A look at some of the successful female entrepreneurs from the marginalised classes

Successful female entrepreneurs

If you consider the Indian business world, women, in general, are a marginalised category. Less than a fifth of businesses in India is owned or founded by women. No wonder the success of women-owned businesses is widely applauded, often patronisingly so. Rarer still has been the success of women from the marginalised class. However, in recent times there have been examples of women from the various marginalised class defying the odds with their entrepreneurial skills and establishing their businesses successfully. We take a look at some of these women who have made a mark in the last few years.

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1. Sandhya Chokerwal – Born in a Dalit family, Sandhya was abandoned by her father and grew up under the guardianship of her uncles. She is from a village in Palwal, Haryana where she now runs a garment designing business. With a turnover of over a crore per month, she has not only made it big for herself but also gives employment to hundreds, many of whom are women like herself.

2. Jesmina Zeliang – Belonging to one of the prominent scheduled tribes of Nagaland, Jesmina has singlehandedly put Naga textiles on the world map. Her firm Heirloom Naga was awarded the 2019 JSW award for contemporary crafts(wo)manship. She also owns Cane Concepts, a 30-year-old firm that manufactures and exports bamboo and cane products. Her upmarket store Konyak sells niche products from Nagaland.

3. Savitaben Kolsawal – is a Gujarati Dalit who famously pushed a cart of half-burnt coal to local shops. She overcame years of stigma and societal stereotypes, being a Dalit woman in what was largely a male-dominated market. She expanded to ceramics and ended up starting Sterling Ceramics. Today she produces and even exports ceramic products, having started with a small ceramics factory three decades ago. 

4. Kalpana Saroj – It wouldn’t be wrong to call Kalpana Saroj the poster girl of marginalised women entrepreneurs. Now heading a $112 million business, Saroj was a child bride who was physically abused by her in-laws. Having ended up in a Mumbai slum, this Marathi Buddhist lady started her entrepreneurial journey with a furniture business. She took over an ailing firm in 2001 and used the opportunity to turn it into a million-dollar company. This company is Kamani Tubes, and she is its CEO. 

5. Tage Rita – An agricultural engineer by vocation, Rita is India’s brewer of kiwi wine. Belonging to the vibrant Apatani tribe of Arunachal Pradesh, this female entrepreneur experimented with the abundance of the fruit basket that is Ziro Valley to do some serious brewing. What resulted was Naara Aaba, the kiwi wine brand. Sourced from her orchard and the Kiwi Growers Cooperative Society of Arunachal, Naara Aaba used the largely discarded kiwi fruit in this unique range of wines. 

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While we raise a toast to Rita and her fellow women achievers from the marginalised class, it is worth noting that the future looks promising for the upcoming women entrepreneurs. With schemes for women entrepreneurs like Stand-Up India, we can hope that we have many more success stories grabbing the headlines. 

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