Paalaguttapalle Dalitwada is a small village in Andhra Pradesh’s Chittoor district where farming is the main source of income. The village is home to around 65 landless families and has a very small population of around 200 people and practically everyone makes their money from farming, but unfortunately, the village suffered a drought in 2010 leaving them struggling.
Aparna Krishnan from Chennai had moved to this village with her family three decades ago, and she along with the women of the village came up with an idea that helped the villagers to thrive despite the drought. Aparna, who is at the helm of this initiative shares, “A simple idea, lots of skilled labor from the villagers, and smart social media promotions have helped the people of this village come afloat once again.”
When brainstorming about how to deal with the financial issues the drought had brought on, the women came up with the idea of stitching bags with machines as well as by hand to start earning again.
She shares, “Both men and women work together in the village irrespective of the task.”
In 2016, some women of the village began stitching cloth bags, and Aparna along with the help of her friends including Chennai-based designer Arun Kombai and photographer Sai Krupa, used social media to create a buzz on social media platforms like Facebook under the name Paalaguttapalle Bags. An acquaintance of Aparna’s was the first to place an order of 100 bags of Paalaguttapalle Bags and now these bags are in demand not only in India but also globally in countries like the USA, UK, Malaysia, Germany, and Canada.
Paalaguttapalle Bags have made more than 70,000 bags so far including 50 types of bags such as grocery bags, totes, conference bags featuring logos, tiffin carry bags for school children, jewelry pouches, including laptop sleeves, sling bags, backpacks, drawstring bags, and fancy gift bags. Moreover, they also make customized clothes bags for companies with their respective logos.
Aparna shares that she only promotes the products on social media, everything else including buying fabric, stitching, designing, embroidering, quality checks, packaging, dispatch, and delivery are all looked over by a group of 10 women from the village. The women also started making masks during the coronavirus pandemic and sold over 10,000 masks making a huge profit. They also have homemade pickles on sale.
When the drought struck the village, there was no source of income, however, the success of Paalaguttapalle Bags helped bring food to the tables of the villagers. Earlier both men and women would work in the fields and make money together, however after the drought women played a huge role in helping keep their families fed.
Aparna shares, “The husbands of these women are very proud that their wives are not only running the household but also making headlines all over.”
Paalaguttapalle Bags made 1,700 bags for the Organic World Congress in Noida and generated revenue of Rs 5 lakh in 2017. They also turned a profit of Rs 25,000 at a handloom expo in Goa in 2018. Aparna clarifies that all those supporting the initiative including her do it only to help on a purely voluntary basis and , “All the profits are solely split between these ten women, they share the profits and also reinvest in the business.”
However, given that the village isn’t in the best condition with issues like irregular electricity and poor connectivity that even the simplest of tasks like repairing a broken sewing machine get delayed. Aparna also admits that while the products are great she doesn’t have the professional marketing skills to boost sales. However, they are continuing to push on, with Aparna concluding, “We are always looking for orders for weddings, conferences, family events, corporate giveaways and purchases for personal use. The women seek work to sustain their families over all else.”
This story is submitted by Bilal Khan and edited by Alfea Shaikh. If you like this story, share it and spread positivity. Tell us your views by writing in the comment box below. We read each one of them.