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Students become cotton farmers to learn about enterprise cotton factory

Students work with Indian cotton farmers

16th April 2015

Two students from Barking & Dagenham College have returned from a trip of a lifetime, where they got to experience life as cotton farmers in India. The students visited India last month after winning the Pantrepreneur Challenge last year.

First prize

The Challenge is a national student enterprise competition organised by the Gazelle Colleges Group and fair trade underwear brand, Pants to Poverty. The students, who were members of a team named ‘A Pants Company’ beat off competition from over 600 other students from across the UK in the bid to market, promote and sell ethically sourced, designer pants. A Pants Company received the first prize – a trip to India - after managing to sell over £4,000 worth of stock and winning over judges with an impressive presentation about their company.

Life as a cotton farmer

During the 17 day visit the students got to not only meet the farmers that supply the cotton to Pants to Poverty, they actually lived and worked alongside the farmers, giving them first-hand experience of what life as a cotton farmer is like. Living in the farming community near Bangalore, the students had the chance to work in the cotton fields and in the factory where the pants are made. Daily life even included milking the local cows!


It was an experience that has changed the students’ lives. Team member Phillip Newbury, 22, from Romford, who is studying animation at the College, said:

“Getting to live and work with the local people was an amazing opportunity. We got to learn so much not just about the fair trade industry but also about India’s culture and business ethics. The villagers were so welcoming and kind to us and I’m so grateful we had the chance to visit such an amazing country.”

In addition to cotton farming, the students also visited Mumbai where they went to a local university and gave a presentation to over 200 students about the Pantrepreneur Challenge as part of the university’s conference on green fashion. There was also time to visit the slums of Mumbai which the students found inspiring.

As fellow team mate Roy Mugera, 21, from Dagenham, who studied business studies at the College adds:

“It was incredible to experience life in the Mumbai slums. We also got to see first-hand how businesses work. From bread makers, to dress making to collecting waste, it was truly inspirational to see how people work in these areas and make the most of the resources around them.”

Adnan Mahmood, Chief Entrepreneurial Leader at Barking & Dagenham College, who accompanied the students on their journey said:

“The trip was incredible. It gave the students a chance to see how entrepreneurism can work anywhere.

"Despite circumstances, there is always opportunity to be entrepreneurial, and it’s certainly inspired the students in their own business ideas and I hope will lead them to inspire other students at the College.”

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