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Coir changed my life


Jaya aged 36 is a very ordinary woman living in a village called Silvarpatti, in Periyakulam Taluk, Theni District, Tamilnadu, India. No one expected that she would one day become an entrepreneur and also become the Secretary of Periyakulam Coir Cluster Kalanjiam producer company Ltd. How she got this opportunity and grabbed it to raise her standard of living and also her leadership qualities. This is her story.

About Jaya’s Family

Jaya was one among the six children born in Silvarpatti village in Periyakulam taluk. Jaya has two elder brothers, two younger brothers, and one younger sister. Her father worked in Electricity Board as Lineman and expired 15 years ago. Her mother used to look after the five acres of agricultural land, which their family owned. Her eldest brother got a job in the electricity board on compassion grounds. The second eldest brother is looking after agriculture. Her two younger brothers were working as daily laborers in a nearby spinning mill. Her younger sister got married and presently settled in Madurai.

Jaya’s Married life

Jaya got married to Mr.Velmurugan in 1991 at the age of 21. Velmurugan belongs to the same village Silvarpatti where Jaya was born. He had 1.75 acres of land, of which 0.75 acres is rainfed land. He also used to work as agricultural laborer. Her married life was pathetic. Her husband earned a meager income and also died at a very early age of 33 due to sudden heart attack. Her married life just lasted for 12 years. However Jaya was blessed with three sons Velmurugan used to do agricultural works in his own land and Jaya was satisfied being a homemaker. Her husband was the only source of income to the family. One day, by third year of their marriage, her husband had the first heart attack. He was admitted in Government hospital at Periyakulam for the treatment, got recovered and got back home after three months. However he was advised not to do any work that required more physical stress, so used to go for simple cooli works which fetched low wages. Jaya felt too difficult to run the family and take care of her three children with the meager income earned. They were in a financial stress.

To take care of the family Velmurugan decided to go to Kerala for Construction work, where the wages are more than in Tamil Nadu. He left is family and worked there for six month and later shifted his family to Kerala. They lived there for five years. Though the wages were good, the expenses were high and they could not save any money. He earned Rs200/ day and around Rs5000 to Rs5600/month. A part of the money also went to meet the medical expenses. Unable to cope up with the situation and realizing that life was no better here, Jaya suggested that they can return back to Silvarpatti village itself land so they returned. On his return Velmurugan started a small tea shop and a cycle shop in Silvarpatti village. The shop gradually picked and they were able to earn good income, which touched even Rs1000/day at times. So the entire family felt happy and started regaining their confidence. They joined the kids in English medium school since Jaya was keen in giving good education to his children. The fate struck then. Velmurugan had the second heart attack in 2003 and this time he did not survive the attack.

Jaya felt hell struck. The future was dark and she did not even mingle with others for the next three months. Some of the women in neighborhood suggested that she can join the self-help group called Murugan Kalanjiam, promoted by DHAN Foundation and which was managed by Periyakulam Vattara Kalanjiam, a Federation of Women Self-help. Hoping that it will give some relief to her problems and at the same time without much confidence she joined Kalanjiam in 2003.

After Joining in Kalanjiam:

Jaya was forced to look after the agricultural land of 1.75 acres that their family owned and started even working as agricultural laborer to take care of her children. She used to cultivate crops like Maize, cotton, tomato and flowers through which she could earn some income. Jaya used this income to save and to get small loans from Kalanjiam to meet her family consumption needs, which she would promptly repay. Jaya knew tailoring which she learned at the age of 18. Later she thought that she can buy a tailoring machine of her own and Kalanjiam helped Jaya in getting tailoring machine to do business from her home itself. She used to stitch upto five jackets per day at the rate of rupees 20 per jackets. From this she used to earn minimum of rupees 100 per day (i.e rupees 3000 per month). This improved her family situation to some extent.

Later she thought of buying a milch animal for which also Kalanjiam supported. The milch animal is looked after by her younger son. The animal yielded 12 litres per day and these used to be procured by a dairy producer group promoted by Kalanjiams in the village. The price was Rs17.50 /litre and hence this also contributed to the income of the family.

Jaya became a much more confident woman and started exploring more. Her interest turned towards the Periyakulam Coir Cluster Producer company (PECOCK) promoted by DHAN Foundation for benefits of families involved in coir making business. The company was located at Sengaulthaapatti Village, in Periyakulam Taluk, Theni District. Jaya paid Rs10000 as a share capital to the PECOCK PC and also became the Secretary of the Producer Company. At the same time she also started working as a laborer in this unit which fetched her additional income of Rs150/day. Jaya had the ability to learn things quickly. She now operates all three kinds of machines in the unit (i.e. Willowing, Slivering, and AYS). In addition to that she learned producing of frame Matt of different designs and shapes. She earns upto 4000 rupees per month as a wages in this unit.

