The Reluctant Entrepreneur: A Woman Who Changed 3000 Lives Without Even Realising It

Posted on August 27, 2015 in My Story, Society

By Jay Sonavane

On the morning of 15th August 2015, the whole atmosphere at Lal Qila was energetic when our Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi introduced a new slogan of “Start Up India, Stand Up India“. Previously with “Make In India” Campaign and now with “Start Up India, Stand Up India“, there is no doubt that good times for Indian start-ups have finally arrived.

sewing machine
The success stories of start-ups like Flipkart, Snap Deal, Housing, Ola, built a very strong environment for all new and aspiring entrepreneurs. Still in India, there are hundreds or maybe thousands of entrepreneurs, whose stories remain untold. And an interesting fact about them is that some of them don’t even know that they are real entrepreneurs, and they are making a difference in the lives of others. I read somewhere that the word entrepreneur has come from the Sanskrit wordAntha Prerna“, which means self-motivated, which is probably true for all of them.

Today I am sharing with you one such story of Chhaya, an untold entrepreneur. Chhaya was born in a small village of Dharangaon located near Jalgaoun district Maharashtra. With limited sources of income, her father barely managed to sustain 7 children. Chhaya somehow managed to study up to 10th standard and soon got married. Her husband was a worker at a textile mill in Ahmedabad, which was a prestigious job in 80’s. However, things suddenly changed for them when the mills in Gujarat started shutting off, and left her husband without a job. As he started driving an auto-rickshaw as alternative work, Chhaya decided to take an initiative, which started her journey of entrepreneurship.

She decided to learn stitching to help her family. Although this decision was not simple for her as she came from an orthodox family– but with her husband’s support, she somehow managed to convince her in-laws and joined stitching classes.

Within 3 months, she managed to learn how to stitch all women’s garments. She started stitching clothes, and her work soon got traction in her area. All these things gave her a lot of confidence, as she was now helping her family financially. She even decided to educate both her sons in English medium schools, which was a big thing in the late 80s.

With these new responsibilities, Chhaya realised that just stitching clothes will not be enough, and so she decided to grow her business. She started her own stitching classes, named ‘Dev Shree’. These classes were for girls and women coming from poor families, where they could learn stitching and become financially independent. Soon Dev Shree stitching classes became popular and the number of people enrolling started increasing.

I remember one incident, when a father came to get his daughter enrolled in Chhaya’s classes. No one else would take her because her legs had been affected by Polio and had limited strength. It was very difficult to teach such a girl, but Chhaya was passionate about her work, so she took the girl in. She arranged for a special automatic sewing machine for this girl and started teaching her. At the end of 4 months, that girl was in a position to stitch clothes that she could sell. All this was like a miracle for her father.

Today it’s been almost 25 years, her classes are still running with the same force that they started with. Till date, she has educated more than 3000 women from economically weak families, and most of them are now running their own stitching business, further supporting their families. Both her sons have become software engineers and are working with reputed IT companies. And she still doesn’t know what exactly the word entrepreneur means, or what exactly a start-up is. But ultimately her journey can be compared to a successful start-up.

May be now, with this article I will be able to explain to her meaning of entrepreneur. And for all those who are curious to know about who I am –I’m one of Chhaya’s son.