DiscoverThe Feminifesto PodcastEpisode 29 - The Women from Paalaguttapalle
Episode 29 - The Women from Paalaguttapalle

Episode 29 - The Women from Paalaguttapalle

Update: 2019-11-01
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A group of women from a small village Paalaguttapalle in Chittoor District in Andhra Pradesh came together to create Paalaguttapalle bags. These women - Annapurna, Anita, Rani, Lakshmikantha, Annapurna(Buji), Roopa, Kala, Ramila, and Nirmala - continue to run their initiative today. After drought struck and agriculture slowed down, they began stitching bags to sustain their families. Today, they’ve supplied high quality products all over the world, and also make delicious pickles, free of preservatives, using traditional recipes. In this episode, Vaishnavi speaks to the women in Telugu.

Do follow this transcript if you don't understand Telugu.

Can you tell us how Paalaguttapalle bags began?

We began four years ago. Some of us had some experience stitching blouses earlier and some of us were manual labourers. Most of us helped with our husbands on the farm or did odd manual labor work on and off. We began stitching bags as three women. We are all neighbours, and this made it easy to coordinate. We used to help stitch bags together on a needs-basis, whenever we were asked. We had a massive drought and agriculture failed, so our means of livelihood took a beating.We met Aparna at around that time, and she asked us to consider making a business out of it. She recommended that we could make money and export the bags, as a lot of people would be able to buy them at reasonable prices. When the orders increased, we had three, and then four, more women join us.

How has your personal life changed/improved because of your involvement with this initiative?
We run this business entirely on our own. It gives us economic independence and helps us earn our own money. We have been able to educate our children, too. We do not need to rely on agricultural work and any other source of income.How did you learn to make these bags and can you take us through the process?We use cotton, and follow the template of plastic bags to create our bags. We did not formally learn from anyone. We began stitching with the cotton that we had at home, and found that it was marketable. Once we realized that we could use it as a venture to make money, we began. Aparna invested in the first lot of materials for us, and bought our first lot of cotton. We customize the design, shape, and size to suit the needs of our customers. We come up with creative patterns and ideas, and some of our customers also give us ideas that we use.

Can you tell us about any memorable anecdotes with your customers that you remember?We have a frequent customer from the US, Aravinda, who placed our first order and continues to place multiple orders. She also sends us sarees and gifts, and takes care of us very well. She has also guided us on designs. We also have another customer from the UK who orders a lot from us. Each customer is important for us and we are very happy to deliver the products to them.

What are some of your challenges? How can our listeners help and support your work?
The main problem we face are with postage. We have to commute to the nearest post office, which is quite a walk. Sometimes, they refuse to send the goods in bulk, so we split up the delivery among several post offices. We sometimes have to rely on courier services, which is quite expensive. The best way anyone can support is us by placing orders. Help us grow our business and make it as big as possible.
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Episode 29 - The Women from Paalaguttapalle

Episode 29 - The Women from Paalaguttapalle