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How a Housewife-Turned-Construction Worker Beat all Odds to Start her Own Business

Sushma Devi is the recipient of a microbusiness grant from School of Hope & Empowerment, a combined initiative by The Better India and TATA Communications’ CSR team.

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This initiative is implemented in partnership with TATA Communications.


“When I came to know that I have been selected I was overjoyed and shared the good news with my husband immediately,” informs Sushma Devi, recipient of a microbusiness grant from S.H.E. (School of Hope & empowerment), a combined initiative by The Better India and TATA Communications’ CSR team. “Though it took me some time to realise that I was among the fortunate ones, I know from now life for me and my family will be better.”

Aiming to use inspiration and education to inspire women from rural India to become entrepreneurs, S.H.E. uses a series of inspirational and educational videos to create awareness and interest in entrepreneurship for rural women. A resident of Anandpur town in West Singbhum (Jharkhand) Sushma happens to be one of the prospective entrepreneurs.

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Sushma, 30, is a housewife and a mother of two — a five-year-old boy and a 10-month-old baby. Coming from a BPL (Below Poverty Line) family, she shares her home—built with a grant of Rs 75,000 under the Indira Awas Yojana—with her aged in-laws. “The money we received was not enough and we had to raise more funds to complete the construction. My husband and I built the house with the help of a mason,” says Sushma.

Early this year S.H.E. reached out to women in several small towns spread all over Jharkhand. To complement the inspirational series, The Better India has also created an educational series, which covers six fundamental aspects of entrepreneurship, and this content is delivered via IVR. Later, a form was distributed among the attendees asking if they would be interested in starting self-owned businesses. S.H.E. received an overwhelming response from some 400 plus applicants wishing to be mentored and secure a business grant of Rs 50,000. Of them, only three were selected.

In India, entrepreneurship has traditionally been a male preserve with women constituting only 13.76% of the total entrepreneurs, according to the sixth economic census released by the Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation in 2016. S.H.E. aims to bridge this glaring gap in terms of rural as well as gender development in India.

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Its uniqueness lies in the way it is designed. It rests on two pillars—inspiration and education—to drive large scale social impact.

“I felt special to know that I was selected among hundreds of others,” reminiscences Sushma. “That I too could be like Hasrat Bano and help enhance the livelihood of my family and dream of better times filled my heart with joy.”

Sushma, like several others, viewed The Better India’s six-part inspirational series featuring the true story of a rural woman entrepreneur, Hasrat Bano, who overcame odds and established a couple of successful businesses.

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Harassed by a moneylender for not being able to repay a paltry sum, Bano of Thanwa village under Medininagar Block in Palamu experienced hope when she went on to become a member of a women self-help group (SHG) in 2013.

Within a couple of weeks of becoming a member, she began saving Rs 10 every week. After a lapse of a year or so, she availed of a loan from the SHG and paid back the moneylender. Later she took an additional loan of Rs 80,000 from the SHG to begin her business and opened a flour mill and followed it up with a shoe shop too. From these two businesses, she earns over Rs 20,000 a month.

Bano’s story and others are not only helping women come out of poverty but also dream of better times. Sushma who discontinued her education after her Class 11 is married to Nimesh (32), who plies a thela selling “Chinese Chowmein to people of Anandpur”.

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Sushma has now started adding to the family kitty working as a construction worker earning Rs 100 a day for an eight-hour shift. “While I did majdoori my in-laws took care of my kids. However, following the lockdown, I stopped getting any work and the same happened with my husband too,” says Sushma.

It was her business pitch of starting a backyard poultry venture that won her the grant. With 500 plus households of Anandpur in Manoharpur Block microbusinesses like Sushma’s holds a lot of promise, if done right. She has received the first installment of the grant of Rs 25,000. “I will begin with 25 chicks and plan to keep them in my small aangan. When I get my next part of the grant I plan to scale up my business,” says a confident Sushma. “Thanks to the financial assistance now I can educate my kids and also take care of the medical expenses of my in-laws.”

Having discovered the power of storytelling and its ability to create real-life impact, Tata Communications and The Better India has plans to expand the scope of the S.H.E which relies on digital communication to reach rural women to Bihar and Odisha so that several other Sushmas can transform their lives.

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