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Aatmanirbhar India: How technology is helping women in villages to be independent

Technology has given millions of people all across the globe a means to earn their livelihood and be independent. Many of these people come from small towns and villages in India, where pay is meagre and life is extremely difficult.

Vijaya Deshmukh, Vidya Kirve, Tahira Bagwan and Anjana Bhise are women hailing from small villages in Maharashtra.
Vijaya Deshmukh, Vidya Kirve, Tahira Bagwan and Anjana Bhise are women hailing from small villages in Maharashtra. (Pixabay)

Technology is one of the greatest boons of modern times. It has not only brought the world closer but it has also made the world a healthier place to live. Besides making the world a better place, technology has given millions of people all across the globe a means to earn their livelihood and be independent.

Many of these people come from small towns and villages in India, where pay is meagre and life is extremely difficult.

We at HT Tech spoke with a few women coming from small villages in India, who leveraged various technological tools to overcome the challenges in their lives to go from being married at a young age without any source of income to being successful entrepreneurs and leaders.

Vijaya Deshmukh, Vidya Kirve, Tahira Bagwan and Anjana Bhise are women hailing from small villages in Maharashtra. They share a similar story. All of them come from extremely humble backgrounds and they were struggling to make ends when they decided to take charge of their lives and change their fates.

The beginnings

Bhuinj, Maharashtra-based Vidya Kirve’s husband lost his job in 2013. Their financial condition forced her to work, which is when she enrolled in the Mann Deshi Foundation’s Business School on Wheels and learnt how to stitch. Soon after, she started stitching and selling bags made out of old clothes.

For Sinnar, Maharashtra based Vijaya Deshmukh trouble began soon after she got married over 25 years ago. At the time her husband, who worked as a mechanic, barely earned 200 in a month. Managing household expenses within his meagre salary was a monthly struggle. So, she started saving 5-10 every month to enrol in a tailoring class two years later. The fee for the class was 150. Soon after the class, she started taking orders for stitching blouses and embroidery. But when that wasn’t enough, she started selling spices.

Phaltan, Maharashtra based Anjana Bhise shares a similar story. She started selling brooms in the initial days of her marriage as her husband was unable to earn enough money from farming. She also opened a small canteen in her village a couple of years later expanding her broom selling business further.

Velapur, Maharashtra based Tahira Bagwan, on the other hand, always wanted to do something of her own. But it wasn’t until she visited her sister in Pandharpur that she got to know about the nitty-gritty of running a business.

But nothing was easy.

Their struggles and challenges

A common challenge for almost all these women was to convince their families to allow them to work. They also faced difficulties while creating acceptance in their families and their societies regarding working women.

“In my community, it’s not very common for women to go outside and work. So, when I got into the business, it was looked down upon by people who knew us. Even when I used to sit in the weekly market to sell my brooms, there would be very few women. Sometimes, the men fold wouldn’t allow me to sit and I had to plead with them. There were times when I used to not have money to buy raw materials for the brooms,” Bhise told HT Tech.

“The biggest challenge was that though my husband allowed me to work, I wasn’t allowed to travel outside my village. Even when I enrolled with Mann Deshi Foundation for a 10-day tailoring course in Bhuinj, I had to gather another 11 women participants,” Kirve shared.

“The first time I put up a stall at Mann Deshi Mahotsav organized by Mann Deshi Foundation for women entrepreneurs for 4-5 days across Satara district, I had a bare-minimum sale and my husband told me that it was a “loss-making business”. I patiently waited for the customers the next day. The sale picked up and I had customers at my stall till the end of the exhibition,” she added.

How technology transformed their lives

While these women worked hard to make their business successful, it was technology or rather various technological tools that they used that not only helped them in spreading their message but also enabled them to be financially independent.

Most of these women used WhatsApp to connect with their customers. They also used UPI-based payment methods such as BHIM, Google Pay and Paytm to send money to their suppliers and even take payments from their customers.

“Whenever there is a new arrival or a new offer at my shop, I share photos with the members. I operate the Facebook page of my business on my own to publicize the material available. Most of the new customers I get are through WhatsApp,” Bagwan said in a statement to HT Tech.

“I have two WhatsApp business groups - one for my customers and the other for my tailoring students. Last month, after a Mann Deshi training workshop, I launched a Facebook page for my bag business. My daughter manages my Instagram account. For all the orders I receive online, I use apps like GooglePay, PayTM or Bhim for transactions,” Kirve added.

ALSO READ: Life during the lockdown: How SMEs are using technology to serve their customers

And what of the pandemic?

What’s amazing (and inspiring) about these women and the businesses that lead is that even as the lockdown owing to the pandemic disrupted businesses across the globe, they kept going from strength to strength. For many of them, the pandemic proved to be a blessing in disguise as it helped them expand and even strengthen their operations.

“...given that I run my shop, the recent lockdown did not have much impact on my business. In fact, the sales increased as other shops in the main market were closed,” Bhagwan shared.

“During the lockdown, weekly markets were shut and I could neither sell brooms nor vegetables from our farm. Even my canteen business had to shut temporarily. That’s when I came up with the idea of making vada pavs and supplying them to people’s homes. My son created a small flyer advertising my products and shared it on various WhatsApp groups. Within 2-3 days we started getting bulk orders,” Bhise added.

The future

Their dedication and their years of hard work paid off. All these women are successful entrepreneurs today. They are also mentors and leaders who are teaching others what they have learnt so far.

Deshmukh earns a comfortable 10,000 a month and she’s trained another 800 women to make various masalas. Once things get back to normal, she plans to create her “own WhatsApp group and promote my businesses more aggressively.”

Kirve, on the other hand, has 13 employees and earns 40,000 – 50,000 per month. In future, she plans “to diversify and start stitching backpacks.” “I have gathered some information through YouTube videos. After this pandemic fear gets over, I along with my son, plan to attend training at an institute in Hyderabad,” she added.

Bhagwan today earns a profit of around 20,000 every month. “In the coming days wants to expand her shop area so that I can stock more material and add variety,” she said.

Similarly, Anjana today makes a monthly income of around 15,000. Once the situation is a bit better, she plans to start a new business. “I am also planning to buy a good smartphone for myself soon so that I am not dependent on my husband or sons to promote my businesses using their cellphones,” she added.

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