Rathinam College
Vol 5 Issue 16, Apr 18 - 24, 2014
    Citizen Reporters      |   | Submit Story
Green WarriorsSocial EntrepreneursUnsung Heroes

Project Sukanya helps nearly 4000 poor women earn a livelihood

   By  Soma Mitra
23 Apr 2014
Posted 15-Jul-2011
Vol 2 Issue 28

Big retail chains like Reliance Fresh, Spencer's and Big Bazaar have competition. Not from a rival business group, but from a Kolkata-based enterprising woman - Aparna Banerjee. An alumnus of the prestigious Xavier Labour Relations Institute (XLRI) in Jamshedpur, Bihar, Banerjee, 36, retails her goods under the name of Project Sukanya.

The goods are not sold from huge showrooms, but from 54 roadside mobile kiosks, manned by 141 women who work in shifts. Another 3,500 women directly benefit from this project by making products such as handicraft items, edibles like 'papad' (wafer thin potato/rice paste snacks), pickles and jams.

At your service: Mobile kiosks, manned by women working with Project Sukanya, are located across the city of Kolkata(Photos: WFS) 

Packaged spices and ready-to-eat lunches are also sold. And in the coming six months another 500 'bou carts' (women carts) would be deployed across 18 districts, again manned by women.

"When I got the idea for these mobile kiosks, my first step was to finalise the design and patent it under the Intellectual Property Rights Act. The Project Sukanya retail chain is also patented," says Banerjee. The project was the result of extensive research based on material gathered from 62 villages across India during her studies on Anthropology at Calcutta University.

"I did my MBA in Logistics and Supply Chain Management from XLRI and realised during that time that I wanted to become a social entrepreneur. I then did a course in Anthropology to get a grip on human rights. I realised that women need financial independence to get freedom from restrictions, abuse and social taboos," says Banerjee, who struggled to complete her studies under great financial constraints.

"I found that retail was the only option. But setting up huge retail space was beyond my capabilities. I hit upon the mobile kiosk idea and worked on it for two years, getting all required permissions and licences to place them on the roads. No loophole was left open. The carts are manufactured at our own unit," she adds.

When Banerjee sent her pilot Project Sukanya to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) in 2005, Dr Manmohan Singh had encouraged her to go ahead, assuring assistance in case of hurdles. When apprised, the then Chief Minister of West Bengal, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, also instructed his secretariat to offer support.

Shop till you drop: The 'bou carts' (women carts) retail handicraft products; edibles like pickles, jams and 'papad' (wafer thin potato/rice paste snacks; packaged spices and even ready-to-eat lunches 

The attractively designed sleek kiosks, which are placed at most major crossings in the city, easily catch the eye. The apron-clad women manning them are polite and knowledgeable about the products.

Kakoli Das, 24, is one of the smiling faces at the Rashbehari kiosk. "We don't have any problems with the police regarding parking of our kiosk. Our paperwork is watertight. The customers, too, are friendly. We get repeat clients on a regular basis now."

The turnover for the Project, which started rolling in early 2007, had already reached Rs 10.5 million by mid-2008.

"The organised sector never bothered to tap the potential of the cottage industry, but we are giving a brand identity to these products," says Sudakshina Sen, 43, Chief Coordinator, Project Sukanya.

Project Sukanya has a 20,000 sq. ft. common facility centre at Topsia. The rural, women who supply the products, come here with their samples. The products are graded into three categories. Under A category, the product is immediately bought with a 10 per cent advance. For the B category products, Sukanya gives support for better packaging and then it is bought. Falling under the C category are products that have market saturation.

The success of the venture is obvious from the fact that several big retail chains made offers to buy out Project Sukanya as well as the patent for the mobile kiosks.

All women associated with the project are happy. Jayanti Chatterjee, 49, who is in charge of the Sukanya Tollygunge kiosk, earns about Rs 3,000 a month.

Swapna Dutta, 50, an urban poor, was dumped by her husband during the initial years of their marriage. The Sukanya project came to her rescue and she now earns Rs 2,800 a month.

"It's a Chinese model for promotion of alternative employment. We would provide the infrastructure and training required for setting up the centre," says Banerjee. – Women’s Feature Service

Print  |  Email  | 

You might also like:

Baby not mine

Actress Shilpa Shetty, married to businessman Raj Kundra, clarifies that a photo in circulation on the internet showing her with a cute little baby is not that of her son Viaan

Read More

Futuristic city

An Indian journalist Richa Sharma brings us the story of the world’s ecological model city, Freiburg, the Green capital of Germany, where solar energy is the main source of power

Read More

Stephen Cars
FPJs Meet Vidyaakar
adyar bakery
TWL Campaign

Popular Stories

Benign borrow

Entire India will soon come under the cover of Arogya Finance that lends money for the poor to go for medical treatment. Supported by social venture funds, Arogya is in nine States and has helped over 400 persons, says Kavita Kanan Chandra

Read More

Pet project

‘Rickshaw Bank’ is a project that helps rickshaw pullers. It was born out of a conversation Pradip Kumar Sarmah, a veterinarian, who had taken animal health care to rural areas in Assam, had with a rickshaw puller, says Souzeina S Mushtaq

Read More

Power of waste

Namakkal in Tamil Nadu is known for poultry, among other things. But not many know of a poultry owner generating electricity from chicken droppings, whose disposal was once a headache. P C Vinoj Kumar explains the innovation and the business

Read More

Action cop

His was a career dedicated to fight graft, through unconventional methods. Now the former cop is advisor to the anti-corruption cell of Aam Aadmi Party. Souzeina S Mushtaq profiles N Dilip Kumar, called as ‘action hero’ by a news magazine

Read More

Natives’ return

The return of Sabbah Haji and her family to their hometown in Kashmir’s Doda district has helped local children as the school started in 2009 is still growing. Afsana Rashid finds the school running with the help of volunteers from outside

Read More

Short and strong

Joby Mathew stands 3 feet, 5 inches tall. But he has beaten men taller than him in arm wrestling and won even the world championship. Kavita Kanan Chandra finds that hard work, discipline and determination are the secrets behind his success

Read More

At the grassroots

A group of social workers in the temple town of Kanchipuram meet every week to chart their down to earth projects. All of them teetotalers, not by scheme, they work at the grassroots level but seek no external aid. P C Vinoj Kumar meets them

Read More

Bangalore 15

Besides being a cosmopolitan city, which is a bustling IT hub, also known for fine weather, Bangalore has more for a visitor, says Sudha Narasimhachar, giving a list of 15 must visit places

Read More

Mountain girl

In the chilly heights of Ladakh, Thinlas Chorol stands out as a social entrepreneur, trekking guide, ice hockey player and a writer rolled into one. Her remarkable role is changing the face of tourism up there, says Kavita Kanan Chandra

Read More

Water Wheel

Fetching water takes such considerable time for rural women that they expend most of their time and energy on that. But ‘Water Wheel’, a recent innovation, is ushering a change in the lives of women in some villages, says Souzeina S Mushtaq

Read More
Kudos image

"The Weekend Leader not only gives a glimpse of the better things happening around us but also tells stories of people who made it possible.”

Ajay Chaturvedi, Entrepreneur More Kudos
Archives  |   Columns  |   About Us  |   Contact Us  |   Feedback  |   Response  |     |   Cheers!  |   Support Us  |   Friends of Positive Journalism
© Copyright The Weekend Leader.com, 2010. All rights reserved.