Ajay Das comes from a poor family in Patla village. The family of six was dependent solely on agriculture. Apart from paddy, they also cultivated vegetables and Assam lemon, earning around Rs.1500 a month, which was barely sufficient. What does Ajay do now? He is an entrepreneur, producing arecanut leaf plates. Initially shy and slow, over a period of time he gained confidence when he saw the money coming in and when he realized that he could independently handle such a complex activity. In the last financial year, he produced around 40,000 products, one of the highest. He has taken up this activity full time and has one of the best raw material supply chains and is earning more than Rs.3000 a month.
Dalimi Patgiri from Bhalaguri village, a mother of two, is married to a teacher in a private school in the village. She came forward to start a similar venture. She not only saw an opportunity to earn additional income but also to set an example for other women. She facilitated setting up the raw material banks through a SHG (Self-Help Group) and helped collect 50,000 pieces of raw material in her area. She led a team of seven women on training visit to Salem at a time when many women did not have the courage to go beyond the precincts of the village. Later when her group did not support her to establish the plates manufacturing unit, she decided to do it alone. She set up the unit with a loan from SBI in January 2007. In spite of many problems and criticism from villagers, she has continued to improve her performance.
These are inspiring stories of just two of the many villagers of North East India, whose lives have been completely transformed by the initiatives of Dhriiti – The Courage Within.
Tambul plates and bowls are made out of the sheaths from the arecanut (supari) tree. These disposable utensils can be used for serving and eating food. Some of the qualities of Tambul plates are as follows:
Dhriiti has set up micro enterprises for Arecanut Leaf Plate Manufacturing. Each arecanut leaf plate manufacturing unit provides direct employment to three persons and indirect employment to ten other persons. At the same time, it produced an eco-friendly alternative to dangerous plastics and polystyrene plates, using dried arecanut sheaths, otherwise wasted in these regions. Since these regions have a huge raw material supply, Dhriiti focuses on the four Bodoland districts of Baska, Chirang, Kokrajhar, Udalguri and the adjoining districts of Barpeta, Nalbari and Bongaigaon to promote this project. Dhriiti operates from its office in Barpeta, Assam and hopes to generate a business of more than 100 crores for rural North East by 2015.
So far, Dhriiti has established 44 units. Not only have over 5 lakhs plates been sold till now but the process has generated income of around 2 lakh for rural people by selling arecanut sheaths which was earlier deemed a waste product. The units, established at the house of the entrepreneurs, offer convenience and ease of self-employment.
The percentage of poor in Assam is the highest among the seven sister states of the North East. Around 36.09 percent of the State’s population continues to live below the poverty line. The incidence of unemployment, measured as a percentage of the labour force is increasing in Assam. The way out of the unemployment and insurgency scenario is to promote self employment. This is where the arecanut leaf plate industry comes in. Cheers to an organization that has tapped the opportunity in this sector, providing employment to not just the entrepreneurs but also to many others!
Dhriiti – The Courage Within
57A, Upper Ground Floor
Khizrabad, New Friends Colony
New Delhi 110065
Landline: 91-11-26843527 and 91-11-65963639