What would you do if the meagre income your family is surviving on, vanishes one day? What would you do if you do not find any other job because you stay in a remote village? Sounds terrifying! Doesn’t it? Families in Paalaguttapalle experienced the same due to continuous droughts between 2010 and 2015. Paalaguttapalle is a small hamlet, with about 60 Dalit families, in Andhra Pradesh’s Chittoor district. Men and women couldn’t find employment in the village which led to financial distress. The housewives in the village came together and started a business to restore the financial balance in their households.
How did the situation change?
The women all sat together one day near the village temple to discuss the issues that are plaguing their village due to continuous drought. Some of them knew tailoring. Aparna Krishnan, who has also been living here since 1995, was there with them. She said she would start looking for orders.
“My husband Nagesh and I moved to this village in 1995, after leaving our city jobs. We wanted to lead a more meaningful and useful life. We bought some land to farm. I also started teaching kids in the local govt school. We practised Ayurveda. We also started working on rainwater harvesting, farming and agricultural issues, livelihood and afforestation.” said Aparna
When the village economy was reeling due to continuous drought, men lost their jobs and there was no steady source of income. ‘Paalaguttapalle Bags’ venture started with a simple order for 100 bags from Aparna’s friend’s shop in Bengaluru. After the bags were delivered to the shop owner, he liked the quality and they started receiving more orders. In no time, the stitching team grew from one to nine. Now they make tote bags, gusset bags, sling bags, lunch bags with zip and bags with custom prints of logos and designs.
How do they operate?
“Some of us together support the women in some external ways like connecting with the customers, spreading the word about bags through social media and friends, helping them with handling financial accounts and getting the skill training. The women themselves handle all the production work. ,” says Aparna.
The team consists of Roopa, Rani, Ramila, Nirmala, Annapurna, Lakshmikantha, Anitha, Buji and Kala. From picking up the raw material from the nearby town, making and packing the bags to delivering them to customers via India Post – everything is entirely handled by the women.
The women travelled to Chennai to learn screen printing when the customers started asking for custom logos and designs. Aparna Krishnan’s Facebook friend Suraj’s father Narasimha connected the women to artist Bhaskar, who agreed to teach them screen printing free of cost. Another Facebook contact Vignesh accompanied the women in Chennai during their training days. He took complete responsibility for making it work for them in the village. Arun Kombai, also met on Facebook, with his brilliant design skills took the bags to another level.
Vegetable compartment bag
Confused with the new terminology “Vegetable compartment bag”? See the image below.
In recent months, this bag has been a huge hit. This bag helps you to segregate and carry your veggies from the market while reducing the usage of plastic covers which we use normally to preserve vegetables.
“The design of the vegetable compartment bag was suggested by one person. I passed on the idea to the women. In one day, the women came up with the prototype and soon we were flooded by orders,” says Aparna Krishnan.
The bag is made using the cotton brought from Madurai. It has six compartments and is available in two sizes — the large one can carry 10 kgs and the extra large has a capacity of 15 kg.
From local to global
Through word of mouth, the women got orders from many prestigious events. The women supplied the bags for the Organic World Congress and for the Aid India meetings. Orders have also come from abroad – Hong Kong, events in America and Canada and also the UK