Vijayalakshmi, Kanchana and Chamundeswari belong to Hand in Hand India’s Sri Kanchi Kamakshi Self-Help Group (SHG). This SHG was started in the year 2007 with 16 members. A little after its inception, the organisation provided these women the opportunity to get trained in paper-bag making. This was part of the skill training imparted by Hand in Hand to help make these SHG women self-reliant. The trio were among seven members in the SHG to make use of this opportunity.
Soon after the training, the seven of them decided that it would be good to start a group enterprise together in making paper bags. They set up Sri Kanchi Kamakshi Paper Bag Unit, pooling in the INR 100 each member received as a stipend during the training.
They slowly developed their enterprise with the help of loans from internal group savings, Grameen loan from Hand in Hand India and bank loans through the linkages provided by the organisation. They value the availability of such microcredits, with low interest rates, that has helped them immensely in strengthening their enterprise over a period of time.
Today, from making just paper-bags, the group makes files and cake-bases. For the last three years, this enterprise has been giving them a steady income. They also give employment now to at least twelve more women on a daily-wage basis as per requirement/order.
Being a group enterprise, Vijayalakshmi says, has its own advantages. “We were homemakers before starting this enterprise. The responsibility of running a family falls on our shoulders. There have been many instances where each of us might have been held up by some work at home or illness. During such times, the other members do extra work to compensate for the absence. Without that kind of a support, our enterprise would have suffered.” Kanchana adds, “Sometimes when one of us feel disappointed about the returns or feel demotivated, the other pulls us up and encourages us. This kind of motivation helped us, especially in the first year, when we saw no returns from the enterprise.” “This kind of job was ideal for us homemakers who cannot think of doing a 9-to-5 job,” adds Chamundeshwari.
Although from the seven-member team it is now a three-member team, today, this unit has been a success story to the women involved. They look forward to improving the business and give employment opportunities to many more women around them.