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She has changed lives of over 200 women

Anjali Singh who deals in jute products, has provided employment to almost all women of Mehmoodpur village and other areas in the state capital.

lucknow Updated: Feb 10, 2017 13:29 IST
Oliver Fredrick
Anjali Singh, a woman entrepreneur who runs the NGO Jute Artisans Guild Association; village women tailoring jute bags.
Anjali Singh, a woman entrepreneur who runs the NGO Jute Artisans Guild Association; village women tailoring jute bags.(Deepak Gupta/ HT Photo)

A 40-minute drive from Gomti Nagar will take you to the ‘traumatised’ Mehmoodpur, a hamlet in Bakshi Ka Talab (BKT) block. People here have to walk almost 4km on foot to reach the nearest main road to gain access to the city area. And perhaps ‘no connectivity’ is the sole reason why the village remained ‘underdeveloped’ decades after independence, for lack of access road meant lack of jobs and business activity, adding up to poverty.

In this ‘lifeless’ village that is nowhere on any political party’s agenda and where people have lost hope from all political parties and their respective candidates, a city-based woman has turned out to be the saviour. 

Anjali Singh, a woman entrepreneur, who deals in jute products, is dubbed a harbinger of change for Mehmoodpur . Singh, who runs an NGO – Jute Artisans Guild Association, has provided employment to almost all village women, making them earn far more than their farmer husbands. 

Mehmoodpur is not the lone case. Singh who is going to register her NGO as a company, is providing employment to about 200 women, hailing from the state capital and its rural pockets. The number excludes those who work from home.  

Beginning 

Like many others, Anjali too had an ‘accidental’ start. It was her childhood dream to become an air hostess. But following family’s restriction on moving out of town, she gave up the idea to fly and opted to do MBA in tourism from Lucknow University. But after she cleared her MBA in 2001, she couldn’t find any opportunity and landed a marketing job at Rs 1,700. 

“It was not the job that I always wanted. But, abiding by the family rules, I continued to work in the same field as I didn’t have an option. I spent 8 years and touched the meagre salary graph of Rs 11,000 that was too low,” she told HT . 

Turning point 

Anjali used to observe her father’s work. he ran an NGO and in 2009 got a project from the ministry of textiles to impart jute training to destitute from Lucknow and Barabanki. “One day I witnessed a group of women who approached my father, asking for jobs. They said, ‘the training is over now. Where is the job. Who will give us a job?’” she said. 

Then Anjali decided to create jobs for them. She formed a federation, asking some of the trained women to join. “Initially, only one woman joined and then we began the hunt for jute bags order. I got one from the western history department of Lucknow University. It was an order of 100 bags for Rs 100 each. I bought two machines and fulfilled the order and my work was much appreciated,” she said. 

Soon, the orders started flowing in. But the toughest thing was to convince the families of the women in the rural areas to send them to the workstation. “People in the villages are very conservative. They cannot tolerate the female members of the family going out to work. Hence, convincing them was the toughest part. I succeeded and soon the numbers of staffers began to swell,” she said. 

 Skyrocketing growth 

In just 8 years, the numbers of staffers with Jute Artisans Guild Association rose to 200. Besides, it also opened around four centres—including Mehmoodpur in BKT, Sector 12 Indira Nagar, Fareedi Nagar near Kukrail and Mayawati Colony in Chinhat. It pays around R3.5 lakh per month to the workers as salary and its turnover (in last financial year) touched the figure of R80 lakh. Presently, the NGO caters to the markets not only in the country but also abroad. “Our jute material is much preferred by the industries in France and is basically used for packaging purposes,” she said. 

After seeing the good work, the National Jute Board allotted jute raw material bank for north India to the company, in order to ensure jute supplies to other small entrepreneurs. 

Interestingly, she also asked her husband, who was a private employee, to join her in her business and help her to expand it . “Our products, that largely include handbags, are much appreciated as the price is low and quality is high. Perhaps this is the reason why the customers who got associated in 2009 are still with us,” she said. 

According to Anjali, things have changed now and so has the perception of the people. “Now they admire that I have done something great, not only for the family but also for the society,” she said. 

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