As I thought about it more, the realization dawned upon me that no matter how many field visits I have in this part of town, this district and the tales of the women entrepreneurs here shall never stop surprising me. Every time that I visit Chandkheda, a neighborhood that lies west of the Sabarmati river and is in the northern portion of the huge metropolitan city of Ahmedabad, I collect a trunk of tales along with me when I leave. They are the stories of all these industrious and devoted women who show exceptional ability and a strong independent streak.
So, even though the sweltering heat of the day seemed to be unendurable, it wasn’t a reason sufficient enough to dampen our high spirits. I was accompanied by one of the unit staff members, Mr. Jeetendra, for this visit. I was here to check on the progress of Gungun Mahila Mandal, a group led by Sakuntalaben, after they had borrowed an enterprise loan from Milaap’s community of lenders. As soon as we stepped into the house of Sakuntalaben, the aroma of appetizing traditional Gujarati snacks engulfed us. She had just finished making the snacks that were ready to be shipped to the market.
Sakuntalaben, 48, a woman imbued with an absolute zeal for hard work, has been running the business of selling home-made Gujarati snacks such as dhokla, khandvi, sandwich dhokla, khaman, etc. for five years now. With time, as a result of her hard work, her business showed an excellent level of growth. The development and demand of her snacks is such that she had to even rent a space and hire workers, which are especially needed during the time of occasions and festivities, when the demand is extremely high. Her son Piyush, who is a strong helping hand, also takes care of the business, especially with selling the stock in the market at wholesale rates.
With the loan from Milaap, Sakuntalaben was able to expand her business to a great extent. Now she is able to earn a sum of Rs. 15,000 - 17,000 on a monthly basis. The amount is highly commendable as it is twice more than what she had projected as an increase at the time of taking the loan. It is three times what she used to earn earlier.
“I always wanted to do something on my own and be independent,” she expressed.
Back then, Sakuntalaben’s husband was against her will to work, and he wanted her to take care of only the household chores. So she couldn’t explore her potential. But with time, things changed positively. And now, Sakuntalaben is the proud owner of her traditional snacks business.
I was in awe of this woman as she shared bits and pieces of her life with me. But the highlight of the meeting turned out to be the point wherein she told me that she wants to anyhow fulfill the dream of her 19-year-old daughter of becoming a Chartered Accountant. And she is ready to put in as much effort as it takes.
Sakuntalaben brings her plate of freshly cooked Gujarati snack