Puspa and Sita have been weaving and knitting woolen cloths to make small earnings. Over the years, as word about their quality products and well-knit garments spread far and wide people started approaching them for bigger orders.
This was when Didi Ki Bunai approached the two ladies offering to facilitate them with ‘ease of business’, not only helping them start a ‘formal business of knitting and weaving but also market their products. Didi ki Bunai, has since become a source of empowerment for these village women who make their daily earnings by knitting and weaving cloths.
Puspa and Sita are from Khedawali village in Pinjore block of the Panchkula district of Haryana. The village has made significant progress in terms of women entrepreneurship, thanks to Start-up Village Entrepreneurship Programme (SVEP) – a sub-scheme of the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana – National Rural Livelihoods Mission (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 of Khedawali and other villages in Haryana. The society, supported by the SVEP, provides market linkage and all other support to women entrepreneurs. Didi Ki Bunai was started with the support and training from community resource persons (CRPs) who have become the connecting link between the market and raw material so that entrepreneurs could sustain themselves and grow in future.
The CRPs help them in managing raw material for knitting and other necessary requirements.
“Even though the income was initially small, I felt empowered. I received appreciation for my work,” says Sita.
Sulekha, another resident of Khedagaon, has been engaged in knitting and weaving winter clothes ever since she can remember is connected to the cooperative, “I already knew how to make handcrafted pieces but did not know how to use a machine but after training, I learned how to do it. Now, I stitch from the machine as well as by hand because demands for handmade crafts come, but handmade crafts take plenty of time and it is costly also,” says Sulekha, who took training provided by the SVEP and started her own embryonic business of woolen clothes.
The hard work and commitment of CRPs and entrepreneurs resulted in the transformation of the lives of many village women whose skills are now being fully commercialised.
A field study conducted under a major research project sponsored by Mahatma Gandhi National Council of Rural Education, Union Ministry of Education, highlights success stories of rural women entrepreneurship.
A team of researchers visited Pinjore and met CRPs and SVEP beneficiaries in December 2021. ‘Impact Assessment of SVEP in Haryana’ highlights the success stories and also flagged some limitations. Previously, given the limitation and lack of support, rural entrepreneurship was not at all sustainable. However, with the implementation of the SVEP, there is hope among people and the government has also streamlined the process and practices.
Rural women and their SHGs have started showcasing their business acumen and which has significantly transformed their lives.
SVEP: Empowering Rural Women
The SVEP addresses three major pillars of rural start-ups-finances, incubation and skill ecosystems. Activities under the SVEP 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 setting up rural enterprises.
A mid-term review of the SVEP conducted in September 2019 by the Quality Council of India shows about 75% of the enterprises were owned and managed by women and the average monthly revenue of enterprises was Rs 39,000-47,800 in case of manufacturing, Rs 41,700 in case of services and Rs.36,000 in case of trading. The study also shows that about 57% of the total household income of entrepreneurs is through SVEP enterprises.
“Most women entrepreneurs start an informal business and then struggle to formalise it. I believe projects like Didi ki Bunai will be able to enhance decent work and a safe environment for home-based workers working in such small economic enterprises,” observes CRP Nisha of Khedagaon.
Comprehensive training programmes are organised to upgrade the skills of prospective entrepreneurs, and the existing workforce and also develop skills of new workers and technicians of entrepreneurs by organising various technical cum skill development training programmes.
Jasbir Kaur, a resident of Karanpur Village in Pinjore block, is a SVEP beneficiary and member of Jagriti Women SHG. She also takes orders for knitting and weaving. She took a loan from the SVEP and started her own small business of knitting and weaving winter clothes. She is now able to manage her daughter’s education and home expenses. Even though she has some difficulty in walking, she manages the enterprise, from taking orders to cooking, to delivery, daughter education, maintaining a small farm and other work.
Vandana Kumari of Madavala Village is a member of Aarti Women SHG and SVEP beneficiary. An expert in knitting, she personally selects the yarn for her products after taking input from the clients. The baby booties and other accessories are knitted with baby soft yarn. The home décor knitted products and customized knitted set for the living room furniture are mostly bought by people as gifts for special occasions and to decorate their home. She earns Rs 15,000 to 20,000 per month.
The Way Forward
Didi ki Bunai has inspired rural women to take up similar projects under SVEP. Didi ki Rasoi – A community kitchen for the local workforce has already started. These two projects in the Pinjore block are sustainable and scalable.
It is interesting to note that the majority of entrepreneurs are women and are members of SHGs. All CRPs are women and an inclusive approach would add value to it. Moreover, Non-SHG members should not face any problems in getting the benefits of the SVEP.
The SVEP is all set to transform the lives of rural people and women entrepreneurs have shown their capabilities to lead.
(The authors of the write-up, Dr. Arvind P Arahant, an associate Professor, and Prof. Arvind Kumar, Dean at Atal Bihari Vajpayee School of Management & Entrepreneurship (ABVSME), JNU, New Delhi, are part of a research team who conducted the study)