Meet the women at Shri Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat Papad, popularly known as Lijjat. By definition, Lijjat is a cooperative involved in manufacturing of various fast moving consumer goods, with papads at the helm. For the average Indian though, they need no introduction. Lijjat’s television commercial featuring their mascot - a stuffed rabbit who goes “Kharram Khurram” - is legendary.

The description of the initiative by its founders - “A unique organisation of the women, by the women, for the women” – could not be more apt. The thinking was as effective as it was simple; There was a living to be made, self-employment seemed like the best way to do it, and cooking was the sole skill the founders, a group of women, had. The 7 of them, residents of Lohana Niwas in Girgaum, Mumbai, borrowed Rs 80 and took over a sinking papad-making venture. On March 15th, 1959, they gathered on the terrace of their building and started with the production of 4 packets of papads. And the rest, as they say, is history.

From the outset, the women followed a winning strategy. Parekh, the man who lent them their first business loan, became their guide and gave them invaluable advice on maintaining quality, keeping proper accounts and running the venture like a business enterprise. The organisation only employed women and expanded at an incredible pace, within 3 months there were about 25 women making papads. Today, they stand tall with an employee strength of over 42,000 women.

Although entrepreneurship and livelihood appear as the primary objective of the initiative, Lijjat and its growth is better seen in the larger canvas of women and their empowerment. Being Gujaratis, the women refer to each other as “ben”, meaning sister, and the employees are called member-sisters of Lijjat.

49 is a number. Just like any number that’s greater than 1, it signifies strength, welfare and several other benefits that large numbers bring with them. And at Lijjat, the belief in the muscle of numbers is intrinsically existent. Lijjat’s growth, their independence, their profitability, and their sheer supremacy within their domain is but a function of unwavering faith in the saying “Unity is Strength.”

Jaago Re urges every woman in this country to vote. Vote because there are many more like you who will also vote. And together, you can make that difference. Just like the women at Shri Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat Papad did.

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