Eighty - the number of student entrepreneurs in Sai Krishna Public School, Chenkal. Five hundred - the number of bars of soap their ‘unit’ produces a month on an average. Fifteen thousand - the amount in rupees that was their estimated turnover for the past year. And the latest, 2,000 - the amount in dollars the school got as prize money after becoming the Asia Pacific Regional winner in the 2013 School Enterprise Challenge, which is a global competition conducted by a London-based NGO open to all formal educational institutes where they are expected to develop a business.
Having learnt of the challenge in an article that appeared in these columns last March, the school decided to go for it. After teachers and students submitted their various ideas for a business project, it was finally decided to go with soap-making.
This was after having ‘evaluated the competition market, potential customers, safety and benefit of the product and production process, feasibility in terms of the school’s resources, suitability of the project for children in 10-14 age group and learning potential of the project for students and teachers,’ as the school’s business project report stated.
“Once this was settled upon, the students and teachers involved in the project visited a soap-manufacturing unit to learn about the process,” said school manager S Mohanakumaran Nair.
“The management gave a sum of Rs 10,000 as start-up capital. But this sum they have repaid and also managed a profit of around Rs 5,600.”
The ‘hand-crafted soaps with pure coconut oil base and sandalwood perfume’ are sold at Rs 7 (for a 30 gm bar) and at Rs 42 (for a 125 gm bar), at a roughly 40 per cent profit. The production having started in September last year, these were sold both within the school and without. Parents, visitors to the school exhibition and guests at the Uday Samudra hotel became their clients.
“Foreign tourists at the hotel would even buy the larger soaps to take back with them,” Nair said.
For the students, the project served as a ‘hands-on experience of managing their own business’ and to use the skills they learnt in their Chemistry and Maths classes.
“The students and teachers involved keep an account book where they record the sales and keep tabs on production of the soaps,” Nair said.
To ensure that there was no conflict with academics, two hours were set aside per week for the soap production and two Saturday mornings for packaging and other topics related to entrepreneurial issues.
The other topics - saponification, computer skills, English, health awareness, local products and design - were integrated into the regular study plan, the report said.
The profit from the sales and prize money will go to the benefit of poorer students in the school and help pay for their tuition, Nair added.