The success story of Lijjat Papad is now ready to hit the big screens of the nation and inspire many. Let’s do an in-depth read about this successful cooperative.
Indian women, of the 20th and 21st century, have constantly broken stereotypes that had caged them for ages. One of them was employment. Because of the responsibilities of their families and houses, women could not pursue their passion and build successful careers. But a few groups of women chose a different path and their business really took off.
In this article we are talking about Shri Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat Papad, commonly known as Lijjat, India’s oldest and most successful all-women cooperative that is famous for manufacturing FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) like Papad, Appalam, Masala, Gehu Atta, Chapati, SASA Detergent Powder, Liquid Detergent and Detergent Cake.
This women’s worker cooperative was started in March 1959 in Girgaum, Bombay, by a Gujarati group of Jaswantiben Popat and six other homemakers like her who wanted to financially support their families.
These 7 women used their experiences of doing household chores as a bootstrap to start a business from their houses with an initial investment of only Rs. 80.
The group laid the foundation of this cooperative on a terrace in their village and decided one ingredient like flour, spices, dal etc to be brought by each member.
On the first day, they prepared the dough for Papad’s and sold them in their neighborhoods. The price chart went about half a rupee for four packets. The next day, the manufacturing of Papad’s and earnings doubled. This gave them a sense of empowerment and soon many women joined the troop and set to roll Papad’s.
The group took a leap forward in the first three months of its launch with over 200 women getting employed under this. And in six years, Lijjat Papad registered themselves as an enterprise by spreading across cities and states, hiring and training young women.
Soon, the purpose of the cooperative was shaped into providing employment to women, guiding them and empowering them to stand on their feet independently. Today, this cooperative stands on a foundation of several trained women and their constant hard work that has led a Rs 1600 crore turnover for the cooperative (2019). As of May 2021, over 45000 women from 17 states are employed in this cooperative and they have sold 4.8 billion Papad’s.
The manufactured goods are also exported to 25+ countries including the USA, UK, Singapore, Japan, France, Canada, Australia, Hongkong, etc.
The workers refer to each other as Lijjat Sisters and have a firm belief in Sarvodaya that is the progress of all. The organisational structure of Lijjat Papad involves a 21-member committee with several positions like President, Vice President, Secretaries etc.
Men are only salaried employees, working as guards or drivers so they cannot become members of the organisation.
Lijjat Papad has strong financial accountability principles. The profits and losses are shared among the members equally and the payments are done daily. The pandemic took a toll on the papad manufacturing of the workers, but they managed to keep a sound and sanitised environment in the homes of the rollers.
The cooperative has received several accolades, including Padma Shri which has been awarded to Jaswantiben Popat (91) this year. Lijjat Patrika is circulated among the ones interested in the cooperative’s activities and it also acts as a medium of communication among the members and the consumers.
The entrepreneurial spirit of this cooperative will be showcased in Ashutosh Gowarikar’s upcoming directorial film which will truly inspire many young women across the nation.