lives in Ngaremara ward, Isiolo County, learned how to run a business and save up for emergencies from a BOMA mentor, and used the new know-how to set up a convenience store. While the store initially suffered during the pandemic, Grace was able to reposition the store into a bakery.

"I decided to change and enter a different business," she said, "I started making and selling mandazi donuts. There's always something you can do. No matter, where you are or what you do, you have to be innovative."

That goes for both Covid-19 and climate change.

"We've had severe climate events from droughts to floods and locust swarms," said Lenkolos. "Being flexible is key to survival in our part of the world."

This post was sponsored by the Climate Justice Resilience Fund. See our editorial guidelines for what this means.

This Startup Expedites Enterprises' Adoption of Software Applications - Entrepreneur

Posted: 12 Oct 2020 06:12 AM PDT

6 min read

You're reading Entrepreneur India, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

In a computer-driven era, adopting or learning new software can be taxing and time consuming. On an individual level, a simple click on YouTube tutorials or calling up a friend who is proficient with the software can do the trick. However, for enterprises with thousands of employees, the situation to deal with a new software or facing an error is expensive and not welcomed. Customer relationship management (CRM) software used by enterprises across sectors to onboard new customers can be onerous to use.

Understanding this pain, Khadim Batti and Vara Kumar in 2013 founded a SaaS-based solution provider startup Whatfix. Based in Bengaluru, the startup in February this year raised $32 million in Series C round from Sequoia Capital.

In an interaction with Entrepreneur India, Batti, chief executive officer and co-founder of Whatfix, talked about the startup built based on a feature from an earlier venture and what the future plans are.

From SearchEnabler to Navigator

Batti and Kumar have known each other for the past ten years before donning the entrepreneurial cap. Both of them worked together for Huawei Telecom where they looked after the DPI and BI solutions. Building the BI product line up from the scratch encouraged both of them to build something on their own. Thus, the two quit the Chinese telecom company in 2010 to start their own venture in 2011, SearchEnabler. The startup then focused on small medium business(SMBs) and helped them to be discoverable and enhance their search and social media visibility on their own

"Our hypothesis of 'do it yourself' (DIY) for small businesses and charge them $30-40  per month and get millions of businesses online didn't go as planned," added Batti.

Batti said small businesses failed to understand the return on investment (RoI) from their platform and demanded for a hand-holding guide rather than DIY solution. This realization made the founders go on their toes and brainstorm with new ideas. Finally, they landed on a feature called Whatfix which upon clicking will help a SMB owner to fix an issue on their CRM. Both of them saw a significant rise in interest among the businesses owners about the features. In order to scale, the company then set up a community where upon searching users/customers were able to get any type of solution required for their businesses to shoot up.

Batti said they were getting multiple queries from previous customers for a customized and private 'WhatFix' feature that can be used to guide their users and help their business grow.

"Till this time our intention was never to build Whatfix as a company. It was only supposed to be an extra feature to help our previous customers," he added. However, both of them realized the market potential in the space and understood they could disrupt or rather support the training industry with it.

As there were only two of them handling the organization, they shut SearchEnabler and shifted their complete focus on Whatfix

 What does Whatfix do?

In the initial days, Whatfix was helping small businesses or simplifying user onboarding in SaaS-based companies. However, the scale at which they were growing was not impressive. Soon they realized that enterprise software that gets deployed in any enterprise companies, they are usually customized and tailored. Both the founders understood that the general training the employees received were not enough to handle a custom built software. "Why not Whatfix can help these enterprises to ensure these software are adopted efficiently by the employees?" asked Batti.

This is when Whatfix changed their customer base and moved from SMBs to big enterprises. 

Currently, Whatfix's platform provides product adoption, user onboarding, employee training, self-service support and performance support for companies using enterprise Web applications. The platform allows SaaS application users to create interactive walkthroughs, or in-app guidance flows that can lead users through a task on the application. Training instructions are provided via interactive guides for a seamless on-boarding process in all enterprise areas such as HR, CRM, ERP, accounting and more.

Batti claims the platform has truncated the training time by 60 per cent, the companies are seeing a drop of 50 per cent in tickets raised by their employers, and more importantly individual productivity shot up by 10-15 per cent. 

Among its 500 customers globally, 100 companies are Fortune 1000 companies. Some of the reputed company names that Bati shared include Experion, Manforce, Cardinal Health and Cisco's BMC.     Whatfix's 70 per cent revenue comes from the US and 20 per cent are generated from western European countries such as Germany, Netherlands, France and the UK. 

The company has also gone for a strategic alliance with third-party software implementation companies such as Accenture, Infosys and others. These companies implement tailor-made software for their customers, recommend Whatfix or help them to deploy it as well. Apart from these, the company has also collaborated with the software vendors. Batti said these alliances are contributing 25 per cent of the revenue now.

COVID-19 Impact

Batti said while at the beginning the growth numbers fell a little, soon the companies understood the importance of digitization. Batti said while they were expecting to grow at 300 per cent in terms of revenue, before the onset of the pandemic, the company has now revised its target to 220 per cent. Currently, Whatfix is growing at 100 per cent. Since June, the company has hired more than 50 people. Batti said enterprises have started using their platform as it is helping them to train their employees remotely as work from home has become the new normal.

According to him, there were few new customers onboarding due to the limited cash crunch, but the company saw a significant rise from its existing customers. For instance, if Whatfix was present in three verticals earlier, now they are helping the company in six verticals due to the pandemic. Batti said the pandemic has also let its customers come up with new usages of Whatfix. Giving an example, Batti said their Australian government client  Moorabool Shire Council has integrated certain COVID-19 guidelines on its website. Batti said these are some additional use cases that organizations are implementing due to the ongoing pandemic. The startup during the pandemic has launched its desktop, iOS and Android versions to support organizations across the sectors. The company has also rolled out its automation beta, to improve individual's efficiency.

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