Maids, vegetable sellers set up polythene plant

June 2nd, 2009 - 3:26 pm ICT by IANS  

By Quaid Najmi
Pune, June 2 (IANS) A motley group of homemakers, maids, babysitters and vegetable vendors, some barely educated, has got together to set up a Rs.10-million (Rs.1 crore) polythene manufacturing plant here.

The project - the first in Maharashtra in the women’s cooperative sector - was inaugurated Thursday and has already bagged an export order from Dubai to supply six million plastic bags annually, said an excited Sulabha Ubale, patron of the Swamini Self-Help Groups Federation (SSHGF).

“Shivajirao Patil (MP from Shirur) has also promised to get us orders for half a million bags per month from the sugar cooperatives,” Ubale told IANS.

The project to manufacture polythene bags, used mainly by the sugar and cement industries, had a humble beginning with each member of the self-help groups associated with SSHGF contributing Rs.100 a month.

“We decided to do something that would provide gainful employment to our members. So we set up a sustainable business entity with long-term growth potential. Polythene bags are in great demand in this region,” said Ubale, a Shiv Sena corporator in the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) on the outskirts of Pune.

Maharashtra has 10 polythene bag manufacturers in the private sector, but the Swamini self-help group’s project is the first that will be exclusively managed by women.

The going was not easy in the initial stages. When the project proposal was presented for approval, the PCMC said the women would have to raise 20 percent of the total cost.

The 156 women members of SSHGF managed to use all their resources and successfully raised Rs.2 million.

The Swamini federation comprises 11 self-help groups - Yamunanagar, Sakhi, Kala, Nirmalmoti, Mauli, Trimurti, Khushi, Kumjai, Saraswati, Udan and Sankalp.

SSHGF is affiliated to the Pimpri-Chinchwad Mahila Mandal Mahasangh (PCMMM) with over 4,000 self-help groups having nearly 60,000 women members.

Impressed, the PCMC sanctioned Rs.300 million for the project and the Bank of Baroda stepped in with Rs.5 million.

The plant has been set up in a 3,500-square-metre plot, costing Rs.7.7 million. The remaining was spent on the building and other necessary infrastructure, Ubale said.

“We were lucky to get a firm seven-year buy-back order from Sumedh Polymers. They will supply the necessary raw materials and buy back the finished product, pay the bank loan and also the salaries of the over 100 women workers,” said SSHGF chairperson Swati Mujumdar.

After this, the federation is expected to make a profit of over Rs.300,000 per annum from the deal, she added.

From July, the plant will roll out bags at the rate of 800 kg per day, with a projected net profit of Rs.25 per kg.

“But we shall not stick only to this. We shall strive to get more orders from sugar and cement factories in the state and elsewhere. Our plan is to clear off all our oustandings as soon as possible, make it an export-oriented unit and acquire various international quality certifications,” Ubale said.

They also plan to convert the federation into a private limited company by 2011.

According to Mujumdar, monetary aspects are not the sole criteria behind the project. The bigger goal is to provide employment to underprivileged women.

Present employees will earn Rs.30,000-40,000 per annum, with perks like a subsidised canteen and conveyance facilities, and share in profits.

The project has already taken the region by storm and now at least three similar ventures have been floated. They are expected to complete the relevant formalities and launch in the next few months, Mujumdar said.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at

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