When it first started out, Mitti Ke Rang was a small but committed social initiative run by Amit Jain and his mother, along with his co-founder Saket Deshmukh. It was inspired by the familial support system that came together for them following the death of his father when Amit was only three. At the time, his grandfather got them on their feet by helping his mother start a store. Having been able to rebuild their life together as a result of this support, both Amit and his mother felt they now wanted to give back.
Initially they were largely involved in various social causes in the Pune area. In 2019, the team felt that it was time to engage more actively with the women entrepreneurs they had been working with. The products that these women made – items such as bags and candles – were well received and aggregating these orders through a single online platform seemed like the way to go.
This is the point when Amit decided to leave his corporate job and dive into his social enterprise full-time – a bold move given that there were not too many templates for what he was attempting to do.
In the beginning, they were focused on supporting Pune-based micro-entrepreneurs but, after a backpacking trip during which Amit met women entrepreneurs in different parts of the country, he realized that their idea had even more potential. He saw that, although the women had ideas and motivation, they were not tech and business savvy enough to tap into anything beyond local markets. This was when Mitti Ke Rang was launched as a full-fledged e-commerce platform.
As expected, there were many wrinkles that had to be ironed out in the beginning. But Amit and his team were firm believers in improvisation. Rather than trying to get it perfect from the start, they decided to launch first and then refine as they went along.
When they first rolled out their interface to get applications from women entrepreneurs, more than a hundred applications poured in every month. However, there were challenges in onboarding, particularly when it came to putting together product photos and details. Luckily, he had an onboarding warrior on his team who was able to straighten out these issues through clear and consistent communication with the women on the other end.
Another time, they launched a big Holi campaign in collaboration with an SHG in Uttarakhand. Since this was the first time the SHG was tackling an order of this size, the packaging left a lot to be desired. The MKR team chalked this experience up to more learning and created packaging guidelines based on it.
The team also realized that it was hard to predict how products would fare in terms of sales or anticipate external factors that could impact this. For instance, following an article on the health benefits of ragi, they found that the ragi laddoos on their site became a bestselling item.
Through the work and learnings of the last three years, the team has cleared several hurdles – logistical, technical, promotional and more.
As they look ahead, Amit says the plan is to continue their strategy of getting more products on their platform while doubling down on the ones that do well. He aims to improve community engagement through offline events and support aspiring entrepreneurs with training, grants and other resources.
Amit believes that partnerships and collaboration to enable training and capacity building for women entrepreneurs – to improve product and packaging quality, build digital marketing skills and more – will go a long way in improving outcomes and driving greater impact for social enterprises such as his.
As his social enterprise grows, Amit wants to enable the groups he works with as well as their families gain access to technology and health insurance, among other things.
“It’s all linked,” Amit says, “it’s part of the same circle”.
This interview is part of a series featuring social innovators and thinkers under our “Power of Possibilities” campaign.