An Idea to support visually impaired, born in the middle of the pandemic!

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As Albert Einstein once said, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity”, the COVID-19 pandemic was the door that Sangita Bajracharya was looking for a long time. With the tourism industry shut down she saw people become jobless, especially the ones who were visually impaired, which made her realize that it was the perfect time for her to chase her dream of changing the lives of differently abled by creating a sustainable source of income generation for them.

Ms. Sangita Bajracharya

One of the participants of EntrepreneuHER, Ms. Sangita has been actively involved in executing her vision now. From finding the trainers to deciding the business model as well as the products, she shared every bit and piece of her newly started journey of becoming a social entrepreneur with us couple of weeks back.

Read out to know more about her idea that no doubt is going to support a lot of people who have been highly impacted by the pandemic.

Can you tell us a bit about your idea? 

There has been a lot of news regarding how bad the tourism sector is affected by the global pandemic that we are going through and there is definitely no denying. Coming from a tourism background I have first handedly seen people losing their only source of income. One of my colleagues is running a social venture which trains and provides jobs to the visually impaired people in the field of tourism. During this tough time, most of the visually impaired working under that venture have lost their job. 

Seeing that and experiencing their situation, I started brainstorming ideas that can support these people. After some research I realized that providing these individuals with training in diverse fields that require minimum resources was the only solution to ensure that their employability is stable regardless of any global pandemic or any other circumstances. This is how my idea to support visually impaired individuals came about. 

What kinds of training have you been conducting lately? 

My idea is still in the research phase, so rather than implementation, currently I am more focused on the planning part.  We are actively conducting research on effective fields in which the visually impaired can be trained and employed. Me and my partner, who is also visually impaired, have been contacting different trainers and have been exploring different possibilities in areas while communicating our needs to them. 

Amidst all the planning, we will soon be executing our very first training on manufacturing and using recycled paper. We will be training the visually impaired individuals on making paper bags, notebooks out of recycled paper. 

We currently have 20 differently abled people associated with us. But for this training we will only be including  8-10 to test if this will actually work or not. 

Currently, how many people are helping you with the idea including your partner? 

I have a friend who is supporting me with this project. So, we are 3 people working on the idea. Also, some trainers will also be joining hands with us most probably by the end of coming week.

What are the challenges that you have been facing in the ideation phase?

The first and foremost challenge is finding the trainers. The trainers will be providing training to the different abled individuals. So, finding trainers for visually impaired people is one challenge. 

Similarly, we are not very sure about the different training that we can provide to these individuals. And we are also looking into bringing a product based model and deciding what product to bring in the market is also a challenge for us now. This is because we have to make sure that  whatever we decide on, the visually abled and the differently abled should be comfortable making them.

Where are you planning to conduct the training programs? Have you thought of renting a space?

Renting a space is not something we are considering at the very moment as we want to minimize our cost as much as possible in the initial phase. So, for the space we have approached Seeing Hands, which is a social enterprise that supports the differently abled. We have decided that we will be using their space in Thamel to conduct the training for a time being.

How are you planning to generate revenue and sustain the business in the short run? 

We are planning to showcase our products in Seeing Hands Nepal by utilizing their space. This will be helpful in increasing brand awareness and selling the products. Also we plan to showcase and sell our products in weekend markets, through our social media handles and collaboration with other like minded organizations. So, for now we are more focused on increasing the income of our venture to ensure that we can support our team of differently abled people financially who have lost their jobs. 

Since, the business is in ideation phase, what are your current needs? 

Firstly, our current and most important need definitely has to be finding the suitable trainers who can train the visually impaired people. Apart from this mentorship regarding what kind of product to work on would be helpful for us. 

How was your experience being a part of EntrepreneuHER? 

It was no doubt a really good experience, something that I will always cherish. I got the opportunity to learn a lot of things from resource management to prototype building and the financial aspects to name a few.

This cohort has helped me better understand and brainstorm my ideas as well as the feasibility of my business model. Also getting to know other entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs and learn from them was a great experience. 

What are your future plans regarding the business idea that you have? 

In future, we want to continue what we are doing with a larger  impact. We will be increasing the number of trainees as well as extend our project to other differently abled people and not just visually impaired people. 

Also, we have future plans of extending the product and aiming for broader markets, including the international markets. 

What would you like to say to the aspiring entrepreneurs of tomorrow, who are afraid to start due to the fear of the failure? 

I myself am an aspiring entrepreneur who was confused and scared to start things off. But the pandemic was like a push that I  had been waiting for. So, I would simply like to say create your own right time and start today, waiting is not an option. Only when you start, you will gain the confidence to face the hurdles and the solutions to problems are found in the journey itself.  

I am saying this from experience, making the decision  of joining EntrepreneuHER was definitely not  easy,  I was full of doubt. But I gave it a try and now I am more clear regarding my idea than I  had ever been. So all you need to do is start off and explore the opportunities that can scale up and boost your idea.

Interviwed and Article by Trishna Shakya; Transcribed by Riha Shah