Meet Jagadeeswari, the spice-seller with SME status

By Shivani Kochhar

Jagadeeswari could give any entrepreneur a run for their money. Five years ago, she was distributing her spices as free samples to neighbours and her business was making a loss. Fast-forward to today and she has won a state prize for ‘First-Generation SME Entrepreneur of the Year’. Her distribution network spans 200 shops across her home state of Tamil Nadu, and she sends her spices as far away as Malaysia. It’s a homegrown business gone global, and an unlikely success story in a state where 22.5 percent of people live below the poverty line, earning less than US $1.90 a day. Jagadeeswari’s successes are an exception to the rule rather than the norm – something that Hand in Hand aims to change.

Pondicherry, India

The perfect blend

Jagadeeswari flourished at her Hand in Hand Self-Help Group. The energetic 46-year-old is a natural leader, and her fellow group members quickly selected her to be in charge. Jagadeeswari started selling her spices at food fairs and managed to grow her client base district-by-district until she had established a state-wide network. Recognising her potential, Jagadeeswari’s Hand in Hand trainer provided her with special training in bookkeeping and packaging.

“Joining the Self-Help Group changed my life totally,” says Jagadeeswari, who now produces a range of around 40 all-natural spices and food products. She is the only producer in town with such a wide range of condiments.

Sugar and spice

Jagadeeswari wanted to increase her product range and hit a winner: Sarpath. A refreshing all-natural sweet soda, it’s perfect for washing down all those spices. Now she earns 35,000 INR (US$ 525) every month in pure profit. She also employs five staff including her husband, who helps with marketing and sales. He’s pleased for Jagadeeswari: “I’m very happy about my wife’s success.”

Woman power

As business is booming, Jagadeeswari has bought a separate building for her work and invested in a packing machine. Besides her husband, all her employees were formerly housewives and members of her Self-Help Group. Most importantly, the income generated from her spice business finances her son’s architectural training. Investing in her son’s education has already paid off – he helps her to do her marketing and created a website for the business. Jagadeeswari‘s children now call her “mother role model”. She’s their inspiration.

As for her Entrepreneur of the Year award, Jagadeeswari says she’s happy for the publicity – as long as it attracts new clients. Clearly, she never stops being the businesswoman.

Jagadeeswari’s results

Earns 35,000 INR (US$ 525) net profit per month

Sends her son to architectural school 

Achieved SME level status