The economic prosperity of a nation may be determined by several factors – but the inclusion of women in the workforce is a game-changer. While urban women are consistently defying stereotypes and moving up the corporate ladder, their counterparts in rural India are equal participants in this new-age revolution. As per an article by NITI Aayog, women are extensively engaged in activities pertaining to agriculture and the allied sector. “Moreover, the workforce participation rate for rural women is significantly higher at 41.8% against the urban women participation rate of 35.31%,” revealed the piece.
While there is an increasing number of women who are looking for avenues to challenge the status quo, there are several impediments that creep into their journeys. From lack of social empowerment to financial instability and the absence of technical skills – the reasons are many, yet there are some shining examples of rural women entrepreneurs who have broken out of the mould.
Let’s find out a little more about them.
J. Kalavathi may seem to be another ordinary woman from Tamil Nadu’s Ariyalur village, but she’s no less than a celebrity. J. Kalavathi is the first woman entrepreneur from her village, who has set out on the path of creating an integrated farming system on her own steam. Apart from dairy, she has trained her sights on developing her mushroom farm, which will produce mushroom powder mixes and a vermicompost farm.
While J.Kalavathi wanted to pursue her education, her dream was shattered when she was married at an early age. As someone who hails from an agricultural family, she reared cattle for a living (in the absence of choice) – but over a period of time, it turned into her passion.
“Eventually, I wanted to set up a dairy farm. Since we were struggling with finances, I would sell cows to get enough money for our children’s education. But these circumstances did not shatter my determination. Being the first woman entrepreneur from my village wasn’t easy – I faced several struggles, economically and socially,” she revealed.
She says she owes much to the Britannia Marie Gold MyStartup Contest which helped bring her dreams to life. With the initial capital she received as one of the contest winners, her business has grown by leaps and bounds – from having two cows, she now owns eight cows in a new sophisticated cowshed.
“I also plan to initiate the production of curd, ghee, paneer, and other items from milk, as well as certain products from mushrooms. Through this crowdfunding initiative, I wish to provide jobs to many women who work hard for their families and help in their upliftment,” she added.
It is said that your environment influences your thinking, and shapes you as a person! Such has been the case with Madhu Nachammai, who hails from Trichy. Her hometown is also known as the ‘land of bananas’ – but what she realised is how a large quantity of this fruit would end up in rubbish heaps each day (as a result of unsold surplus at wholesale markets). It was her discomfort with this wastage that led her to come up with an alternate use.
“I was always interested in skincare and wanted to do something with native products. That’s when I started to research several articles and figured that banana peels are a great solution for several skincare woes. I also visited the ICAR National Research Centre for Bananas and pitched my idea; this is where the scientists assisted me in developing my idea into a product,” she revealed.
When she launched her product, it wasn’t easy to penetrate into a small town like Trichy. But that’s when she took the help of the audio platform Clubhouse, which was a rage during the pandemic. It is on the app that she interacted with other entrepreneurs. Over a period of time, she was more skilled – it is around the same time that she also learned about Britannia’s Marie Gold MyStartup Contest that helped her with funding her business two years ago. With the seed funding she received as one of the winners of the contest, Madhu could finally kickstart her venture.
“I’ve spent a huge amount of time developing this product and I want everyone to know about my product and my brand. Also, if you visit Palani, you might witness a lot of banana peel waste. Those peels can be a huge help to me, but I don’t have the bandwidth to execute it,” shared Madhu, while revealing that Nykaa CEO Falguni Nayar is her role model.
Support rural women entrepreneurs
Britannia Marie Gold launched the MyStartup Contest in 2019 to identify female entrepreneurial talent in the country. Top 10 business ideas won INR 10 lakh each to start their businesses. Season 1 had 1 million entries and the ensuing seasons 2 and 3 drew in an even better response. 40,000+ women received training via upskilling programmes, 30 women received prize money from Britannia and 10+ successful initiatives were created.
This year, the fourth edition of the contest places the spotlight on the homemaker, projecting her as the beacon of empowerment. While these remarkable women have started their businesses with the seed capital, they need more to let them soar higher. We can support their endeavours simply by participating in the crowdfunding initiative. Simply by buying a pack of Britannia Marie Gold, scanning the QR code on it and reading about these women will inspire you to be an active part of their entrepreneurial journeys. Let’s be the wind beneath their wings and help give shape to their ambitions!
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