This profile was prepared when Anil Singh was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1998.
The New Idea
Anil has grown frustrated with ineffective, government-run development plans that offer only very limited services to poor people who want to start their own micro-enterprises. Recognizing the urgent need for reform, he has designed a comprehensive model that is helping redefine conventional understandings of entrepreneurship. "Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle statement that connotes much more than financial resources, credit, and savings," Anil says. "By helping marginalized communities to fuel the vast reserves of traditional wisdom and human resources that exist among them, we develop their creative capacity for improving their living standards and establishing their own comprehensive community-management systems." To help develop such systems, Anil provides training, practical feedback, and ongoing support. These help budding entrepreneurs meet the initial challenges, as well as the long-term sustainability questions associated with micro-enterprise. Anil's clients are women's self-help groups in rural communities and urban slums that have been organized by other citizen sector organizations and have already learned the preliminary lessons of entrepreneurship development. They have either already begun managing micro-enterprises or are just beginning to launch their own enterprises. While his broad focus is on income generation, he also places a very clear emphasis on enhancing the entrepreneurial character of the groups, which Anil considers crucial for sustainability. He targets these groups because training programs that fail to emphasize long-term survival strategies leave them particularly vulnerable.