Tangy pickles plus empowerment: This project has a tasty recipe for women's rights

The Hudli Project aims to create sustainable employment for women by helping sell the pickles made by them.
Tangy pickles plus empowerment: This project has a tasty recipe for women's rights
Tangy pickles plus empowerment: This project has a tasty recipe for women's rights
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Hudli in Karnataka's Belagavi district is one of the thousands of faceless, nondescript villages that dot India's rural landscape. 

In fact so little is known about this village that Google directs most search results to Hubballi, the state's second largest city. 

With an estimated population of 7,000, Hudli also is struggling with an issue that plagues numerous villages across the country- large scale migration to cities due to poverty and unemployment. 

An initiative started by three men from Bengaluru hopes to reverse this trend by creating employment, that is both productive and sustainable, in the village- starting with the women. 

The Hudli Project aims to "create guaranteed employment for at least 100 women for an entire year (or longer) by creating demand for the pickles made by the Khadigram". Khadi grams are co-operative not-for-profit organisations that work towards providing rural employment through cottage industries. 

Till last year, Amit Vadavi, Adarsh Muthana and Pronoy Roy used to work in a data analytics company at ITPL in Bengaluru. Among other things, the firm used analytics to provide solutions to businesses including how to reduce prices of products and increase sales. 

Amit's great-grandfather was a follower of Mahatma Gandhi at Sabarmati Ashram and it is said that Gandhi himself had come to inaugurate the khadi gram at Hudli in the late 1930s. So when Amit's grandfather, who lives in Belagavi, suggested him to visit Hudli and check out the khadi gram, where a number of products like pickles, papads, soaps, khadi garments are manufactured, he decided to make the journey. 

After leaving their jobs, the trio decided to help create employment in the region and chose the khadi gram's handmade pickle industry. 

"The other units have men working in them. The pickle factory however only has women employees, 25 of them at present. We want to increase it to 125. It will be an employment-cum-women-empowerment project," says Adarsh. 

The project is based on a subscription model- each of 12 and 18 months respectively, under which two 250 gm jars of pickle will be sent to the customer every month. 

Adarsh explains that they zeroed in on a subscription-based model "because the demand for products can fluctuate" and thus affect employment. Subscription helps to eliminate job uncertainty along with keeping operational and marketing costs low.

While mango, lemon and mixed vegetables are their most popular pickles, maagaali roots and chilli are some of the other variants. To those thinking whether two bottles of pickles a month will be too much, Adarsh stresses that the bottles are smaller than the standard size and can easily be consumed in full by families. 

The Hudli Project hopes to expand its network, so that if successful, it can be replicated in other villages of the country too.

"We are not selling pickles here, but are selling employment. Tomorrow we could move to khadi and day after to papads. We are just focused on generating employment," he states. 

Before launching the project, all the three went to Hudli and spoke to the people, including the panchayat. "Men are mostly farmers there, and women also at times join men in the field work. However, there's not enough work for all of them all the time. So they migrate to Belagavi during off-seasons. Kids are also pulled out of schools and help parents in their work," Adarsh says. 

So when they approached the villagers with the idea of the Hudli project, they "seemed to be sceptical and unsure". Adarsh says they are trying to brand the project better and are hoping that the results will change mindsets eventually. 

"The smallest," he states, "most anonymous, part of your meal, can provide employment to so many."

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