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Major problems faced by the women run enterprises in Kerala



The author, Roshna George was an intern at ATREE CERC and currently Young Professional at MPSRLM


The study will help in understanding the major problems faced by the women run enterprises owing to lack of marketing of their products and services. The need to train them in marketing as well as their outlook and opinions about such trainings will be yielded through this study. Marketing is always a key aspect of any business. The need to effectively market a product lies on the hands of the producer. Identifying the target customers and catering to their needs to develop a product is crucial for the success of a business. Women entrepreneurship has been recognized as an important part of economic as well as social growth. Thus by enabling the women to market their own products through effective marketing training sessions helps to empower them as well as sustain the business.


The study involved interactions with various SHG groups/ Kudumbasree units and CDS members of three panchayats in Alleppey district namely Muhamma, Mararikkulam North and Kanjikkuzhi and successful women enterprises from Pathanamthitta and Ernakulam districts of Kerala.


Kudumbasree units of Kanjikkuzhi Panchayat


Major activities undertaken

∙ Agricultural activities

∙ Soap powder manufacture

∙ Liquid disinfectant manufacture

∙ Squash & pickle manufacture

∙ Turmeric powder manufacture


Key features/ strengths

∙ Purity of the products such as turmeric powder due to nonuse of additives. This in fact resulted in greater acceptability by the people as well as willingness to pay more for such a product. There was a level of trust between the producer and consumers.

∙ Localized customers as most of the products were sold within the locality itself (in the same or nearby groups or ward or panchayat).

∙ There were always demand for the products as most of it were daily use items. ∙ Less distribution cost owing to localized customers

∙ Facility to sell the products at the market ‘mela’ organized by the panchayat every month


Major challenges/ problems faced

∙ Lack of proper marketing of products. People were not aware about the products which hindered them from buying it.

∙ High competition from successful brands.

∙ Lack of proper packaging and branding of products. This prevented the purchase of products like pickles, squash etc. by shopkeepers.

∙ Lack of diversification of products. Most of the products were common in almost all groups or wards. This would affect the sale of the products.


Kudumbasree units of Mararikkulam North Panchayat


Major activities undertaken

∙ Candle making

∙ Handicraft unit

∙ Poultry farming

∙ Ceramic/steel plates and glasses hiring unit

∙ Catering units

∙ Laundry and cleaning services for resorts


Key features or Strengths

∙ Geographical proximity to sea shore have influenced greater involvement of many women in laundry and cleaning services for various resorts in the beach ∙ Facility to sell the products at the market ‘mela’ organized by the panchayat every month

∙ Localized customers

∙ Innovative approaches like handicraft unit making cradles of various sizes for resorts as well as individual customers and ceramic/steel plates and glass hiring unit. ∙ Diversified products were being produced

∙ Great support by the District Kudumbasree Mission in connecting with various customers

as well as in organizing exhibitions for the sale of their products.


Major challenges/problems faced


∙ Identifying the target customers – As in the case of hi-tech poultry farming wherein the decrease in sale of eggs posed a problem for many groups. Later on they identified schools as more sustainable option where large numbers of eggs can be sold every day.

∙ Lack of proper marketing skills such as in the case of few groups like Soruma Handicraft group who faced greater difficulty in the initial days of their business.

∙ Initial staggering income or returns prompted many to shut down their enterprise.


Kudumbasree units of Muhamma Panchayat


Major activities undertaken

∙ Coir manufacture

∙ Tailoring

∙ Snacks manufacture

∙ Catering

∙ Soap and soap powder manufacture

∙ Herbal oil

∙ Poultry farming

∙ Cloth bag making


Key features or strengths

∙ Localized customers

∙ Innovative and environmental friendly approaches like making cloth bags, purses, laundry bags out of old clothes especially sarees

∙ Majority of women here are dependent on clam processing and make different food items like clam pickle.

∙ Openness and willingness of women to get involved in innovative activities.

Major challenges faced

∙ Lack of marketing of products like the cloth bags, soaps etc.

∙ Staggered availability of raw materials like old clothes as in case of cloth bags. ∙ Lack of diversification. Lack of diversification of products. Most of the products were common in almost all groups or wards. This would affect the sale of the products. ∙ Lack of proper branding

∙ High competition from successful and popular brands.

