Neichute Doulo

Entrepreneurs Associates

Entrepreneurs Associates (EA) nurtures and supports the growth of first generation entrepreneurs in the politically turbulent and economically disadvantaged North-eastern region of India.
Focus: Micro Entrepreneurship, Employment
Geographic Area of Impact: India
Model: Hybrid Non-Profit
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 4,500 (2016)
Annual Budget: USD $600,000 (2016)
Percentage Earned Revenue: 45% (2016)
The Social Problem
Nagaland, a State in the northeastern part of India, has experienced insurgency and inter-ethnic conflict since the 1950s. Such long turbulence and insecurity has significantly limited its economic development, placed a burden on its economic resources and constrained employment opportunities for its youth. Lack of advanced education facilities coupled with a near absence of industries create an overwhelming dependence on government jobs. Young people who make their way to the Indian mainland in search of better careers are often subject to racial discrimination, low salaries, and exploitative working conditions. With tribal law preventing most Nagas from mortgaging their land as collateral for loans and banks shying away from extended loans, entrepreneurship is not seen as an attractive career choice.
Innovation and Activities
Set up in 2000, Entrepreneurs Associates (EA) promotes entrepreneurship as a viable alternative to government jobs and a tool for peace building. Despite working in a highly resource constrained environment, EA has successfully laid the foundations of a vibrant entrepreneurship ecosystem in Nagaland. The challenges being tackled are massive and systemic: lack of financial literacy, access to finance, enterprise management skills and most importantly, a culture that is highly risk-averse.
EA’s direct operations are managed through three distinct legal entities:
–– EATACOL, a thrift and credit society promoting savings and credit among unbanked Naga households, reducing their reliance on government subsidies.
–– EA, a nonprofit training Naga youth on enterprise management skills through customized training modules, and
–– GSL, a non-banking finance company extending loans of USD 3,000 to USD 35,000 to entrepreneurs.
To maximize its impact, EA complements its direct operations with partnerships with key systemic actors: the Nagaland government, commercial banks, and community organizations such as churches and schools. Recognizing the importance of EA’s work, the state government announced 2010 as the “year of the entrepreneur” and launched statewide campaigns and events turning school and college campuses into Motivation grounds for entrepreneurs. EA’s efforts have also gained credibility and support among the public. EA raised USD3 million in donations through crowdfunding campaigns.
Since its inception, over 60,000 Nagas have participated in EA’s awareness building events and over 4,500 have set up successful enterprises that have in turn created over 17,000 new jobs in the region. In partnership with commercial banks, EA has channelled over USD 30 million in bank loans to Naga households, an amount that is 36 times its own budget. EA is now focused on expansion within Nagaland and to neighbouring Myanmar. In a first of its kind partnership, the government has invited EA to set up and manage its Startup Village Entrepreneurship program that aims to create 4800 new enterprises.
The Entrepreneur
Trained in economics, Neichute first experimented with “food for work” and similar programs before realising that the Naga society needs a fundamental cultural change in their attitudes towards financial management, work and self-reliance. In 2000, when he was 28 years old, Neichute Doulo left his job as a teacher to found EA and received the Ashoka Fellowship the same year.