The past few years have seen the formation of several new self-help groups (SHGs), mostly made up of women, in the small village of Padavedu, Tiruvannamalai district, Tamil Nadu. Srinivasan Services Trust (SST), the social service arm of TVS Motor Company Ltd and Sundaram Clayton Ltd, enables rural women to provide a basic income for their families and to become self-sufficient. Many SHGs work in weaving baskets from banana fibers, processing honey and turmeric, making nightgowns, and more.
In Tamil Nadu alone, there are 4,000 SHGs supported by SST. For educated women, especially in the aftermath of Covid, these SHGs have given a way out of and out of extreme poverty. Ganga (24), a BSc Chemistry graduate, now a member of SHG, used to work in a chemical factory in MM Nagar, Chennai. She lost her job due to Covid and was forced to return home. She learned the ropes of weaving baskets from banana fibers and now earns a monthly income of ₹8,000.
Ganga, 24, SHG member of banana fiber handicraft unit, Padavedu
Kalai, also 24, worked as a sales clerk in a retail store in Chennai with a monthly salary of ₹12,000 until 2020. She voluntarily quit her job to return to Padavedu, feeling dissatisfied with her job. Although she now earns almost ₹8,000, relatively less, she thinks she made the right decision. “I like this job. I learn and I also teach other women. The cost of living is not high and that is enough. I am in my own village and closer to my people. Soon, we will expand this unit and “export” our baskets all over the world,” she says, joy in her eyes.
Another successful SHG that emerged in 2020 is “Karthika Garment”, a micro-enterprise in the Gangaisoodamani panchayat of the Chetpet block, run by five women, which manufactures and sells babydolls. SHG member Sarala says, “Babydolls always do well here. From little girls to old women, everyone wears nightgowns at home. We did a little survey to find out women’s preferences for durability, quality and design. Since we also wear nightgowns and know what people expect or want, we try to fill this gap.
SST facilitated a loan of ₹1.5 lakh from the Tamil Nadu Rural Transformation Project (TNRTP). From now on, the amount of the loan is sufficient for the operating costs of the unit (machines, electricity bill and purchase of fabric). Women in these SHGs earn a monthly income of ₹2,000 from local sales after paying their monthly dues. They have expansion plans to become a full-scale clothing factory in the near future.
The Javadhu hills just outside Vellore are famous for their honey. A group of twelve tribal women from the village of Shenbagathoppu, known as the Venkatesa Perumal Tribal Women’s SHG, collect raw honey from local honey hunters, which is then heated up to 60 degrees, filtered for floating impurities like pollen , bee stings and dust, cooled off and stored in large containers. It is bottled, labeled, then sent to market.
A SHG of tribal women, supported by SST, processed 1.85 tonnes of wild honey from the Javadhu hills across India
In 2010, seeing the promise, the Tribal Co-operative Marketing Federation of India (TRIFED) provided financial assistance of ₹50,500 for training women in packaging methods. A year later, the Women’s Development Corporation (WDC) provided additional aid of ₹1.25 lakh to purchase the equipment needed to improve the packaging process. Today, Venkatesa Perumal SHG processes and markets approximately 1.85 tonnes of honey across India.
To expand reach and improve sales, all products produced by SHGs across India are now available on an online e-commerce platform called Truly Cottage, launched in 2021. There is also a retail store of the same name in Tirumangalam, Chennai.
“Truly Cottage is the platform for broadcasting all the activities of the self-help groups. Whatever sales we make from the platform go back to self-help groups. We see a huge demand for these authentic products. Over the past year, nearly ₹1 crore has been generated from the sale of SHG products. We want to bring these products to Amazon and Flipkart. We also want to strengthen our presence on social networks and reach more people. We want to grow in phases and I plan to invest ₹50 lakh in such activities this year,” says Singh.
June 29, 2022