Photo of the Week: A Sustainable Social Enterprise in India

October 11, 2013

After receiving support from TechnoServe, a crafts business in southern India is creating meaningful economic opportunities for disabled people in the community.

In a bright workshop in southern India, Kiran, a 23-year-old with Down syndrome, methodically folds and glues paper to create a packet that his employer, Chetana, will sell to a local buyer. Clinical psychologist Mala Giridhar started Chetana in order to give people like Kiran an opportunity to earn an income, practice a skill and gain a sense of independence.

Mala saw how a routine and social interaction could benefit people with mental disabilities, who are otherwise stigmatized in Indian society. “We wanted to do business and generate revenue so we could create employment opportunities for these people,” she says. “But we didn’t know how.”

Soon after launching Chetana in 2009, Mala entered a TechnoServe business plan competition that aimed to support promising social enterprises. She received training on business fundamentals and was selected as one of five winners to receive seed capital to put her business plan into action.

Today, Chetana employs 20 people in the workshop and an additional 40 women who work from their homes. Mala is amazed by the engagement and growth she has seen in employees like Kiran. “They share the thrill of a new product,” she says. “They share the completion of a big order. We go out together and celebrate when we have passed certain milestones. And then, there is no limit to their growth. They become part of something much bigger.”

Learn more about Chetana.