Two years ago, Mrs. Usha Kumari (41) used to live in a Kutcha house with her family in Jaroh, a village located in the Hamirpur district of Himachal Pradesh. Her husband was the sole bread earner in the family but the family needs were not fulfilled by the meagre earnings of her husband. In order to become financially independent and support her family, Mrs. Usha Devi decided to become a part of the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) by joining Shiv Parvati Self Help Group in 2017 and associated under Nari Shakti Village Organization in 2019.

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Mrs. Usha Kumari was a pioneer in making local delicacies called Sepu Vadiya i.e. fried lentil cakes. These are consumed locally in the Himachali Dham as festive food, especially during ceremonial occasions. The women of the Shiv Parvati Self Help Group were actively engaged in food processing works like making nutri soya nuggets, vermicelli, etc. This SHG was provided with a revolving fund of Rs. 10,000 in 2017, which the group used to buy raw materials.

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Mrs. Usha Kumari’s husband Mr Baldev Dass was involved in the local catering business and suggested that she should formalize the working of the SHG into a formalized framework. The motivation from her husband and the support from the Himachal Pradesh State Rural Livelihood Mission team inspired her to start Umesh Food Products in 2019. The biggest challenge at the time of starting the enterprise was getting a loan for working capital for setting up the business. With the help of bank loans and through the financial support of Government-sponsored schemes, the SHG purchased machinery for running their food processing operations.

Mrs. Usha Kumari received Seed Capital support of Rs. 40,000 in November 2021 under the PM Formalisation of Micro food processing Enterprises (PMFME) Scheme which helped her to overcome another challenge which was of mechanizing the vermicelli-making process. With the help of the amount, she purchased a grinding machine and a vermicelli-making machine. The vermicelli-making machine mechanized the process of producing the end product with minimal use of manual labor, thus reducing the time taken to produce the end product as well as cutting down the overhead costs.

Mrs. Usha Kumari did not want to compromise on the taste of the Sepu Vadiya, which were prepared authentically with traditional practices. Hence, mechanizing this process was done very carefully and systematically without compromising the taste of the product. The enterprise currently makes products like Sepu Vadiya, vermicelli, Haldi (turmeric) and pickle. They have plans to diversify into edible packaged snacks like Namkeen, chips, Bhelpuri and dried spices. The average monthly income of the SHG was Rs. 20,000 which went up to Rs. 30,000 after the installation of the grinding and vermicelli making machine purchased under the PMFME Scheme. They directly sell their products to customers in Hamirpur and Solan districts via wholesalers, Him Ira shop and SARAS Fairs. They are also using WhatsApp as a mode of promoting their products digitally. Financial turnover of the Umesh Food Products for FY 2020-21 Rs. 1,20,000/-

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(Content shared by National Rural Livelihood Mission and Himachal Pradesh State Rural Livelihood Mission)