Transforming the Landscape - Skilling up Karachi's entrepreneurs

Peace Through Prosperity-Karachi-Entrepreneurs-2014Watching us from a distance, helping street vendors and cobblers make a better living seems pretty simple. Come close and you will realize it is not as simple as it may seem. Our intentions are pure and our method is transparent yet we were dealing with people from challenging backgrounds who have trust issues, and with good reason. We have previously run the same campaigns in KPK and received a very positive response from the participants, check that out at our Vimeo channel.

Before we ever got here we knew Karachi would be different, it’s a melting pot of ethnicities and cultures not only from within Pakistan but from across the region. Competition is fierce, time is money and money is fuel for life.

In order to ensure livelihood protection and poverty alleviation, it was important to grasp what is important for our beneficiaries and then share our ideas that can hopefully change their lives for the better. For this purpose, we started visiting various areas of Karachi and started interacting with the street vendors and cobblers. It took us days to make them understand we were friends not foe and they can trust us with their tribulations and problems. Once that trust was developed and they opened up to us, we were amazed to see the potential of these businesses and the ways they were losing out on the opportunities around them.

We will share with you our experience of visiting Qayumabad, to help paint a clear picture of the challenges and victories out field team face everyday.  Initially, the vendors refused to talk to us and fill our surveys. They were apprehensive because a couple of weeks back an NGO came into their area, got the surveys filled, took Rs200 from each, promising them a bright and better future never to returnback. We realized their hesitation and spent time with them, hoping to build some level of trust. After a while the trust developed and they started giving us information about their work and personal lives.

It did not take rocket science for us to realize that they are hardworking individuals toiling day in and day out to make ends meet. They earn reasonably well too, what they lack is the management skill that will help them further their small business into a proper established entity. By adopting a few simple steps they can fight poverty, get food security, create employment, better future for themselves, their family and communities and prevent radicalization.

The foremost reason for conducting these surveys was to enroll deserving street vendors and cobblers for Peace Through Prosperity’s mini-MBA programme that started from the 11th of June 2014. We wanted to get genuine cases who really want to improve upon their skills and make most of their micro-enterprises so that we have driven individuals on our project.

While we were in Qayumabad, we observed a fruit seller who had a couple of ‘guests’ at his pushcart. The fruit vendor served them tea and gossiped with them, preventing people from coming towards his cart. After the guests left, we asked him how much does this tea cost him and he replied around Rs150 per day. We suggested if he let go off his friends during work hours, he will get more business as a large part of women folk don’t come to him because they see some men sitting around, chatting and smoking away, which of course makes them uncomfortable.

Peace-TP-Bilal Colony Karachi_2014_05_.52.20Then we asked him if he owned the pushcart and he replied he rented it on Rs100 per day. We then asked him to save Rs100 from the money he spends on tea with his friends on a daily basis that would make up Rs3000 for the month. Since the cart is for Rs6000 or Rs7000, he will be able to buy one of his own with a couple of months. After which, he will be able to save the rental that makes another Rs3000 per month, totaling to Rs6000 of  average savings per month that can go towards improving his living standards  significantly.

Furthermore, he can even buy a couple of carts within a year and rent them to other fruit sellers. With an additional income of Rs100 per day, he will be able to send his children to school and brighten their future. He was quite amazed with this revelation and vowed he would no longer entertain his friends during work hours and follow these simple tools towards a more prosper future.

Our other observation included lack of cleanliness, for both self and workplace, no mannerism while dealing with the customers, wastage of time and unnecessary expenditure. We also met people who liked the idea of mini-MBA and were interested to know the tricks of the trade but were not willing to attend the classes.

A street vendor of over 60 years of age, filled in the survey form and showed interest but he requested that his teenage boys should be allowed to attend the classes as he was too old to grasp anything. He requested that he would like to take care of the business while his children should learn time and resource management to take it further after him. We, of course, accepted the request.

We even met kids of 13 years or 14 years old who are either the sole bread winners for their families, or jointly running the household with a parent and/or siblings. We really appreciated such young minds to come join us. They are at a very impressionable age and they will learn these things way better and faster than their older peers. The earlier they learn to secure their livelihood, the better it will be for their future.

It took our sweat  tenacity and hard work but people from different neighborhoods understood our point of view and heard us out. Places like Chakra Goth and Bilal Colony were very supportive too. Usually, outsiders are not really welcomed into these areas and are looked down with skepticism but we went there and met the right people who were glad to know that we doing some work for the micro-entrepreneurs. Usually, no one really bothers about them so it was a unique and positive step towards betterment for their area as well. With their help, a lot of people got interested in filling our survey forms and getting involved in our mini-MBA programme.

Peace-TP-Bilal Colony Karachi_2014_05_.55.39

By no means have we confined ourselves to some areas. Our journey has just begun. We have currently engaged with micro-entrepreneurs in Qayumabad, Korangi 2, Bangali Para, Bilal Colony, Sultanabad, Hijrat Colony and Chakra Goth. We have completed a survey of 366 micro-entrepreneurs and selected around 266 individuals for our mini-MBA programme.  Once we gauge the interest, the participation and the outcome of our first venture in the 3rd most populous city in the world we will be able to extend our services and reach out to a wider audience.

For staying connected and keeping pulse on our latest updates, you can like our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our Vimeo channel. Peace Through Prosperity is striving to change the face of the working class in Pakistan and you can help us reach out to more people by helping us through your contributions; simply go to our Website for donation details. We have taken the first step but we need your help to continue our journey… for a better prosperous and tolerant society. And remember if a society improves, everyone is better off!