Entrepreneurship
Once Poverty-stricken, the women on Paalaguttapalle turned their lives around by making cloth bags, which today have customers all the way in the US, UK and Canada.

There is no pucca road that leads to Paalaguttapalle, a small Dalit hamlet in Andhra’s Chittoor district, or no board to mark Paalaguttapalle’s location – but the cloth bags from this small Dalit hamlet in Andhra’s Chittoor district have reached four different countries.

Paalaguttapalle has faced the brunt of the drought that hit parts of Rayalaseema in 2010-2015. With drought hitting the state, land owners began converting their lands into mangroves. As a result, the locals were left with little or no work. Some of them were forced to migrate to nearby towns and cities in search of work.

At the time, Aparna, a software engineer from Chennai was living in the hamlet and began looking for ways to earn an income. Around three years ago, someone suggested tailoring and making cloth bags and it turned out well.

This was the turning point for the women of Paalaguttapalle. Within days of delivering their first order, several other orders started coming in, thanks to good quality.

Making of Paalaguttapalle bags

Orders for bags come through the Facebook page or through word of mouth. Aparna, along with Lavanya, another volunteer, takes orders on behalf of the women. They then send the order to the group’s common smartphone. The women then gather in their office room, where they store the fabric, cut it into required sizes and take them home to stitch. A few women then travel to the nearest village, Pakala, to parcel it to the given address.

They have now started innovating in terms of type of bags as well. They make tote bags, pouches, car pouches, school bags, carry bags, among others. Their latest innovation is the vegetable bag, which has pouches inside the bag to compartmentalise different vegetables.

Today, the women are earning about Rs 5,000-6,000 each a month, which, they say, helps them lead a decent life, giving them enough to educate their children.

With the help of another volunteer Lavanya, they are now building an e-commerce website to be able to reach a larger audience.

With just word of mouth and social media, the women today get orders almost every day and have even catered to clients in the US, UK and Canada.

Aparna and the volunteers are now planning to register this small enterprise as a self-help group or open a trust in their name so the savings go there.

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