In 2011, Bano Fatima was a university student living in New Delhi. Passionate about driving social change, her ambition was to find work in international development after graduating.
As she approached the end of her studies, Bano was given the opportunity to take part in an enterprise development course run by the Dhriiti Foundation. A core component of the course was HP LIFE. This free online training program is funded by the HP Foundation and enables people all over the world to learn the basic business, IT, and entrepreneurship skills they need to make a better life.
Consisting of 25 short courses in seven languages, including Hindi, the program covers the core business areas of communications, operations, marketing, and finance. There are also courses on special topics such as effective leadership, energy efficiency, and social entrepreneurship—providing learners with a fully rounded skillset.
Through the HP LIFE program, Bano learned how to set up and run a business successfully, including how to create and maintain company accounts, track expenses, and calculate profit and losses. In short, she learned the practical skills she needed to bring her dream of setting up her own social enterprise to life.
“After I did the course in entrepreneurship and the HP LIFE training, I decided to start working for the weaver community in Barabanki district of Uttar Pradesh,” says Bano. “I roped in Nabila Kidwai as the co-founder and Weavers’ Hut was born.”
The new business enabled the weavers, who were often exploited and subject to caste prejudice, to access a broader more stable market and gave them a wider forum in which to sell their products.
Bano’s hard work setting up Weavers’ Hut was recognized in 2013 when she won the HP LIFE Entrepreneurship Award. The Award was presented to her at that year’s Global Citizen Festival in New York, providing positive exposure for Weavers’ Hut and new business connections for Bano—all vitally important for a growing company. In addition, the award money allowed Bano to buy the first “finishing” machine in the Uttar Pradesh area, enabling the weavers to improve the quality of their finished products and negotiate better rates.
In 2014, Bano graduated from Sussex University in the UK with an MA in Development Studies, while also consolidating and growing her fledgling business.
Over the next three years, the focus of the business evolved. Bano and her team relaunched the company, now known as the Center for Sustainable Livelihoods (CSL), to provide capacity building support and business advice to the weavers. CSL is now an interface that aims to connect weavers to buyers, supporting micro-entrepreneurs to develop their businesses. It also raises awareness of Indian crafts.
Although there has not been an official assessment of the impact of Bano’s work, she has noticed an improvement in the weavers’ lifestyles.
Bano’s story is an inspiration to anyone who is thinking about taking the first steps on their entrepreneurship journey. HP and the HP Foundation are proud that HP LIFE has played such an important part in her story.
“HP LIFE has been an integral part of my entrepreneurial journey,” she says. ‘It helped me develop, improve, and think about the business and IT skills I needed to start and run my social enterprise successfully. I would recommend HP LIFE to anyone who wants to develop their own business and improve the lives of people in their communities.”