Rang De Entrepreneur Success Story: Saraswati Devi

April 5, 2012
By Rang De Team

From our Field Partner, Udyogini

Saraswati Devi is a disadvantaged woman social entrepreneur who overcame all odds to build an enterprise that is of direct benefit to the community and herself.

Saraswati Devi being felicitated for her achievements

Saraswati Devi is a simple, yet sharp 30-year old woman of Gambharia Village in Bundu Block, Ranchi district. Almost 70% of the population in Bundu is dependent on Agriculture which in turn, is totally dependent on the monsoon owing to the lack of irrigation facilities. Hence, the villagers are engaged only for about six months in a year. The condition of the women is more vulnerable because of the lack of resources and knowledge. They help the men during agriculture season but are otherwise only involved in household work. Delayed monsoon and sudden rise and fall in temperature have added to the difficulties of the villagers.

In an effort to help support her family, Saraswati joined “Adivasi Mahila Samuh” a Women Enterprise Group, and enrolled in the “Udyogini School of Entrepreneurship” (USE) by paying a nominal fee. She showed a keen interest to learn and aspired to become an “Entrepreneur” to earn for her family. She didn’t allow any hindrance to hold her back and she took the pains to travel 8 kms by foot every alternate day to attend the sessions at 8:00am in the morning. Despite the ample amount of work at home, she managed to finish it early and attend the training sessions on time. Being in a patriarchal society, many tried to destroy the confidence of this brave lady by making comments on her daily outings but her determination helped her overcome such hurdles.

Saraswati Devi procuring Lac

During her training, Saraswati learnt basic mathematics, Hindi and how to conduct herself in a group. She picked up essential business skills required to successfully run an enterprise such as inventory management and customer satisfaction. She is able to calculate her profits and losses and even do market surveys for any of the new products she wishes to introduce in her VLSC. She also learnt important life skills which have redeemed her from a state of submissiveness. She often sings a verse from her lessons with a smile “tu bolegi, muh kholegi, tabhi to zamana badlega” (“You’ll speak up, will open your mouth, that’s when the world will change”). Saraswati feels that her world has indeed changed with her newfound courage and independence.

Saraswati Devi was sanctioned a loan amount of Rs. 8000 from Rang De. She established her VLSC in October 2010 with the loan and an additional Rs. 5000 from her personal savings. She became a proud entrepreneur and her venture was immensely successful. From her success, she developed confidence and gained popularity in her village.

In February 2011, during an MSME (Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprise) workshop organized by Udyogini, in front of a crowd of over a 100 people including men from different villages, this transformed lady was the one who spoke up and raised a new business idea of detergent-making in the village SHGs (Self Help Groups) and linking their sale with VLSCs. This shows the kind of confidence she had developed after just a few months of running her enterprise. She has also created a benchmark for other VLSCs and is an example for the new trainees of USE.

After witnessing her abilities, achievements and popularity, the Gram Panchatayat chose her VLSC as a rural library for keeping books related to the Adult Literacy Program. They also appointed her as a teacher at the night school running in this library for which she is receiving a small income.

Saraswati’s achievements featured in the media

In February 2012, she was felicitated by a state level minister, at an event organized by a leading national daily Dainik Jagran for her innovation, skills and contribution to the society through the VLSC. This felicitation program was chaired by the Honorable Governor of Jharkhand. Saraswati Devi’s achievements also appeared in local newspapers. She has been now nominated for the “Anita Sen Memorial Award”. This award attempts to felicitate women/groups who have the courage to chase their dreams and also contribute to the society.

More Media Coverage

In the past, Saraswati Devi was a simple village woman involved in daily household chores and looking after her family members, yet not receiving her due share of respect. She faced difficult circumstances throughout her life and her endeavours were often met with resistance. She undertook her venture with sincerity, determination and courage to overcome all the hurdles that came her way. Today, she has grown as an individual reflecting the self-confidence that has grown within her. She now interacts with the people around her with ease and feels confident enough to speak up about family matters as well. She feels, “ab ghar ka sara jarurat asani se pura ho pata hi. Main apni beti ko bhi bahut padana chahti hun aaur desh ka accha nagrik banana chahti hun.” (“Now, the needs of the home are easily met. I want to (highly) educate my daughter and also want to become a good citizen.”)

Saraswati Devi’s Journey:

Note: Village Level Service Centers (VLSCs) are ‘village level market and livelihood hubs’ with identified and researched growth potential in particular sectors/products around which new entrepreneurs can be mobilized. Essentially, VLSCs are small stores run by rural women to provide essential retail commodities such as cooking provisions, detergents, stationery and toiletries, for village level consumption. VLSCs serve as anchors in the rural value chain which not only provide the daily domestic needs of the villagers at their door step as and when required but also function as the aggregation centre for village produce such as value-added lac and other produce for distant markets. A VLSC also acts as a community service centre (for providing services like insurance, health, etc.)

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