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In days before Kurkures, Chocos, French fries and Pizzas there was other fried foodstuff which constantly sailed from the kitchen into our stomach.  I am talking about the Papad, Pappadam and Appalam whose demand was always higher than the supply.

What is a Papad?

Papad is to north India as Pappadam is to Kerala, Appalam to Tamil Nadu and Appadalu to the Telugus.  These are flat pancakes dried in the sun and can be stored for months before actually consuming them.

These are eaten as an accompaniment to rice dishes, though we as children snacked on it all through the day!    There are various methods to make it look interesting To make the papad spicier, fry it and top it with tomatoes, onions, butter, pudina chutney and onion chutney.  Microwaving also can be done if you are averse to oil.  Eat them as an evening snack with a side dip made of shallots or tomatoes.

Making of a Papad

Most of these products are made from Urad Dal is the most popular one. They are also made from rice flour, chickpeas or lentils. This changes from region to region.   Lentils or other ingredients are ground into flour. They are kneaded with salt, black pepper, vegetable oil and some spices. Later they are shaped into thin disks and dried in the sun for a few days. Once they are dry, they are ready to be fried or roasted for eating.

Papads and women empowerment

Papad is simple wafer-like pancake that can be made at home.  Most Indian women are aware of the making process.  The demand is also high. So, commercial production is bound to be profitable.

A wonderful real-life story of women empowerment

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Seven women came together in South Mumbai with the same idea.  One of the founding women, who is in her eighties said recently that her group consisted of only semi-literate people, who could probably not get a job in the Organised sector.  However, they felt that papad-making could give them some monetary returns at least.

The idea was simple to make these crisps, sell and share the minimal profits earned from the work from home enterprise.  All the women were from lower middle class with minimal education and next to no capital for investment.  They named their organization a cooperative called Shri Mahila Griha Udyog and their product was Lijad Papad, the Capital Rs.80/-.

Now the organization has 40000+ women working in 81 branches all over the country.  The eighty rupees has become a billion dollars.  Most of the women employed are semi-literate or illiterate.  Still are they all are co-owners and enjoy the share in the profits.

All these women contribute their labour and a part of their houses for drying of the Papads.  Yes, the process is still manual and many women work from their houses, kneading, rolling out and drying the Papads on their own rooftops.

Even illiterate women can become Business magnets!

This is women’s empowerment, isn’t it?  At this crucial juncture when women are being recognized and organizations are giving a second chance to ex-women employees,  an Organization as old as this highlights how women have silently marked their path.  They have not cried from rooftops but have created a silent revolution which highlights :

  1. Women can be entrepreneurs
  2. Can work together without conflict towards betterment of all
  3. Lack of Capital is not a hindrance for Startups.
  4. Housewives can also contribute to the economy even if they are illiterate
  5. Dignity through the means of self-employment for women who were until now considered a financial burden in the family.
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Such stories happen only in India.  In places like Mylapore in Chennai, many housewives have their own small business of selling these products called Appalam in the south.  Their clientele include other housewives who are one or two steps higher on the economic strata.  Nowadays, even big organizations are giving orders to these ladies because of the price and quality they have to offer.

One of the purposes of my writing this piece is to pay homage such women achievers in India. I could add a real-life story here.  One woman, whom I knew,  had a family of two sons and two daughters. Her husband lost his job at a very crucial stage in their lives.  The lady worked day and night making Appalams and other fryum stuff – kneading, rolling and drying them out in the hot tropical sun. She spent the evenings going around marketing. She helped her first daughter get a Postgraduate degree. Now my cousins are well-settled in life.  Unfortunately, this lady passed away without seeing them succeed in life.

Secondly, there exist opportunities in India for women, not very visible but not undeniable.  Wafer thin but such opportunities should not be missed……..

Featured Photo by kwankwan

Papad, Pappadam, Appalam –  Snacky Treat Or Women’s Empowerment?

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