Change is possible: Rural women entrepreneurs share success stories at Andhra's craft bazaar

From running an eco-friendly bag unit to making Putharekulu, more rural women are starting their entrepreneurial journeys.
Change is possible: Rural women entrepreneurs share success stories at Andhra's craft bazaar
Change is possible: Rural women entrepreneurs share success stories at Andhra's craft bazaar
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"If we are ready to think inventively and do hard work, change is possible," says PV Dhanalaxmi, who hails from Ganguluru village in Krishna District. 
On Sunday afternoon, 48-year-old Dhanalaxmi was busy showcasing handloom sarees at the Vijayawada Saras-2017, a 12-day craft bazaar that was organised by the Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP). SERP is a wing of the Department of Rural Development at Vijayawada.

Aditya Self Help Group (SHG), of which Dhanalaxmi is a member, received Rs 5 lakhs to start a collective saree weaving unit in 2016 under the Chandranna Cheyutha scheme, a state government scheme under which rural women can get loans.  
The start was rough with Dhanalaxmi facing challenges in marketing her products. However, soon the products started getting good publicity in her locality and today, she says, the 10-member SHG has a profit of Rs 50,000 per month. 
"I have two kids who are pursuing professional courses in medical colleges. I have been a part of the SHG for 12 years and the schemes and assistance has helped me a lot," she says.

For many women who are part of SHGs, self-employment is not a full-time job. They also have to work in the fields, apart from also taking part of household chores. 
Putharekulu is a famous sweet from Athreya Puram in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh. Sugar or jaggery, along with nuts, is spread on a thin film of rice sheet and then sealed with ghee.
Yatham Laxmi, who is a part of a 10-member SHG, makes Rs 6000-7000 every month by spending four to five hours regularly to make the lip-smacking dish.
Her group recently got a Rs 1 lakh loan through the Development Of Women And Children In Rural Areas's (DWCRA) Chandranna Cheyutha scheme.
Of the several success stories that were showcased at SERP, one was of Ch Gayathri of Vizag.
Gayathri started an eco-friendly jute hand bag unit with her savings of Rs 1,50,000 in 2015. Today, she is an employer to six people. 

"We use degradable plastic to make water resistant bags and the sales are not bad. However, selling eco-friendly products needs a certain amount of awareness among the consumers," she says. 

While she was making Rs 3.5 lakh per year, she expects the government to arrange "jute banks" in the state to provide raw materials so that the cost of production is reduced. 

Gayatri is soon set to start her second unit in Vijayawada and wants too enter online sales as well.
Exhibitors from outside Andhra, who too have benefited from similar state government schemes, also took part in the 12-day craft bazaar.
Thirty-year-old S Anitha Rajaram, who came to the expo from Gadag in Karnataka, started a handloom unit after pooling in her savings along with getting a loan of Rs 60,000.
While thanking the government for hosting the event and giving full assistance to exhibitors, Anitha says they are making a decent living. 
"Getting labour is sometimes difficult. But if we work patiently, the results are not bad. We roughly make Rs 20000 profit per month," she says. 
Even as online shopping soars across the country, and is opening up new avenues for businesspersons, Anitha's husband Rajaram is skeptical of the medium. 
"It hasn't yet reached rural areas completely. We have been approached by some but we chose not to collaborate. It is because they will pay us less for our products and make profits themselves," he states.

The expo showcased a variety of handicraft items made by women across the country. A variety of products ranging from food items to footwear were exhibited and sold at the 306 stalls set up there.
Briefing on the expo, SERP State Junior Project Executive officer NSR Murthy said, "The government has bore the cost of accommodation and hosting the event. And this has not gone in vain. Sales from just one week were Rs 4.2 crores."

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