India: Bhagwanti Portay, entrepreneur

Bhagwanti Portay, entrepreneur in India

Bhagwanti Portay and 11 other women seized the initiative: they started producing and selling ready-to-eat meals. Ever since their village has been provided with electricity from renewable sources, the women have been able to increase their production, as they have bought an electric flour mill. Today they produce 100 ready-to-eat meals a day. On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, GIZ is providing rural areas in India with green energy. A power supply system has already been installed for 26 villages in two Indian states.

What do you produce in your business?

We make high-energy ready-to-eat meals for pregnant women and children. The meals are prepared from ground wheat, soya beans, beans, soya oil and sugar. Every month we sell our food packets to government mother and child-care centres. We reach about 2,500 people in all.

What difficulties did you encounter in starting a business?

When we started with the production of food packets, there was no electricity. Once the generator had been installed in our village, we were able to boost both our production and our earnings with an electric flour mill. Thanks to the increase in income, we are now able to send our children to school, eat better food and buy good clothes.

What was your biggest success?

The best moment for me was when, after five months of hard work, we received a cheque for EUR 3,500. Our dreams had been fulfilled – not only were we able to cover our costs but, for the first time, we had also earned our own money. This made us all very proud.

You are a member of the village power committee. What do you do there?

The generator runs on bio-petroleum and the power supply is managed by a committee that we founded ourselves. I head the committee. Not only does the generator provide us with electricity, it is in fact much more economical than a diesel generator. I also find it good that it doesn’t dirty our air.

What would you like to improve in your village?

I would like to build a village school for the children so we don’t have to send them to the city. There is also an urgent need for proper roads so that our village is better connected to the city. Brick houses for the entire community would also be nice – it would make life more comfortable.

Preparing food grains: cleaning, sifting and roasting. Bhagwanti Portay set up this production together with other women in the village.

Bhagwanti starts the grinding process and watches over it in the flour mill.

The women mix the milled foodgrains with oil and sugar and pack the prepared ready-to-eat packets for distribution to the child-care centres.

Bhagwanti prepares the bills and manages the accounts.

During the morning meeting Bhagwanti and the women discuss the target of preparation and the distribution of duties.

Bhagwanti is the secretary of the women’s self-help-group in her village.

The women deliver the ready-to-eat packets to the neighbouring village. Both sides supervise the delivery and do the paperwork.