Though success is not guaranteed, the entrepreneurial training greatly reduces the chance the loan will not be repaid, so banks will charge interest rates that will be much lower than the customary micro-loan rates. “The risk to the bank goes down dramatically,” Chaturvedi says.

Local support

The local government in India is very involved with iSEEK, as well as local banks and nongovernment organizations.

Chaturvedi expects the women will learn the basic concepts of entrepreneurship in six weeks to three months. “These are very bright young women. If you get the concepts organized in a way they can learn it, they will learn it very fast,” he says. “By the end of summer we should start collecting data.”

iSeek

Most of the women currently involved with the iSeek initiative in India are 16- to 20-years old with a 4th grade education or less.

After the training is completed, the local partnerships become more important. “They can help us in a lot of different ways. Funding is an important component because of the scale we will be operating at. People can become mentors for these different businesses,” Chaturvedi says.

“Starting out is easy, because we are helping them. Eventually, we will move out and they will be on their own, so they will need business guidance and problem-solving skills.”

Empowerment and entrepreneurship

The iSEEK program will allow undereducated women to develop the potential many did not know they had. “These young women are very enterprising and they are eager to become part of the global economy,” Chaturvedi says.

The most rewarding aspect of the project so far for Calic has been meeting the participants. “They are incredibly smart and motivated. It is hard to imagine how hungry they are to learn and work until one has seen them in person and talked to them. This has also motivated me to keep working hard on iSEEK,” Calic says.

“The solution to poverty is no secret –– it is the empowerment of women,” Calic explains. “Women make up 50 percent of the world’s population and should be contributing proportionally to economic development. One of my hopes is that iSEEK will enable these young women by helping them understand that anyone can be an entrepreneur.”

For more information on the iSEEK project, visit www.krannert.purdue.edu/centers/iseek/.

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