In the year 1937, Mahatma Gandhi established a Khadi Gram in Hudli, a tiny village in Karnataka, with the idea of encouraging homegrown cottage industries in villages that wouldn’t require the people to leave for other places in search of employment.
Home to about 7000 people, Hudli has more or less faded into the realms of history,to the extent that one can’t sometimes even find it on maps (we tried looking for it on Google Maps, for instance). Like many villages in our country today, where hundreds have been migrating to cities and towns in the hope of better employment and income, the fate of the village too seems to be headed towards a path to decline.
Three young professionals from Bengaluru are on a mission to change that, and won’t stop until 100 more women of Hudli have been employed.
Now, you might be wondering what 100 more women means? Well, The Hudli Project, brainchild of Pronoy Roy, Amit Vadavi and Adarsh Muthana, intends to employ more women from the village other than the 25 women who work at the Khadigram factory and make pickles for a living.
“Amit’s great grandfather had been part of the Khadi Gram at the time Gandhiji had come to the village for its inauguration. But the state of the village in terms of employment was quite poor. While agriculture at one point had been the source of livelihood for the entire family, with most of the men headed off to the cities looking for jobs, the women are left with not much options; except for working as daily-wage labourers, which could also not be stable,” says Adarsh, one of the co-founders.
Previously data analysts at analytics company Mu Sigma, the trio started acting with their research and development in August 2016 and decided to employ their problem-solving skills for a noble cause.
Currently catering to a base of 600, the team has set its goal of reaching 30,000 customers.
“The idea is that of guaranteed employment along with a steady income that can help sustain the families without having the need of leave the village. According to our estimate, if 30,000 people buy pickles from these women for a year at ₹80 per month, 100 women will be able to provide for their families for an entire year”, says Adarsh.
The people in the Hudli village have been making pickles since the Seventies; unfortunately, due to lack of demand, their pickle making skills have long been in the danger of being abandoned in favour of jobs that pay on a regular basis. Integrating digital marketing and brand management with the campaign in order to raise awareness and create demand in urban areas, the ultimate aim is to help the Khadi Gram become a self-sufficient organisation that is able to provide sustainable employment in a long run.
Right from convincing the women to coming up with optimal business plans, a lot has gone behind the project since August until the team was affirmative about heading towards a digital platform. “The website went live on January 23 this year and we’ve been receiving a great reception. But like I said earlier, we won’t rest until we reach that goal we have set for the project”, Adarsh insists.
On the question of why pickles and not khadi, Adarsh mentions that for a regular person, the latter would more or less be a one-time purchase. “That does not serve our vision of proving sustainable employment for the women. Since pickles are generally consumed fast, they have the scope of generating recurring demand, considering the frequency being monthly or even shorter”, he adds.
Currently, employing the B2C plan (where the product is sold directly to consumers), the delivery of pickles is currently available in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities apart from Bengaluru, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai and Delhi. Implementing the subscription model, similar to the how one subscribes for magazines and comics (and a plethora of new products and services), you can choose between 12 and 18-month duration along with your similar quantity.
The team is considering the possibility of supplying the pickles to corporate canteens, caterers, hotels and restaurants. “Tie-ups with such enterprises should be a major boost since such orders mostly come in bulk and thus, would end up engaging more women in the factory,” Adarsh says.
The factory and the pickles have FSSAI approval, the official seal of approval from the government, for commercial food products. On the likelihood of exporting the pickles abroad, Adarsh says that they have not given up the possibility. “That is something we might consider taking up once our mission is fulfilled”, he adds.