Rag picker running a cooperative of one Crore turnover

Today we decided to write another story on based on ‘rags to riches’ . It is the journey of Manjula Vaghela, who was a paper picker till 1981 in Ahmedabad earning a meager 5 Rs a day.

One day she came across Elaben Bhatt-founded Self-Employed Women’s Association (Sewa ) and decided to set up a co operative. As she was into rag picking , she identified cleaning job as service would have good prospects.

Manjula Vaghela instructing co workers

With this initiative she formed Shri Saundarya Safai Utkarsh Mahila Sewa Sahkari Mandali Ltd (SSSUMSSML) with around 40 women most of whom are rag pickers. She started offering commercial cleaning services to institutions and private firms.

“National Institute of Design was the first institution to give business to us. Next, Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) hired our 15 women,” says Manjula, who was then the chief supervisor. She recalls how it took five years to convince authorities to register their cooperative as they were not selling any product but a service

Their gunny collection bags now replaced with modern equipment including road cleaners, vacuum cleaners, high-jet pressure, micro-fibre mops, floor cleaners, carpet shampooing machines, scrubbers and extractors, these women claim to do a mean cleaning job

Manjula says the cooperative recently touched a milestone of 1 Crore turnover and they attribute the success to women hard work.  She says her next target is to educate the illiterate women in computers so that they can understand the e-tender procedure as most of the companies now issue e-tenders.

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