Meet Shilpa, Telangana entrepreneur who runs a sericulture unit powered by local women

The 44-year-old entrepreneur, N Shilpa, is supported by the Telangana government-led incubator WeHub, which aims to promote and foster entrepreneurial skills among women.
We Hub Shilpa in her sericulture unit
We Hub Shilpa in her sericulture unit
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In the remote village of Thimmapuram, located 18 km away from Suryapet district in Telangana, around 50 local residents, mostly women, produce at least 50 kilograms of silk per day in a sericulture unit. Once they have a significant collection at hand, they send the produce to Bengaluru, Pochampalli, Jangaon and other places, where the silk gets reshaped into beautiful sarees. The unit is operated by a woman entrepreneur, 44-year-old N Shilpa, a BSc Computer Science graduate who has been associated with the Telangana government’s WeHub (Women Entrepreneurs Hub) since 2019. A state-led incubator that aims to promote and foster entrepreneurial skills among women, WeHub has been training her in financial management, communication skills, and other entrepreneurial requirements. 

Hailing from an agricultural background, with her family owning around 40 acres of land, Shilpa says she always wanted to do business associated with farming. “In the village of Nandyalaguda, I have seen farmers grow silkworms and produce good yields of cocoons. This drew my interest towards silkworms and silk production,” says Shilpa, who was in the saree resale business for about 14 years before becoming a silk entrepreneur. “I initially used to buy sarees from Pochampalli and other such places and sell them in Suryapet.”

With her daughter leaving home to pursue her higher education, silk production came as a second innings to Shilpa. She soon started researching the industry, only to come to the realisation that there were not enough people working in silk production, and that the presence of women entrepreneurs in the field was near zero. She also learned that the state and Union governments are providing subsidies to purchase machinery for those who have experience in the field. 

“After attaining training through the Central Silk Board in Mysuru, we started silkworm rearing through chawki centres (where the first two stages of silkworm rearing happens). Within a few years we were able to produce 80-90% yield, which gave us the opportunity to avail high-end machinery. That’s how we set up our own unit in 2014,” says Shilpa. She soon started to hire local residents to aid her in her dream project, a number that gradually grew to 50 over the next few years. 

By 2020, Shilpa obtained an automatic reeling machine (ARM) imported from China, given to her under 75% subsidy by the Telangana state and Union governments. “Until then, there was only one such machine in Jangaon in Telangana. This machine takes care of everything, and mechanises the process of reeling silk from cocoons,” says Shilpa. The ARM is worth around Rs 1.5 crore. It was with the savings she had obtained through her saree business and her family’s help that Shilpa bought the machine. 

“When in business, especially when women are the decision makers regarding huge investments, the risks are higher. So are the doubts. When I decided to buy the automatic reeling machine, everyone was asking me if it was necessary for me to deal with such a high-budget investment. I was privy to a lot of such concerns, but I wanted to prove myself. I toiled hard with my fellow workers, whom I have trained, and now we are happy and earning. I always believe that if we stay strong, then the business would be strong too,” she says.

Shilpa adds that a strong willpower is necessary for women who want to do business. “Even if we make a small mistake, people including our own family members will always be ready to magnify it.” She is next planning to obtain a thread twisting machine that converts silk into two-ply, three-ply, etc — a measure that determines the quality of silk sarees.


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