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From housewife to entrepreneur

By Ramya Kannan


CHENNAI, MARCH 10. Shanthi, Tamizhselvi and Sumitha were total strangers to one another. Yet, the other day, just hours after they met for the first time, they were sitting together, like comrades, discussing their plans for the future.

Unknown to them, there were a couple of things in common: They were all entrepreneurs, who worked in reduced circumstances and winners of the Bharat Yuva Shakti Trust (BYST) entrepreneurship awards.

On their own, they decided to launch on a career of entrepreneurship, partly to have something to do and partly to supplement family income.

"I now earn more than my husband, though when I started I made a loss of Rs. 8,000," says Tamizhselvi of Tirunelveli district. Barely 17 years when she was married and just a matriculate, Tamizhselvi moved to Chennai with her husband, looking out for sources of income. And she ended up incurring a huge loss. "My first venture at starting a business cost me Rs. 8,000. But, struggling to get out of that, I realised I could go nowhere without training. So I got some basic training in the Small Industries Services Institute, Guindy." From making candles and soaps, taking tips from a well-meaning neighbour, she moved into the garment industry.

"Well, it was not really `industry.' We were making and selling handkerchiefs. Later, we got a Jet Airways contract for making aprons and seat covers. Within two months, we sold 30,000 pieces and other companies seemed interested," says Tamizhselvi.

The change has not been so dramatic for Sumitha, nevertheless she is glad about the way things turned out. At Kancheepuram, she, along with her husband, teaches at a night school for child labourers. During day, she goes to dumping yards, picking up garbage, segregating it and composting bio-waste. She generates at least 50 kg of compost every month. "I get Rs. 2,000-2,500 every month. I make no investment. Everything I make is profit," says Sumitha. Eventually, she hopes to generate more than 5,000 kg of compost.

Shanti, on the other hand, talks of concepts: food scarcity, environment conservation and awareness generation among farmers. She holds a diploma in agriculture. Propagation of the message of vermicomposting and biomanure is her passion and industry too.

"My entrepreneurship is in the area of service. I do it not only to make some money to keep the family going but also because it is important that someone does these things."

Apart from the three is Rajeswari, who came later on her scooter, taking time off her work.

In May 1995, she started selling printer cartridges, pledging her mother's jewels and borrowing Rs. 20,000 from the BYST.

She built up the business slowly and now leases a factory which makes computer peripherals and has an annual turnover of Rs. 31.75 lakhs.

Rajeswari won the BYST's JRD Tata award for business excellence in 2000 and dreams of importing products from Japan and Singapore.

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