You'd think that two women in North East India who have only studied till Std X and Std XII won't really have much of a financial future to look forward to. But Meghalee Bora from Assam and NG Bimolata Devi from Manipur surprised themselves and everybody else when they turned entrepreneurs, set up factories and generated employment for several other people. They have been felicitated by the government for their entrepreneurial spirit. Here's how they did it:
Meghalee Bora, 45, Jorhat, Assam
In 1997, Meghalee and her husband Archit Kumar used to make coconut laddoos at home and sell them for 30 paisa a piece. It was with great difficulty that they managed their household but Meghalee says she was determined that one day, she would start a food processing unit.
Things changed in 2004 when the Boras leased land through the District Rural Development Agency. “We set up a factory and expanded our products to fruit juices, vegetarian and non-vegetarian pickles, sweet chutneys and organic juices. That helped us increase our income,” says Meghalee.
The unit, Meghalee Foods, now sees an average revenue of around Rs 8-10 lakh annually.
Meghalee says when she set up her unit, she was determined to give locals jobs. Now, she employs 15 people in her factory. “I will soon be forming a cluster in far-flung villages where men and women can be involved in sun-dried products that can fetch them a steady income.”
Meghalee has completed only her higher secondary education (Std XII) as she had an early marriage. "But, to my understanding, all problems are economic related. When I was able to think of starting off on my own, we were able to help ourselves economically,” she says haltingly in Hindi.
“I received several awards from the government and from TV networks,” says Borah. What perplexes her is why more people don't reach out to other women and men in Assam so that they can be employed in income-generating units. “I do whatever I can. I also train people in entrepreneurship in Nagaland. But shouldn’t others also pitch in?”
NG Bimolata Devi, 54, Imphal, Manipur
Bimolata grew up in poverty in Imphal, Manipur. Her father made handicraft items for a living. She and her sister decided to use their embroidery skills to use and began making home furnishings like pillow covers, bedsheets, etc. “Local people knew of our skills and we would get a few orders. However, this was need-based. We would get bulk orders during festivities and weddings.”
The family’s fortunes changed in 1980 when they availed of a bank loan and install a loom at home. “I am a matriculate (passed Std X) and was lucky to marry a graduate. My husband supported me in my work and we would go to other districts and outside the state to sell our work. We now visit trade expos in other cities in the country regularly.”
Bimolata's business flourished and she was able to pay off the loan. She then took another loan and set up a factory. Now she has three units which do embroidery work. Her label is called Neeingthibi Collections. "I am proud of Neeingthibi Collections which has given employment to several people and got me awards,” says Bimolata.
She has also started a training institute that teaches locals how to embroider and how to weave on a loom. It especially helps women in her village and other villages. Women in Manipur work largely in fields but that is a seasonal job. With the training that Bimolata is able to provide the women, they are able to earn a steady income and not depend on field work. “Some of the people I have trained have set up their units and given employment to other people.”
Her children have studied design and business administration and are now helping her run the business.
Now, Bimolata has turned her attention to farmers. “I want to work for farmers and tribals in Manipur and better their condition,” she says.