Blight into Bounty: the story of Osmanabad's Sakhis: Part 2 | Milaap

Blight into Bounty: the story of Osmanabad's Sakhis: Part 2

How did the women volunteers turn into entrepreneurs?

Part 2 of a three part series.

Sakhis, as a concept, is the brain child of management guru C.K. Prahalad. The idea is simple: using village women as a distribution channel to deliver low cost, high social benefit goods to the farthest reaches of any region. As far as the SSP was concerned, this was right up their alley. They had seen much, much worse during the quake rehabilitation efforts.

With a small investment, SSP set up a subsidiary: Sakhi Retail Private Limited. The company would buy goods ordered by the SSP, usually products with high social benefit. Sakhis would then buy the products, sell it amongst neighbouring villages, and make a small profit for each sale.

An SSP Sakhi

According to SRPL CEO Upamanyu Patil, SRPL has two objectives: to increase the income of rural households and also develop durable distribution channels for manufactured goods.

Veterans of several SSP projects, Sakhis form the backbone of this distribution network. The quake’s aftermath taught them endurance, Sakhi retail helped them learn enterprise.

The venture began with distributing the British Petroleum made Oorja cookstoves, smokeless ovens that ran on biogas pellets. Prior to this, the insidious wood stove was use in all rural homes, a silent killer that filled the room with fumes once lit. The smokeless Oorja stoves were a real blessing and took off immediately. 

A sack of Oorja stove pellets

 SRPL partnered with Godrej in promoting its mini-refrigerators, another commodity perfect for the killer heat in the region, preserving

groceries perfectly despite the blistering summer. They later introduced D.light, a solar lamp perfect for managing during the long summer-time powercuts.

Sakhi Retail’s judiciousness in selecting products that address the region’s social concerns has cemented its position in the rural retail network.

Sakhis intending to become members of the retail supply chain have to chip in an initial capial to buy the goods. The transportation costs of delivering the goods from the warehouse to the village are borne by the SRPL. Once delivered, Sakhis distribute the goods throughout nearby villages, earning money for each unit sold. Hard working Sakhis can earn upto Rs. 4500 a month. Before this, they would earn barely a third of that. They can now fund their children’s education.

But such a venture faces several issues, which will be the subject of our next post.