In 2005, when Bhagwati Yadav from Madhya Pradesh’s Panna district was told that she could start her own business by depositing Rs 10 every week in a government scheme, she laughed it off. ‘How can a business that requires huge investments demand so little?’ — the 60-year-old wondered. The scheme encouraged rural women to generate livelihoods. Besides the minimal deposit amount, she was asked to attend classes to up her entrepreneurial skills.
However, the real reasons behind mocking the opportunity were her deep-rooted fear and insecurities. She was a school dropout who never had a job, let alone have any knowledge of running a venture.
With encouragement and support from her husband, Dashrat, and her five daughters, Bhagwati, a resident of Dhalaan Chowki, took the leap of faith.
Fast forward to 2021, Bhagwati’s efforts, business acumen and the fine art of making murabba (marmalade) have made her tiny village famous for amla (gooseberry) murabba across the globe. Filled with confidence and passion to make every part of the country taste her delicious dish, Bhagwati is an example for hundreds of rural women.
Through her, you learn that given the right access to technical guidance and financial services, it is possible to strengthen the economic role of women.
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The Better India speaks to Bhagwati and Dasrat who have scaled their operations, especially during the lockdown.
Bhagwati’s destiny was no different from other girls in her community who were married off as soon as they reached the legal age. In absence of educational opportunities, developing culinary skills were a focus. Despite the limited means and poverty, Bhagwati’s mother managed to teach her a plethora of dishes.
“I never imagined something that is considered as a ‘wife’s duty’ could be translated into a profitable venture. When I was asked to choose a product or service, making murabba was the first choice. Besides knowing the recipe, I loved the sweet and tangy dish. Finalising a dish was not as hard as undergoing entrepreneurial skills training workshops. The only experience I had was working as a labourer on construction sites,” recounts Bhagwati.
As part of the scheme, she joined a Self-Help Group, ‘Maa Durga’, and underwent training for a couple of months before launching her business. Meanwhile, Dasrat continued working as a daily wage labourer outside Panna to support her family.
Bhagwati shed her inhibitions and efficiently grasped concepts like packaging, hygiene, bargaining methods, how to deal with customers and dealers and more.
To ensure Bhagwati made mouth-watering murabba, she experimented with several batches before finalising the perfect recipe.
“My daughters and I were her guinea pigs. One batch of murabba takes at least three days to prepare, and Bhagwati was at it for months. I had never seen her so focussed and dedicated. It inspired me to join her business and assist her,” says Dashrat.
Besides, Panna’s amla and its value-added products are included under the state government’s ‘One District, One Product’ scheme. Through that, Dasrat got a chance to sell the special murabba in exhibitions across Madhya Pradesh and India.
Dasrat and Bhagwati also struck deals with grocery stores across Panna. At a commission of Rs 20, the dealers agreed to sell her murabba.