African Startup 'The Women's Bakery' to Enter India
This Rwandan co-operative business might very well be the next to enter India with a little help from Dr Reddy’s Foundation and EFI Hub.
EFI Hub, a newly formed mentoring and accelerator program for startups across Africa and India has expanded the portfolio of businesses to be mentored. Anu Shah, cofounder and CEO of EFI Hub says the latest addition is ‘The Women’s Bakery’; a co-operative bakery operating in Rwanda in the east of Africa. While scale may not be massive, impact will be profound. The business is expected to change the landscape of the bakery sector in Rwanda, and is currently providing 110 women from rural Rwanda with their own bread and butter. According to Anu Shah, EFI Hub is in conversation with Dr. Reddy’s Foundation (a non-profit partner of Dr. Reddy's Laboratories) and an IIM institute to expand The Women’s Bakery all the way to India.
Anu further said, “EFI Hub will be working on mentoring The Women’s Bakery and will be helping the business with its market entry and growth strategy for the Indian market.”
The Women’s Bakery is based in Rwanda, an African nation with a sparse population of 12 million tightly packed into one of the smallest countries by geography on the continent’s mainland. The Rwandan market is incredibly receptive to baked carbohydrates; bread consumption is very high in the country. It is yet another point on the plate to capitalize for The Women’s Bakery aiming to produce goods that are of high quality and value at an affordable cost, as locals consume low quality, dry, tasteless bread owing to high expensive ingredients.
This startup from Rwanda isn’t your typical tech startup, but it is revolutionary and is making sweeping changes in the local economy of a country recovering from a horrendous period of genocide in 1994. Its business model is deeply entrenched in training, coaching and mentoring local women to bake high quality bread.
It might not make a big dent in your universe, but in a country fighting malnutrition from low crop yields and lack of safe drinking water, especially in its ruralities, the fact that this business is at the very least aiming to procure high quality flour rich in protein for baking with the baking done on-site with a small shop next to the baking center to sell fresh products, is a big, big deal.
The bread is predictably, sold to local consumers as a B2C baked good. Unpredictably, the bread, rich in protein, is supplied to 300 schools in Rwanda. As a result, more than 10,000 children from 300 schools are being provided soft, nutritious bread as part of their free meal.
Anu Shah who is the proud mentor of this still-baking-in-the-oven startup writes,”110 women are working in four sites in Rwanda. One in Kigali (Rwanda’s capital) and the rest is all in Rural Rwanda. These women are illiterate. They cannot count, read or write. The Women’s Bakery educates them and provides them basic education on how to read and write in addition to providing gainful employment.”
Anu wants to help this African business prosper in her homeland. She explained that as part of their Indian expansion plan, Dr. Reddy’s Foundation has been approached for assistance in having the The Women’s Bakery conduct centralized training programs in 32 villages in India. The program would be to train women to bake and create a livelihood for themselves.
Anu continued, “An IIM institute [she did not disclose which one] has shown interest in the model and has presented the model as a business challenge to their students. Six students signed up for the business challenge. Unfortunately, the timing was bad as it was the student's break and they could not meet together to work together. However, The Women’s Bakery is trying to accommodate their schedule to take this further.”
Never to be deterred, EFI Hub and Anu are working to raise capital from the Akshay Patra Foundation, a non-profit organisation running school lunch programmes across India. The plan is to subsequently train their staff on baking flowing which the baked products could then be supplied to government schools in India. All of this is happening while aiming to have this rural Rwandan baking startup enter the market as an independent business and empower women in Rural India.
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