Creating ripples: The incredible success story of an Indian entrepreneur
Jina Khumujam had a very hard life after her marriage. Her marriage life had been nothing but a nightmare, husband cruelty became a tradition in the family and to worsen she did not get any support or any help from her maternal house. Her own siblings ignored her and her problems. In order to feed herself and her children she sell flowers or decorative materials made out of waste which was hardly enough for two meals a day for herself and her two daughters. Having very low qualification constraint her from any decent job. Yet she gave her best to be able to give two decent meals for her daughters. However, in 2004 it was all about to change!
In between 2003-04, she attended a training organized for women of domestic violence under the guidance of Ma’am Sobita of Women Action Development. With Ma’am Sobita’s guidance she began to gain confidence and began to receive a little help from the organisation as well in her work.
One day as her usual routine she was thinking of work, suddenly an idea struck her mind of making a soap. For few days she kept it to herself because she did not have enough money to buy materials to make soap. But her gut somehow tells her to go forward and she finally decided to share the idea to her daughters. Her daughters were very supportive and as they grew up they helped their mother in making flowers and knitting began to support each other. As Jina shared the idea of making soap, her daughter straight away asked how much she would need to buy material, she asked for 100 Indian rupees (just a little mroe than a dollar) and her daughter gave it to her. The first soap she made was in 2004 with cucumber and lemon and the sales turned out to be very positive. People began to order 1 or 2 at a time and gradually the demand increased.
Another distinctive feature of Jina is that she is expertise in recycling waste materials into productive and income generating items apart from making soaps. She collects discarded empty cement sacks and designs carry bags and other decorative accessory items out of it. She also make incense sticks, doormats, crochet etc. She does both hand and machine embroidery work on blouses, scarves, bed-sheets, pillow cover, almost everything. Manufacturing compost fertilizers out of rice husk, cow dung and other residues oil refinery is also her another innovative endeavour.
Jina soon began to manufacture soaps under the brand name “Ma-ngal”. She uses locally available herbs and fruits, which possess qualities to protect skin and impart natural goodness to it makes her unique selling point.
She uses traditional, age old process to make soaps without using any chemical. Purely vegetative and handmade, people keep coming back to her for her natural products, Freshly collected herbs are used in each soap and the Mangal brand represents women empowerment. Her slogan for the soap is, “made by women for women”.
Jina recalls folk-stories told by grandparents, of how the beauties in olden days keep their skin fresh and glow. She refers her method as taken from folk-stories which makes her much more unique than any other brand. Her grandparents use to talk about them using local herbs in their daily lives. With all these stories instilled in her mind the idea of making soap came to her mind naturally.
While selling her product, she is not looking for making huge profit out of it but she wants everyone to have the best products in a very affordable price as she herself has struggled throughout her life. When people comment she is selling in a very cheap price for the quality of the soap. She would like to say, she is not making it to become rich but to be able to give everyone a product with quality.
Many giant companies have approached her to buy her brand and has offered insanely huge amount but she is not willing to sell it. She feels it will not be the same if she gives it away, she wants to keep her tradition alive. Mangal is special and very close to her heart.
In 2007 National Innovative Foundation (NIF) came in search of her, after 2-3 months she was recognized by NIF. As requested she sent all the materials she used to make soap for the test and was verified. She received an Innovative Award from NIF the same year. NIF provided her a machine to test her soap free of cost, where she can test the temperature while making the soap and to make sure it is safe for the skin. NIF still comes every 3-4 months to check her products and to check if she needed anything.
From the beginning of her work to till date Jina has never taken or applied for any loan from any source, she manages all with her hard-earned money and with the cash she receives from various awards. Also considering the numerous questions they pose when she approaches them for help holds her back from asking for nay help. She wishes the process was simpler.
On 8th Mach 2011 she received a call from Delhi from The President Pratibha Patil for an exhibition, all of her travel itineraries were sponsored by President. She left for Delhi on 10th March 2011, during the exhibition she was personally invited by President to meet her and discuss about her work. After the exhibition she received an amount of Rs. 10 lakhs from the President. And since then her life changed and her work expanded. At present days she received bulk orders from outside and from UK as well.
Her marital life was short-lived, as she had to live with a husband who cared little to provide two square meals to their four children, not to talk about sending them to schools. A driver by profession, he would not be a regular contributor to the family needs, thanks largely to his drinking habits. This led to frequent fights in the Khumujam household with Jina realising that the only way to survive the odds was by turning into an entrepreneur, starting something on her own to support her family.
To add to her tragic life, Jina’s husband one day burnt all her certificates. Having lost all her proof of higher studies, Jina in her bio-data claims only to be a matriculate. Jina faced severe resistance from her husband during her start-up days. He would dislike her going to the market to buy things, ask her a zillion questions on her return home and discouraged her in all ways possible from pursuing a career.
But Jina was determined and fought all odds to establish herself as an entrepreneur. As she says, she immersed herself all the more deeply into work just to stay away from negative thoughts that arose from her husband’s behaviour.
Today Jina has established herself as an entrepreneur and makes 80-90 soaps daily with support from her daughter and her daughter-in-law. She lost her husband a year ago and is happy that he could see her do well in business while he was still around. Today Jina trains widow handcrafts skills, soap-making as she believes in women empowerment and thinks it to be the only solution to a better world.
This article is a part of the #StartingWithTheSelf campaign: A collection of inspiring stories designed to motivate you in your quest to make positive changes for an inclusive world.