Subhasini Vs HLL

Amiya Kumar Bartia | April 07,2014 11:45 am IST

The state Orissa has always been in the figuring for the last couple of years by the regular attack of natural calamities like flood, draught, and cyclone. Bolangir is one of the districts of the state that has been facing severe drought and that drought has jeopardized the economy of that district.

The prime source of livelihood that the people of that area have is agriculture which depends on the mercy of monsoon in that area due to unavailability of irrigation. Because of the failure of crop time and again it has compelled the inhabitants to migrate out of that district in search of other options for livelihood. But, now the Govt. and some NGOs are trying for the betterment of these people by creating watersheds in that district so as to overcome the disaster of famine and to sustain the livelihood options for the local inhabitants in that area. One of these watershed projects is running successfully for the second year in Asurmunda village of Agalpur block. This year due to good monsoon there is enough water stored in their watershed and now the villagers are planning to go for the Rabi crop, something unheard and unimaginable till now.

Some of the watershed projects in that district have been taken over by Western Orissa Rural Livelihood Project (WORLP) and being funded by DFID. Asurmunda watershed project is one of them. The implementing agency working in that area thought of introducing the habit of 'Thrift' among the villagers of Asurmunda and prompted the watershed committee of that village to form SHGs. The committee formed SHGs consisting of 13 members so that the folks could get the idea of 'Save in'. After running successfully for some months the SHGs were eligible to get funds from any bank or other funding agencies. The SHG itself decides the fate of the amount allocated to that group i.e. whether to be distribute it among the members so that each can start any business of their own or to invest it for the common interest of that SHG. 'Gramapati' is an SHG in Asurmunda where the members decided to distribute the amount among them.

Subhasini Nag is a member of that SHG who belongs to an SC community and falls in the 'very poor' category as per the wealth ranking done in the village in a PRA (Participatory Rural Appraisal) exercise done earlier which divided the population of that village in four categories e.g. Rich, Manageable, Poor, Very Poor. Her family size is three with her husband and a child. With an assistance of Rs.1700 from the Livelihood fund and Rs.1300 from the bank linkage loan to the group she was able to bring a remarkable change in the financial condition of her family. She invested the sum in purchasing the consumer goods manufactured by a local manufacturer (Budu Meher) and selling them in nearby villages by hawking. Budu Meher lives in a village named Menda 15 kilometers away from Asurmunda. He manufactures himself some daily use items like washing powder, toilet soap and detergent cake. The prices of those products are quite lower than those of the branded companies. He markets them in the brand names like Nihar (washing powder), Sunny (toilet soap) and Kanchan (coconut oil). Subhasini, at times, takes these products to the nearby haats.

By selling these items she gets a handsome margin over them. The margin varies from one rupee to five rupees depending upon the items.


Subhasini Nag transacts in those goods fortnightly (for two weeks). The lay out of one of those transactions is given below.


Thus with an investment of Rs.1300 she could generate a profit of Rs. 270 within two weeks. Now four more of the same village have started doing the same business and are able to sustain their families which they had failed to do earlier. It is important to note here that while hawking Subhasini also sells goods like washing powder in loose form i.e. if the buyer needs washing powder worth 50 paise, she caters to that need as well using a table spoon as a measuring device that she has standardized on her own. This has enabled the poor villagers to go for the products like washing powder, hair oil and toilet soap with the meager amount that they can spend.

But, now this means of livelihood is being challenged by the recent intervention made by HLL in that village. HLL is prompting other SHGs of the same village to make an investment of Rs.10, 000. With that investment HLL assures to provide products of same value to them. Now the onus is on the SHG to formulate the selling strategy. Some of the SHGs have decided to have the goods sold through the members on a weekly rotation basis i.e. a member takes the responsibility of selling the goods for a week and then that responsibility is transferred to another member next week. Now due to the bombardment of advertisements and other promotional campaigns even the poor villagers may feel tempted to go for these FMCG products and it is apprehended by the sellers like Subhasini Nag and local manufacturers like Budu Meher that it may jeopardize their business and they may loose their only means of income generation.


Amiya Kumar Bartia holds an M.Sc. (Agriculture) degree followed by PGDM from XIM, Bhubaneswar. He is currently working as Six Sigma & Competitive Intelligence Leader at Dow Agro-Sciences India Pvt. Ltd., a subsidiary of Dow Chemicals....