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Supporting India farmers through social enterprise

  • Communications
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  • Apr 23, 2021
Supporting India farmers through social enterprise

The Gear For Farmers co-founders: (top, l-r) Jasmeet Gill, HBA ’20, and Prabsimran Gill; (bottom) Parmeet Gill.

Even though he lives thousands of kilometres away in Canada, for Jasmeet Gill, HBA ’20, an Account Executive at Procter & Gamble, the plight of farmers in India really hits home.

Many of his extended family members farm in India and have kept him apprised of the ongoing Indian farmers’ protests over new farming laws passed last September. For more than 130 days – since November 2020 – tens of thousands of Indian farmers have been camping out in tents on the outskirts of New Delhi to protest the laws, which they say will deny them a guaranteed minimum wage for their crops. The new laws allow farmers to sell directly to buyers without an intermediary, which the farmers say could drive down prices in periods of low demand. Gill said the protest is a daily conversation topic for his family.

Feeling a deep connection to the farmers through those family ties, Gill set out to support the Indian farmers through a social enterprise called Gear For Farmers that he co-founded along with two other partners.

Showcasing farming family pride

Gear For Farmers sells jackets from the Champion sportswear company emblazoned with the words “Son of a Farmer” or “Daughter of a Farmer,” to the general public. Money raised from sales goes toward non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are providing clean water, medical supplies, and food to farmers at the protest site. Over the winter, the money was also used to buy jackets from suppliers in India that were then donated to the farmers. Gill said money raised from the sale of a single Gear For Farmers jacket is enough to buy three jackets for the Indian farmers.

Since launching in January 2021, Gear For Farmers has raised $12,000 for the cause and donated 900 jackets to farmers. But Gill said raising awareness of the issue is equally important, noting that about 70 per cent of India’s economy is tied to farming either directly or indirectly.

Raising awareness of issues in India

“Small-scale farming is without a doubt the backbone of the Indian economy. I visit India quite often and I’ve seen the farmers’ struggles firsthand – how marginalized and small scale they are … They are so small scale that they don’t have the means or the leverage to negotiate a fair price for their crops,” he said. “I feel a duty to contribute and I want to raise awareness. In the Western world, we don’t see a lot of this news so it’s really important to share what’s going on.”

Gill said the Gear For Farmers initiative has received a lot of positive response and people have told him it’s a great way to ensure there is long-term impact.

“Social enterprises often sell a product and put a percentage of profits toward a cause. People like our approach because they get a keepsake to remember their donation and remind them of the cause,” he said.

In terms of next steps, Gill said he’d like to expand Gear For Farmers’ apparel offerings and shipping areas. Gear For Farmers currently ships jackets within Canada as well as to the U.S. and the U.K.

Although he was inspired to take action because of his family connection, Gill said his Ivey education also played a role in the creation of Gear For Farmers.  

“At Ivey, we talked a lot about ethical leadership – using your tools and knowledge to create positive change,” he said. “With that message and my fundamental business knowledge, creating a social enterprise was the right decision. This was the right cause and the right time.”