In brief, I would like to narrate my entrepreneurial journey and how the authorities concerned sabotaged my dream and livelihood at their whims. My entrepreneurial journey coincided with the first COVID lockdown in 2020, when I started crafting some bookshelves and desks for myself to keep myself engaged during the lockdown. Later, I started receiving positive feedback and orders from people when my crafts were uploaded on Facebook.
Subsequently, for another 3-4 months, I enjoyed crafting different products, mostly flower and plant stands, bookshelves, etc. and acquired around 30-40 customers within the ICR region. I would carry the flowers on the back of my motorcycle to deliver them to the customers. Some products would be of such a large size that they would not fit on a motorcycle. In such a situation, I would carry it on my feet if it were to be delivered within Naharlagun, while I would hire Tempo for Itanagar.
On August 15, 2020, the Honourable Chief Minister launched the first-ever online startup challenge with the objective of accelerating livelihood generation through self-employment.
Taking the opportunity, I took part in the challenge with a business proposal for “integrated wooden carpentry and metal fabrication,” with the long-term goal of converting it to a smart furniture manufacturing venture with technological intervention.
Amongst the 4000 applicants, 31 of us were declared winners and awarded a start-up certificate and seed funds of Rs. 5 lakhs to the top 10 and Rs. 4 lakhs to the rest of the 21 after 3 rounds of pitches evaluated by a panel of experts from IIM-Kolkata.
It was during this challenge that I learned about professional business pitching and some aspects of business, like the difference between service-based and product-based businesses, USP, customer acquisition, branding, etc.
The winners were also assisted with pre-incubation and incubation training at the newly established office of the Arunachal Pradesh Innovation and Investment Commission, Niti-Vihar, for nine months.
I used around three lakh rupees to purchase basic woodworking and fabrication machinery like a table shaw cum planner, an inverter, a stand drill press, a cutter, etc. in line with my business idea, which exhausted my only working capital at my disposal. Hence, although the machinery was purchased, the business could not be started.
So, I put up an application under the Deen Dayal Swavalamban Yojana, Upper Subansiri, for additional working capital of Rs. 10 lakhs to start the business. DDUSY is another start-up scheme with the provision of a minimum of 10 lakhs to a maximum of 50 lakhs in a 40% front-end subsidized loan. The core objective is to accelerate livelihood generation through self-employment for unemployed youth with potential business ideas relevant to the domestic market.
After months of the application process, the 37 shortlisted applicants were interviewed at DC chamber on February 6, 2023, with the deputy commissioner as its chairman. The interview was very informal in nature, without a PowerPoint presentation or proper document verification. Later, the next day, the final selected applicants were notified, and to my utter dismay, I was not on the list.
However, what shocked me hard was that 5 out of 10 final selected applicants had the same business idea as mine but with a much higher project cost, starting from Rs. 30 to 50 lakhs, while I had a project cost of only Rs. 10 lakhs. Further, some of the selected applicants belong to well-to-do families and perhaps are already in government jobs, which contradicts the objectives of livelihood acceleration through self-employment as laid down.
The irony is that, despite being certified as an ideation-stage start-up at the state level, my start-up’s failure to find a place under DDUSY at the district level is of a self-defeating nature.
Out of utter dismay, I even placed my grievance before the honorable DCM graduation certificate distribution ceremony of the first cohort of start-ups and seed money distribution to the second cohort of start-up winners on February 20, 2023, at the Chief Minister Conference Hall secretariat, and he assured me that my grievances would be redressed.
However, to date, my grievances have not been addressed. In fact, I had placed a request for additional funds to be released for three of us who are on the waiting list by writing to the concerned authority.
So, this is how someone’s dream, merit and livelihood are being sabotaged by authorities.