Sunshine story: From labourer to entrepreneur via a lakh diyas
Kalpana Gayikwad and her family used to struggle for one decent meal; now she is exporting diyas to places like Dubai. Start your week with her story
Here's a cracker of a story ahead of Diwali - despite no formal training or experience, a housewife from Bhiwandi has pulled her family out of the days of empty stomachs and other hardships, by turning her childhood hobby into a successful business. Kalpana Gayikwad, 35, is the proud owner of Atharva Enterprises, a company that makes diyas, which recently went international, having already captured the national market over the last few years.
Kalpana came to Bhiwandi 10 years ago from Korivale in Satara after her marriage. Her husband Suhas, a driver, wasn't able to earn enough to feed the large family, and so, she took up a job in a small company with the help of her BA degree.
"We faced so many problems during those days. My husband's salary was barely Rs 4,000. But he was open-minded and didn't mind me taking up a job. With the help of some acquaintances, I joined a packaging company's admin department. But salary was only Rs 2,000. I used to think even a degree is not enough to fill stomach," she said.
Elaborating on her family's struggling period, she added that they didn't even have money to buy proper food then. "The situation was so bad that we used to eat one vada pav a day. And I had to stop working in 2011 after my son was born. I used to be so scared thinking what would happen to my child, my family. I'd always wanted a proper education in English medium schools for my children, but our condition was so bad in those days that I didn't think I would be able to even educate my boy," said the mother of two.
"Ultimately, I decided to keep myself busy at home by engaging in my favourite childhood activity and trying to make some money off it. With my husband's help, I started making diyas at home on a small scale. I remember when I sold my first packet to a local shop for Rs 18.
I made a profit of only Rs 3, but the happiness and satisfaction was priceless. I would roam all over the city, from shop to shop, with my six-month-old boy. My husband and in-laws helped me a lot. "Those were the days when I had to beg a shop owner to buy my diyas; now, more than 100 approach me for this."
The couple's daughter was born in 2013, and three years ago, they set up Atharva Enterprises, which has been selling diyas to buyers in different parts of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi and Rajasthan; this year, the company bagged orders from Dubai and three other countries.
Kalpana has 18 women employees, most of them mothers, working to ensure a good future for their children. They earn Rs 6,000-Rs 8,000 every month for around six hours of work daily. The money that the company is making has been pumped in the transport business run by Suhas, who no longer has to work as a driver and owns three cars of his own.
Kalpana said, "My husband is my support system, guiding me through everything. Our diyas have always been special, as I use a variety of colours to make them shine. I am aware there are different types of diyas available in the market now, but we are still in demand because of quality. We just shipped off one lakh diyas to Dubai, our first international consignment. We never imagined our small company would go global.
And now, thanks to that, I have been able to employ other women, who, too, want to earn for their children and families' sakes. And our aim is help them in making their dreams come true." Kalpana has also realised her own dream for her children - both of them study in an English medium school.
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