Varanasi: Although the total lockdown to battle against COVID-19 has brought the entire nation at a halt, but it failed to make scores of young and energetic entrepreneurs to sit idle at their homes.
These entrepreneurs from diverse spheres have taken another route to carry on the promotional activities by holding meetings, not with physical presence but through online.
They are the members of the local chapters of BNI (Business Network International), an American franchised networking organization with around 254,206+ members in 8,968+ local chapters worldwide. BNI provides a structured and supportive system of giving and receiving business. It does so by providing an environment in which one develops personal relationships with dozens of other qualified business professionals. By establishing this “formal” relationship with other people, one will have the opportunity to substantially increase his business.
BNI India is believed to be the country’s largest and most successful business networking organisation. It offers its members the opportunity to share ideas, contacts, and most importantly, business referrals.
In Varanasi too, there many chapters of BNI including Innovate, Shine, Prosper, Abundance and Benchmark. “Well before the commencement of lockdown we started holding online meeting from March 17,” said Architect Rohit Gupta, the secretary of BNI INNOVATE. An online meeting of around 1500 members was held on Thursday.
Local BNI chapters arrange weekly meetings for people from various industries, in order to encourage the building of relationships and the passing of referrals. Members mostly consist of small business owners but medium and large organisations are also represented.
Functioning of BNI
In general, chapter meetings follow the same basic structure. Once the meeting is called to order by the Chapter President, initial announcements are presented by leadership, an educational piece is usually presented on how to improve networking and referral skills. Each member is then given between 45-60 seconds to present a weekly commercial for their business, in which they request referrals or otherwise discuss what sort of business they are looking for.
Guests and prospective members are then encouraged to tell the chapter about their business and what they do to provide value to the chapter. Frequently, chapters will either vote on the best commercial given that week, or permit the previous week’s winner to make the selection. Then one member each week gives a 10-minute presentation, which is a more in-depth version of the commercials, going into detail as to what services their business performs or what products they offer, their education, training & experience, and specific referrals they are looking for to help grow their business.
During the commercials and presentations, a binder filled with the business cards of current members is passed around, permitting current members to take cards and pass them to potential clients, and for guests & visitors to take as well. Only inducted members are permitted to place cards in the binder.
Once the presentation is completed, each member is then given a chance to pass out referrals, testimonials to other members of the chapter, and “Thank You For Closed Business”, in which a previously passed referral is concluded and has generated revenue for their business. These can be done either online via the BNI Connect app, the BNI website, or in person at the meeting. These are recorded to keep track of how many referrals are passed, and how much business the chapter has generated for its members throughout the year.
Visitors that wish to join are permitted to attend up to two meetings, after which they are required to submit a membership application if they wish to attend further meetings. Once they become a member, they are permitted up to three absences in a rolling six-month period. If a member obtains 4 or more absences during that time period, they are removed from the group, and the profession/category becomes open for new members to fill.