By Mohammad Ekhlaque Ahmed
Omar and myself were interviewed by a reporter of TV channel on the GEAR’s concept. Regarding self-employment he asked us about how it will add significantly to the economy. It’s so tiny in nature, he questioned, which can hardly make a big difference like a single employee in a big factory will do; and that economists have also ignored ‘self employment’ as any tool to economic progress.
Practical application and wide spread of ‘microfinancing’ in the bottom of pyramid markets, however, shows a different perspective altogether. It shows a similar results and a convenient one, in the absence of big investment coming to the rescue of the problem of unemployment in any economy. Domino effect of the self-employment has the potential to do the wonders.
Case in point: Afsheen, a widow was funded by GEAR for a sewing machine in Korangi area. She started her self employment by getting sewing work from the neighborhood area but the earning was not enough. Afsheen approached the wholesale market of ladies suiting and got work from there. Wholesaler made arrangement to drop cutting (unstitched parts) of the garment at her place and Afsheen would do the sewing which was collected back. This is just like a ‘single women’ factory. With expanding work from the wholesaler, Afsheen approached some unemployed ladies of her neighborhood to be part of sewing self-employment and approached GEAR to fund these ladies also and took responsibility for engaging them and provide supervision. GEAR funded them too. Domino effect was created and small cottage factory of 5 ladies, connected to an already existing supply chain, became operational. A simple model when replicated around creates multiplier effect and has a potential to reduce unemployment, poverty and can be created conveniently. Factories can be built without big investment and become economic catalysts.
Another domino effect model was created by GEAR when it funded a number of (20 altogether) self-employment initiatives in Baldia town. They were (and still are) buying imported jeans (C grade, as they call it) and to deconstruct it take out cloth, zippers, rivets etc, all of which were sold separately in the recycling market to be used for different purposes. Poor families of the area took these garments, do this and earn Rs. 200 a day. Hundreds of families get their livelihood by these domino effects of self-employment.
Self employment works and is a good solution in the situation we are in. It comes with ease and is steered by a model of ‘masses helping masses’. One million families helped by other one million families (creating self employment, takes around Rs. 20,000 to create one) would create Rs. 60 billion worth of revenue and the principal amount remains in circulation. Is it not a powerful economic driver? And not at par with big factory model? Individuality and collectivity should begin the drive by overcoming the doubts and taking the responsibility on their shoulder.
The writer is the President of GEAR (Generating Employment Alternatives for Self Reliance) and Assistant Professor at Institute of Business Management, Trainer, Speaker, Consultant and author.