∙ Less acceptability of products like the cloth bags.

∙ Increased cost of some products resulting in loss leading to shutting down of enterprise.

∙ Lack of different facilities like working space, electricity in case of cloth bag making. ∙ Lack of sustainable market.


Nature bags, Pandalam, Pathanamthitta


It started as a five member Kudumbasree unit in Pandalam panchayat in Pathanamthitta started in 2015.They underwent various trainings and currently have 25 members.


Major products

∙ Paper bags, Paper files

∙ Cloth bags

∙ Different kinds of bags are made such as school bags, hand bags, wallets etc. made out of jute, jeans material etc.

∙ Uniforms, coats

∙ Screen printing on bags


Key features/Strengths

∙ Cooperation and understanding between the members even during the initial difficult period of their business.

∙ Greater support from District Kudumbasree Mission as well as CDS in helping getting orders for bags

∙ Have the capacity to make upto 500 bags at a time with necessary workforce and machinery.


Major challenges/ problems faced

∙ Manual process of making paper bags and paper files. This resulted in increased cost and increased time in making these products.

∙ Difficulty in identifying and acquiring the raw materials

∙ Lack of proper marketing in the initial stage

∙ Lack of proper funds for expansion of the business


Major achievements

∙ As part of ‘Mission Green Sabarimala’, they manufactured cloth bags and were sold it to the government

∙ Made school bags as part of ‘Triveni’ school market


PURE (Products Up-cycled Recycled and Economized) Living, Ernakulam, Kerala

This is a social enterprise set up by Laxmi Menon, a designer by profession. She employs disabled, elderly and underprivileged women in making seed pens, which is one of its kind in the world. The pens are crafted out of waste paper and at the bottom of each pen a seed is buried. The waste paper is collected from the printing presses and are rolled with a machine designed and patented by Laxmi itself. She uses the seed of Agasthya tree or Agathi or West Indian Tree, which is having immense ayurvedic properties. In fact all parts of the tree such as the leaves, pods and flowers are used in medicinal preparations. Only the refill of the pen is made of plastic and replacing it with an alternative is one of her future aspirations. The pens are called ‘entrée’ which symbolizes the entry of a person into eco-friendly living.

These pens thus achieve upcycling of paper, plastic waste reduction, planting of trees and women empowerment all in one shot.

She sells around 1000 pens each day and have a capacity to make upto 3000 pens a day. Apart from the pens, she has employed the women of old age homes to make lamp wicks and is called “Ammumma thiri”. She has given trainings to different people. Wipro is the CSR partner of this enterprise and is having customer base all over the world.


Key features/strengths

∙ Innovative and uniqueness of the product.

∙ Empowering women especially elderly, disabled and underprivileged women ∙ Works towards protecting the environment through plastic reduction and planting more trees using the seed pens

∙ Proper branding and labelling of the product


Conclusion

Marketing is something that cannot be taught, but it can be made understood through various activities/games. Such activities which involve the participation of the people would help them get a better idea about marketing and related topics than through monotonous lectures. Women are often involved in a lot of works and to make them stay away from it for few days is a tough task at hand. Thus rather than lecturing about the concepts and principles, it is better to engage them through different activities and games so that they self-learn and at the same time learn from others too. A majority of learning is through these activities where the women themselves comes up with different ideas. This would help in boosting their confidence as well as their creativity.

Majority of the women groups are facing the problem of marketing of their products. One cannot teach them how to market, instead can make them capable to market their own products through understanding the various aspects of marketing and applying it to their life. This marketing training module tries to cover certain topics which will help the women to understand what they lack in marketing and what they have to focus on more for effective marketing. It empowers the women to make their own decisions and to come up with strategies that help them to sell the product.

Analysis of just a few Kudumbasree units and women entrepreneurs, though cannot give the bigger picture of the problem but sure does highlight one of the existing and common problems that any enterprise face bet it women run or not. Inherent withholding tendency of the women makes marketing all the more a difficult task. To make them come out of their shells of inhibitions will help to uplift the women. Thus training them in marketing will be a step towards not only women empowerment but also entrepreneurship development too.


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