Nayan KhadapkarOwner and Manager of Kokan Bazar
Hers is a story of how a TISSian is Empowering the Female Entrepreneurs of Konkan
Nayan Khadapkar, a TISS graduate and former marriage counsellor, was born in a family, which cherished the values of socialism. Her father being an active member and the founder of a textile union, was working towards workers’ welfare. She grew up with leaders like Mr Madhu Dandavate, Mr George Fernandes and their ideologies. After completion of Master’s in Social Work from TISS-Mumbai, she worked with various agencies and community development organizations. Her experience varies from counseling workers of Metal Box to counseling ladies on the brink of broken marriages.
Nayan married Arun, a marine engineer. The first few years of their marriage went in sailing with her husband across the world. But a social worker at heart and having been deeply influenced by American poet William Ross Wallace’s words (“The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world”), Nayan knew that women were the driving force for a change in society. She decided to implement Wallace’s philosophy and pay tribute to motherhood.
Her views and focus moved to the development of ladies to make them entrepreneurs in various fields. She worked with organization like CASP, WHO, Maze Maher and Stree Hitvardhaini and conducted various programs for women entrepreneurs. After working with women from the cities, she decided to shift her focus to rural women and their development.
However Nayan realized that our cultural and social evolution has always shown women as domestic creatures who don’t have the courage or intellect to be independent or establish themselves.
According to Nayan, following are the basic problems faced by Indian women entrepreneurs:
Lack of family support- Sometimes the family itself may make the women feel guilty of neglecting household duties in the pursuit of her business obligations. Cultural traditions may hold back a woman from venturing into her own business.
Lack of capital- traditional sources of finance like banks are reluctant to lend to women entrepreneurs especially if they do not have any male or family backing. This holds true mostly to women with low income. Women do not have adequate finance or legal knowledge to start an enterprise.
Lack of confidence and faith, lack of role models undermines the self confidence of women entrepreneurs. The activity of selling is considered abhorrent to the female gender.
Lack of right public/ private institutions: Most public and private incentives are misused and do not reach woman unless she is backed by a man. Also, many trade associations like ministries, chambers of commerce do not cater to women expecting women’s organizations to do the necessary thing.
Nayan and her husband,both had family ties with their native places where they have seen poverty, work constraints and ignorant family members settling outside villages. She decided to work for the rural area as limitation to fund, limited organization and Lack of support from the villagers.
She started visiting rural areas frequntly and interacted with the locals. Later, she approached self-help groups and through them identified women she would train in dishing out staples to help them become financially independent.
But soon she realized that she needed to provide these women with a platform to market and sell their products and that’s how the idea of Kokan Bazar was conceptualized.
Kokan Bazar located in the heart of the middle-class neighbourhood of Dadar is a one-stop store for more than 150 products sourced from villages along the Konkan coast. Kokum Juice and cashewnuts from Vengurla, dried fish and sweets made with peanuts and jaggery from Malwan, wooden fruits and toys from Sawantwadi, turmeric and coconut products from Nerur, Alphanso mango squash and jackfruit chips from Goveri have landed in the city, all thanks to Nayan Khadapkar’s initiative that helps rehabilitate women from the Kokan. Some widowed, others divorced or underprivileged women behind Kokan Bazar, pool in their skills to bring Mumbaikars fresh local produce.
Nayan also approached local food units and promised she would market their products in Mumbai if they hired women trained by her. Kokan Bazar was another brilliant idea of marketing and selling.
Nayan vision was, one woman employs 10 more, starting a chain run by women entrepreneurs.
Dipti Kolwankar, 40, from Kankavli, is a case in point. She started by making urad dal papads. Kolwankar needed money to support her family after her husband suffered a paralysis attack. Today, 25 other village women work with Kolwankar, happily rolling out their signature papads that sell under the brand name Disha Papads.
Besides Kokan Bazar, these women have successfully made inroads to other regional markets like Nashik, Kolhapur and Goa They have also begun to set up stalls at places like ST depots and railway stations. This is exactly what she set out to do — train and uplift these rural women to manufacture traditional food and handicraft. Provide or create initial market to gain confidence and then turn these skilled rural women into confident independent entrepreneurs.
The Maharashtra Economic Development Council (MEDC) and American Alumni Assocation (AAA) had chosen a few women from Maharashtra, who have proved themselves able and active champions on the social, economic and governance front. They awarded Nayan with Social Impact Karmayogini award which was presented to her by the then Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Prithviraj Chavan. Congratulating the winners, the Chief Minister said that "my own mother was a successful parliamentarian. I have learnt a lot from her and am sure that the karmayogini awards will push the boundaries of gender equality and encourage more women to achieve their dreams."