Puspa and Sita weave and knit woolen cloths to earn a small income. Over the years, as word of their quality products and well-knit garments spread, people began to approach them for larger orders.
It was then that Didi Ki Bunai approached the two ladies offering to facilitate the “ease of business” for them, not only helping them start a “formal knitting and weaving business, but also marketing their products”. Didi ki Bunai, has since become a source of empowerment for these village women who earn their living by knitting and weaving fabrics.
Puspa and Sita are from Khedawali village in Pinjore block of Panchkula district in Haryana. The village has made significant progress in terms of female entrepreneurship, thanks to the Startup Village Entrepreneurship Program (SVEP) – a sub-programme of the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana – National Mission for Rural Livelihoods (DAY -NRLM).
Didi Ki Bunai (literally translated as Knitting by Sisters), a cooperative society established with several Self Help Groups (SHGs) has transformed the lives of women in Khedawali and other villages in Haryana. The company, supported by the SVEP, provides market linkages and other support to women entrepreneurs. Didi Ki Bunai started with the support and training of Community Resource Persons (CRPs) who became the link between the market and the raw material so that the entrepreneurs could support themselves and grow in the future.
The CRPs help them manage the raw material for knitting and other necessary needs.
“Even though the income was initially low, I felt empowered. I was appreciated for my work,” says Sita.
Sulekha, another resident of Khedagaon, has been knitting and weaving winter clothes since she remembers being linked to the cooperative: “I already knew how to make handicrafts but I didn’t know how to use a machine but after training , I learned to do it. Now, I sew by machine as well as by hand because the requests for handicrafts come in, but handicrafts are very time-consuming and also expensive,” says Sulekha, who has undergone training from SVEP. and launched his own embryonic wool clothing business.
The hard work and commitment of CRPs and entrepreneurs has transformed the lives of many village women whose skills are now fully commercialized.
A field study conducted as part of a major research project sponsored by Mahatma Gandhi’s National Council for Rural Education, Union Ministry of Education, sheds light on the success stories of women’s entrepreneurship in rural environment.
A team of researchers visited Pinjore and met with CRPs and SVEP beneficiaries in December 2021. “Evaluation of the impact of SVEP in Haryana” highlights successes and also flagged some limitations . Previously, given the limitation and lack of support, rural entrepreneurship was not sustainable at all. However, with the implementation of SVEP, there is hope among the people and the government has also streamlined the process and practices.
Rural women and their self-help groups began to show their business acumen, which dramatically transformed their lives.
SVEP: empowering rural women
The SVEP addresses three major pillars of rural start-ups: financing, incubation and skills ecosystems. SVEP activities are strategically designed to promote rural enterprises, one of the key areas is to develop a pool of Community Resource Persons – Enterprise Promotion (CRP-EP) who are local and support entrepreneurs who are setting up rural enterprises.
A mid-term review of the SVEP conducted in September 2019 by the Quality Council of India shows that about 75% of businesses were owned and managed by women and the average monthly business income was Rs 39,000-47,800 in case of manufacture, 41,700 rupees. in case of services and Rs.36,000 in case of commerce. The study also shows that around 57% of the entrepreneurs’ total household income comes from SVEP businesses.
“Most female entrepreneurs start an informal business and then struggle to formalize it. I believe that projects like Didi ki Bunai can improve decent work and a safe environment for home-based workers working in such small economic enterprises,” observes CRP Nisha from Khedagaon.
Comprehensive training programs are organized to improve the skills of potential contractors and the existing workforce, as well as to develop the skills of new workers and technicians of contractors by organizing various technical training and skills development programs .
Jasbir Kaur, a resident of Karanpur village in Pinjore block, is a beneficiary of SVEP and a member of Jagriti Women SHG. She also takes orders for knitting and weaving. She took out a loan from SVEP and started her own small business knitting and weaving winter clothes. She is now able to manage her daughter’s school and household expenses. Although she has some difficulty walking, she manages the business, from taking orders, cooking, delivering, raising the girls, maintaining a small farm and other jobs.
Vandana Kumari from Madavala village is a member of Aarti Women SHG and beneficiary of SVEP. An expert in knitting, she personally selects the yarn for her products after consulting with customers. Baby booties and other accessories are knitted with soft baby yarn. Knitted products for home decor and custom knitted sets for living room furniture are mainly purchased by people as gifts for special occasions and to decorate their homes. She earns Rs 15,000 to 20,000 per month.
The path to follow
Didi ki Bunai inspired rural women to undertake similar projects under SVEP. Didi ki Rasoi – A community kitchen for local labor has already started. These two projects in the Pinjore block are sustainable and scalable.
Interestingly, the majority of entrepreneurs are women and are members of SHG. All CRPs are women and an inclusive approach would add value. Additionally, non-SHG members should have no problem getting SVEP benefits.
The SVEP is ready to transform the lives of rural populations and the women entrepreneurs have shown their capacities to lead.
(Editorial authors Dr. Arvind P Arahant, Associate Professor, and Prof. Arvind Kumar, Dean, Atal Bihari Vajpayee School of Management & Entrepreneurship (ABVSME), JNU, New Delhi, are part of a team of research that conducted the study)