ARTI has developed and standardised several rural technologies that can be used by the rural inhabitants to augment their income or to start new income generating enterprises. A brief description of the technologies is enclosed as Appendix A. In the year 2000, ARTI established a Rural Entrepreneurship Development Centre at its field station near Phaltan, situated in a rural area in Dist. Satara, Maharashtra. The Centre consists of a classroom equipped with audio-visual training aids, rooms for the trainees to stay in, and a kitchen. Live demonstrations of all the technologies are available for hands-on training. The building was funded by ICICI Ltd., and the audio-visual equipment by AID, USA. ARTI routinely conducts training programmes at the centre for individuals interested in starting enterprises based on ARTIís technologies, and also for representatives of organisations interested in disseminating these technologies in their areas of operation. A unique feature of ARTIís training activity is that in addition to hands-on training in the technical aspects of the various technologies, the potential entrepreneurs are also trained in entrepreneurship. Help of experts in the field of business administration, accountancy, banking, advertising, etc., is enlisted for the entrepreneurship training. Also, technical backup, marketing support and troubleshooting service are provided to the new enterprises for one year.
In recent years, the Self Help Group (SHG) movement has gained momentum in rural areas of India, particularly among rural women. A number of individuals come together to form a group. The group members collectively raise some amount through pre-determined monthly contributions. Every month, the collected money is lent to one of the members for starting a remunerative enterprise. In some cases, the money is given as a one-time grant, whereas in some cases, it is given as a short-term loan. The rate of interest is determined by the group. Because of peer pressure, recovery of loan by SHGs from its members is almost always 100%. As a result, banks have started to give loans through SHGs. Some of the SHGs have established and are successfully operating their own banking institutions, of which the Gramin Bank in Bangladesh is the most famous and most successful example. A few such efforts are also proving effective and successful in India.The state and central governments have now realised that Government sponsored welfare activities aimed at upliftment of the poor are almost always unsuccessful. Therefore, the state and central governments too are keen to promote the SHG mode of operation because it is proving successful, especially in upliftment and empowerment of rural women.
However, it has been observed that most SHGs are concentrating mainly on traditional enterprises such as milk production, tailoring, community cooking, ethnic art and craft, etc. As the number and geographical density of SHGs increases, there is a danger that the market for these trades will be saturated, and the members will start competing with each other. Before the problem escalates to serious proportions, it is necessary to acquaint the SHGs with alternative remunerative rural enterprises. It has been also often observed that people come together to form an SHG, without having any idea regarding effective utilisation of the collective fund. In such cases, the members end up using the money for fulfilling short-term family needs such as house repairs, marriages, festivals, etc., rather than using it as an investment in their familyís future.
ARTI has several technologies that have proved successful in generating large incomes for the technology operators. There are several hundred rural families in Maharashtra alone making annual profits in the range of one to two hundred thousand rupees using these technologies. Some of these technologies have huge market potentials.
It is therefore felt that there is a need to initiate a special effort to introduce these technologies to members of SHGs. ARTI is therefore launching a series of 12 training programmes exclusively for members of SHGs, to be conducted in the period of November 2002 to April 2003.