Entrepreneurial journey of this incidental enterprise sounds almost like a fairy tale and it couldn’t have had humbler beginnings. When a bunch of women borrowed Rs 120 they hadn’t imagined they would see it becoming a mammoth empire with an annual turnover of Rs 334 crore – all in their lifetimes.
On March 15, 1959, Jaswantiben Popat and her six friends, all housewives, came together to make four packets of papad which they sold in the local market. All of them lived in an old building in Girgaum, Mumbai and had a lot of free time in their hand after their husbands and children left home in the morning.
To begin their ‘time-pass’ activity, they borrowed Rs 80 and bought some lentils, spices and kneaded some dough. They made 80 papads on first day and took them to a nearby shop. They expected to wait for many days till their experiment showed any result. However, the papads were good enough for the shopkeeper and he asked for more batches the next day. They were able to pay back the borrowed sum within 15 days and this is how Lijjat was born.
In that first year, Lijjat had sales of Rs 6,196. Their confidence grew and they started inviting more women to join them.
The unique model of Lijjat has become their strength and the women who work here absolutely love it. A few women gather at their centres early in the morning to mix the raw materials and knead dough. Chunks of the dough are then distributed among its member who take it home and roll papads to be brought to the center the next day. The new members are shown and taught the art of rolling papads by the seniors.
Today, Lijjat has more than 40,000 members who roll more than 90 million papads. The organisation is run from a head office in Mumbai by a committee of 21 women who began with rolling papads. It is a place where thousands of women have become self-reliant and financially independent. These women love their job as they can do this from the comfort of their homes without having to run around anywhere. With a daily income of Rs 400-700 these women have been able to educate and marry off their children.
“By looking at so many women being their own strength, I think my life is successful. I feel that all the efforts have been paid off,” says Jaswantiben Popat
Where Profit is everyone’s right
Not just this Lijjat also exports its products and earns a revenue of several tens of crores. There are 63 centers and 40 divisions of Lijjat and it is a popular brand among Indian households. There’s a mesmerising spirit that binds Lijjat workers. Rather that profit going to the management, it is equally shared among all women. Every woman who rolls papad is considered the owner of the company.
With mounting sales and profit one is curious is know about the secret behind their success. Jaswantiben says, “Well, the rule is simple – Never compromise on quality. I personally taste all the atta (flour) distributed to the ladies who come here for rolling pappads or taking it home. Even a slightest doubt about the quality and the entire dough is discarded. We never agree for sub quality material. Quality control has been our USP, and then comes the uniformity in taste and hygiene. We work on “no credit” and “no loss” basis so the question of loss never arises.”
The spirit of Jaswantiben is extraordinary and is strong enough to inspire anyone. She wakes up everyday at 4.30 to begin work from 5.30 am. Her motto is loud and clear, “Just do what you like and spare no sweat to make it work.”
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