I went to visit Selvi Periyasami in Vairichettipalayam – a village roughly 50 kilometers outside of Trichy, Tamil Nadu – where she lives with her husband and two children. Prior to the trip I thought that the language barrier was going to be tough, but the hardest part was simply getting to Vairichettipalayam. I took two public buses, one private bus, and two different motorcycles to get there. The bus drivers ducked dangerously in and out of oncoming traffic to pass the slower ox-carts and farm equipment, but at least they played good music.
I met Selvi at a neighbor’s house, where it was tough to distinguish her colorful sari from the mounds of plastic wire bags surrounding her. Surprised that both Selvi and her neighbor made plastic wire bags, I asked that was how all of the women in her village were employed. “Well, I would say that about 70% of them are,” she said. Apparently, bag weaving is a pretty popular business in Vairichettipalayam. I learned that about 10 years ago many of the women, including Selvi, had gotten training to weave bags. Prior to her loan from Milaap, Selvi already had a bag-weaving business, so she used the Milaap loan to buy raw materials.
Selvi makes the bags with a variety of colors of plastic wire, which comes in three-kilogram spools. There are different grades of plastic wire, with a low-quality 3kg spool costing Rs. 150, and a high-quality one costing Rs. 350. Selvi makes five different sizes of bags. The smaller ones are often used by children to carry their lunches to school, and the big ones to carry a variety of items. Using two spools of different colors, she can make about fifty small bags. Selvi was stocked full of supplies with the help of her Milaap loan, and her business was running smoothly.