From Roots to Kitchen – The Originality of Pickles

Name: Shagun Setia, Kehsav Parthasarathy

Yatra year: 2015, 2014

Company name: Rural Roots

“Be the change you wish to see in this world”- inspired by this quote, Shagun Setia and Keshav Parthasarathy decided to start a social enterprise along with their full time day jobs which can support their startup, in one of the tier-3 districts of UP, Deoria. Filled with an undying passion to help the poor, rural roots was started with an aim to empower the rural women.

They wanted to come up with a solution that not only provides employment outside the agriculture sector to the destitute but also empowers women and lifts their status in the society. In other words, they wanted to create a socio-economic change. This led to the formation of Rural Roots, a food-processing social enterprise, through which they hope to create long-term change in this region.

The turning point in their life, they said was a 15-day train journey across the length & breadth of India which changed their perceptions and opened their eyes towards the socio-economic inequality that prevails in India. In 2014, Keshav participated in the Jagriti Yatra, which helped him better understand problems in rural India. As part of this journey, he stayed overnight in a village in Deoria and this experience left an indelible impression on him. Shagun had the same experience when he went for the Yatra in 2015. They still remember being in a village with hardly any toilets, limited access to safe drinking water and people living in the most desperate conditions. It was this experience that propelled them to take an initiative to improve the conditions of people in this district.

They started Rural Roots with an aim to uplift the condition of people in Deoriaand benefit over 500 women in this region. The journey which has been great so far, initially wasn’t so easy.

“When we started the project, we undertook a survey of different villages to identify income levels and other social parameters in those villages, however, without proper roads, street addresses, and without internet in those villages, it was tough to gather the exact location of the village residents but Keshav learned a new software called “what3words” and taught this to the local team to gather the coordinates of as many survey respondents as possible.”, he said.

This was the first of the many challenges that they faced over time. The experience made them both adept at problem-solving which till date they consider as one of their key strengths. Apart from their experience, the passion that was imbibed by Jagriti Yatra through their tagline ‘Building India through Enterprise’ was what kept them going inspite of the challenges.

Today, two years later they have around 15 marginalised women who make pickles and other food items to sell. Apart from them, they even employ 2 full-time workers who manage them in Deoria. Their organization has successfully empowered women to take matters in their hands and contribute towards the growth of their families as well as the district. It was all because of their patience and support that the women are able to create ripples of change.

When asked for a message for the future yatris Shagun said, “JagritiYatra is a revolution that is transforming the youth of the country into responsible citizens. One should be part of it as it exposes them to rural India and encourages them to work for its betterment. No other organization will give you such an opportunity. Grab it and make the most of it.

For more info visit – https://www.ruralrootsindia.org/

To apply for Jagriti Yatra- http://www.jagritiyatra.com/

Crafting jewellery, creating confident craftswoman: Abira Creations

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We are at Abira, a business set up by one of our alumni- Priyanka Khandelwal. Abira creates fashion jewellery, but more importantly, creates independent, confident craftswomen. We are received with great enthusiasm by the Abira team- Abiras as Priyanka calls them.

Priyanka, tells us about how she began her enterprise. She was working with Anju Bansal in a jewellery-making business that sourced products from China. Priyanka, wanted to create this high quality jewellery in India by training women from lower economic backgrounds and with no previous experience. This was a big challenge, which she overcame by working together with the women she hired and trained. When Priyanka hires her Abiras, she looks for nothing more than the desire to work hard. The year-long training program builds on inherent skills and channels the women into jewellery-making, quality-control, marketing, accounts etc. But what is unique is how Priyanka develops the women’s personalities by teaching communication skills , teamwork and leadership. This for-profit organisation has the soul of a social enterprise.

The work areas are clean and cheerful. The walls are full of professional shots of the Abiras, modelling the jewellery they have created . They look stunning. The photographs too, are taken by one of them- an Abira training to be a photographer. There are 25 women working with Priyanka today and she plans to grow her business by also training women to be carers for the elderly as well as for children.

Priyanka invites the Abiras to speak. Each is surprisingly articulate and confident. They speak emotionally about how financial independence through jewellery-making is just a part of what they have gained at Abira. They have found a voice, they have found companionship and they have found the ability to live their dreams. We are moved by their heartfelt words. The impact Priyanka’s enterprise is creating is obvious.

I am reminded of the solar engineer grandmothers of the Barefoot college at Tilonia whom we meet during the Yatra. It’s the same joyful spirit and confidence that we see here. No coincidence, as the Barefoot college was a great inspiration to Priyanka when she joined the Jagriti Yatra in 2013 as a Yatri, and again in 2015 as a voluntary organiser – a part of the engine room club ERC.

The Jagriti Yatra, is an intense experiential program that inspires future young entrepreneurs to build India through enterprise. It takes the form of a 15 day pan-India journey of learning and inspiration. Each year at least 40% participants are women and 65 % from tier 3, 4 districts. After the 15 days, we organise mentorship workshops to sustain and build on the Yatra learnings. In March, we organise the Jagriti Sakhi Udyogini – events to promote women-centric enterprise, as well as networking and mentoring among Yatra alumni.

The audience today is mainly composed of Yatra Alumni and interestingly, there are more men than women. An informal discussion begins and I see networking in action. One Yatri recommends the latest NSDC programs to Priyanka. Another suggests mentors for her next horizon- training women for senior- care. Yet another puts her in touch with a potential investor. Many ask questions to understand her financial model and growth strategy and share lessons from their own ventures. All are energised by what Priyanka has created.

The event ends with delicious wada- paav, the Yatri Geet and a feeling of joy. The Yatra spirit is rekindled. I congratulate Priyanka on what she has created and wish her luck. Her response is simple – “ It’s all the effect of the Yatra”. The effort of hundreds of selfless volunteers that make the Yatra, is validated once again. The journey goes on.