All of us are nostalgic about the 1980’s and 90’s. Some of our favourite shows, music and films are from that very era and you would agree that nothing can replicate the good old age of cable TVs and landline phones. A very distinct memory we might have is of an advertisement showing a large white rabbit talking about papad, a popular Indian snack and the brand synonymous to it was Lijjat Papad. Today we’ll delve deeper into the story of how that mascot came into existence and highlight Lijjat Papad’s success story.
How it Began
Today’s epic tale begins in 1959, in a small colony in Mumbai, where 7 Gujarati women decided they would put to use their most veritable skill – cooking.
Led by Jaswantiben Popat, the women borrowed Rs. 80 from a social worker, Chhaganlal Karamsi Parekh and bought ingredients to make this popular Indian snack. The women finally gathered on their building’s terrace to produce 4 packets of papad and thus, started their journey.
With the guidance of Chaganlal, the women started selling their product to a local shop. Soon, adjoining shops showed interest in the product and wanted to buy it wholesale. This prompted the company to expand.
The women, although inexperienced in running a business, were clear about few things:
- Their goal would never be to make more money, it would always be to empower women and their families;
- Women who were part of the venture, would not be considered ‘employees’, but family members. In fact, the women addressed each other as ‘ben’, which meant sister in Gujarati;
- They would never lay off any team member due to regulatory measures or company advancements, since livelihood was more important than profit;
- Quality would be paramount and every papad would have to go through a grade check to ensure standardisation.
This unique approach got them ample coverage in vernacular newspapers and in their second year itself, they had 300 women working for the cooperative. Finally, a name was given to this budding enterprise – Shri Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat Papad.
Distinguished Milestones of Lijjat Papad
In 1966, the unit registered itself as a society under the ‘Societies Registration Act 1860’ and in September of the same year, the company was recognised as a, ‘processing of cereals and pulses industry group’ under the Khadi and Village Industries Act.
- Jaswantiben won the Economic Times Award for ‘Business Women of the Year’ in 2022
- Won the best “Best Village Industry Institution” Award in 2003
- Won the “Brand Equity Award from Former President, Dr. Abdul Kalam
- Chosen as the ‘Power Brand’ by Indian Consumers in 2011
- Expanded to 82 branches in 17 states and exports to 25+ countries
In the 1950’s, only 8% of India’s women population was receiving higher education. Most women could not even think of stepping outside their homes, let alone starting a profitable venture.
For the ‘Lijjat Sisters’, changing this narrative was a challenge. But half a century worth of resilience showed impeccable results:
- What started with a seed capital of INR 80, reached an annual sale of INR 1,82,000 in 1962;
- After expanding its products in the 1980’s and 90’s, the business expanded its range geographically and earned US $2.4 Million from exports in 2001 and recorded a turnover of INR 300 crores;
- Today the company has 45,000 ‘Lijjat Sisters’ working for them and recorded a turnover of INR 1600 crores in 2019.
Lijjat Papad: For, Of, and By the Women
The motto of Lijjat Papad is Sarvodhya, which means ownership. Ownership in their professional as well as personal lives. This unique belief prompted the company to start off with literary campaigns for Lijjat sisters in 1980’s and also begin a scholarship programme for meritorious daughters of their team members.
Slowly, these campaigns spread across different branches and later extended for the creation of recreational centres, as well as infrastructural development projects in rural areas where the women came from.
The organisation was eventually recognised by the United Nations, and representatives of the society have participated in UN Summits on women and child health and literacy.
Lijjat Papad #LeveragesIndia
Yubi looks up to the entrepreneurial spirit of Lijjat to have not just created a successful enterprise, but to have built a society which empowers their women.
It also applauds forward-thinkers like Changala Parekh, for had he not believed in the potential of those 7 women, today one of India’s most loved brands may not have existed.
And this is the power of dreamers meeting believers and of capital propelling businesses forward. And at Yubi, this is the core of our mission, a mission which makes us believe that we are helping businesses like Lijjat Papad.
In a country where innumerable women are still shackled by society, Lijjat gives them a voice to rise and is leveraging the girls of India economically and socially.
Yubi lauds the Lijjat Sisters!