Sakhi – Hindustan Zinc’s Comprehensive Approach to Women Empowerment through MSMEs


New Delhi: Small Industry Day is recognized each year on 30th August. This day is celebrated nationally with the aim of promoting the second largest employment generating sector –the Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector. Small industries have a critical role in the economic development of a country like India. With around 36.1 million units, it has been reported that MSMEs contribute around 6.11 per cent of the manufacturing GDP and 24.63 per cent of the GDP from service activities. MSME industries employee120 million people and further has the potential to enhance its contribution to GDP up to 50 per cent by 2025.

Standing true to their commitment towards nation-building, Hindustan Zinc under its Micro-Enterprise initiative – SakhiUtpadanSamiti, aims to provide sustainable livelihood opportunities to rural and tribal women in five districts of Rajasthan – Ajmer, Bhilwara, Chittorgarh, Rajsamand & Udaipur and Pantnagar in Uttarakhand.

Keeping ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ as their core principle, Hindustan Zinc’s SakhiUtpadanSamiti runs 4 Agri-businesses and 2 Textile units that employ 130+ Sakhi women and source high quality, chemical-free produce from rural women farmers. They offer a fine range of agricultural and textile products for sale across India. Sakhi Self Help Group program are in alignment with the government’s efforts on financial inclusion of women to encourage women entrepreneurship.

‘Katori’ and ‘Upaya’ -Sakhi’s marketing entities that bridge the gap between rural women and the end consumer work in tandem with women’s collectives to aid in their evolution into independent and sustainable businesses. Arun Misra, CEO, Hindustan Zinc says on the program, “Our core philosophy of being ‘Vocal for Local’ promotes the growth of small industries, especially in our local communities. We believe in empowering our local communities with the power of entrepreneurship and skill development to move towards becoming an ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’. Our Sakhis are the catalysts of social change in our local communities and through collective microenterprises of our Sakhi Utpadan Samiti, we have skilled them, supported them and provided them with a platform to mainstream the social and financial inclusion of women in an equalitarian society.”

Gudiya Kanwar and Jamna Khatik are living proof of Arun Misra’s vision of creating a platform to make promote women entrepreneurs has been successfully taking shape. Gudiya, who works in the Pickle Unit in Kayad Village, Ajmer, Rajasthan, speaks about her experience, “Joining the picking unit has changed my life. Today, I am single-handedly supporting my son’s education and financing the construction of our new home.  I hope to see our little unit transform into a pickle factory someday”. Gudiya who is the sole breadwinner of her family now earns between Rs. 4,000 to 5,000 per month.

Jamna Khatik, who works at the Textile unit in Bhilwara’s Agucha Village, Rajasthan recalls, “I have learnt a lot at the unit. I was lagging when I joined but I didn’t give up and over time, my speed in stitching has improved from 50 to 500 marks per day. My dream is to create my own stitching centre where I can give employment and teach other Sakhis, allowing them to enhance their social position in society.” Jamna began her journey with a monthly salary of Rs. 4000 – Rs.5000 now earns over Rs. 25,000. With her earnings, she was able to make a Fixed Deposit to secure her children’s higher education.

Hindustan Zinc along with their Business Partners Manjari Foundation and Saheli Sameti have empowered women like Gudiya and Jamna from remote and marginalized sections by mobilizing and organizing them into Self-Help Groups and associated tiers. Over time, these SHGs are developed into credit-worthy financial vehicles that provide opportunities to its members to save and access credit through micro-finance for enterprise development. More importantly, there is a viable model that can be replicated for other women who now have the opportunity to pull themselves out of poverty and become financially and socially independent.

Hindustan Zinc has been running women empowerment interventions in local communities since 2006 and will continue to push the boundaries on this front. The project involves 194 functional village organisations (VOs) and 5 federations with 27,000+ women across seven locations. Sakhi addresses socio-economic challenges faced by women by developing their capacities in leadership, skill development, finance management and entrepreneurship. It is just one of the many interventions the company undertakes for the community that is one of the primary pillars of their operational ethos.