Jayas sons also grew meanwhile. Jayas sons were now aged 20, 17, & 15 respectively. First two sons did schoolings upto 9th Standard and now working in spinning mill at Coimbatore earning Rupees 5000 per month and last one doing 10th standard currently. Jaya used to feel sad that even his younger son was not keen in his studies. The youngest son looks after the milch animals and not a regular attender to school. When enquired he said to Jaya that he has no interest in study and pursing 10th standard only because of the compulsion. “I wished that all my three sons should get educated well and settle well in their life unlike their father. But they stopped and studies and went to work” Jaya used to feel.

Table. 1 Jaya’s Savings and Loan Status in Murugan Kalanjiam

S.No In the Year Savings Loans Repayment Interest
1 2006-07 3326 16200 1700 1271
2 2007-08 4782 14699 2799 2491
3 2008-09 6271 22557 3207 3075
4 2009-10 6271 22557 3207 3075
5 2010-11 9151 79100 49851 2868
6 2011-12 10599 29249 10279 214
7 2012-13 10026 3826 5018
8 2012-13 II Loan 18000 2858 655

Despite this only concern Jaya was satisfied with the present day situation of her family. Her family now has sufficient income from different sources, all because of the confidence Jaya gained after joining Kalanjiam.

Table. 2 Income of Jaya’s family/month- March,2012

S.NO Particulars Income Per Month in Rs
1 Earning from Coir Unit 3200
2 Earning through Milch animal 210
3 Jaya’s first son earns 5000
4 Jaya’s Second son earns 5000
Total 13410

Jaya’s other contributions

Jaya used to play a active role as a Kalanjiam member. She supported the federation to form three new Kalanjiam groups in Silvarpatti village by explaining its merits to the people. She helped five members in different Kalajiams to get their life insurance coverage claim at the right time. She also created awareness about availing scholarship from Kalanjiam to the unknown members. She explained the merits of paying Medical and Life Insurance to the various groups in the Silvarpatti Cluster and played a vital role in enrolling all members in those schemes. She also renders her support for problem solving among Kalanjiam members and addressing repayment issues.

Impact of Kalanjiam on Jaya’s life

  • Jays’s self- confidence and leadership qualities improved by miles.
  • She became a Director in a Company by paying Rs.10000 as a Share Capital.
  • She owns 8 Sovereigns of gold purchased after her husband’s death from the various livelihood activities she undertook.
  • She repaid Rs.50000 external loan she borrowed from a local money lender long time ago.

Jaya’s Future Plan

Jaya wishes to purchase a land and built three separate houses for her three sons and marry them. In work, she mobilizes more number of labors to work in the producer company. She made to operate the coir unit for minimum of two shifts and maximum of three shifts per day in profitable manner and she wishes to increase the profit further. She also has plans for building a New warehouse to store the finished produce separately and to buy a vehicle for the PECOCK PC to pick up and drop the company employees. In the next five years she also plans the PECOCK PC to go for a value added products like Pith Block, Geo textiles, etc., which still can give higher returns.

Periyakulam Coir Cluster Producer Company Limited

Theni District of Tamilnadu was known for their coir units which used to remain scattered and not concentrated. The coir industry was first introduced in Kombai of Cumbum block, as a source of alternative employment for the tea estate laborers, when they encountered problems in estate works, about two decades back by some youths of CPI party. Since 10 years, the business proliferated among other areas of the district but the spread was relatively slow in this cluster when compared to the total national growth of the industry. The coir industry spreads over 6 blocks namely Periyakulam, Theni, Cumbum, Uthamapalayam, Chinnamanur and Mayiladumparai of the district which are well apart from each other. Concentration of units is more in Cumbum block (mostly decorticating units) whereas in other blocks only few units have been established. It is an industrial cluster in a sense that 75% units are totally commercialized big units whereas only 25% of units are small and household.

To safeguard the interests of small scale coir units operating in Periyakulam Taluk of Theni District, DHAN Foundation promoted the Periyakulam Coir Cluster Producer Company Limited which got registered on Febraury 16, 2009. The producer company has a 10 member board with Mrs. Shanthi Venkatachalapathi, Mrs.Murugeshwari Sadaiyan and Mrs.Jaya Mookkiah as President, Treasurer and Secretory respectively.

The Producer Company was formed after giving sufficient training to those involved in coir making. An exposure visit was arranged to Singampuneri Coir cluster where Coir pith making, Coir Spinning, Coir frame matt, Coir handicrafts, Coir automatic yarn spinning etc. were in operation. An awareness meet involving different stake holders like District Industrial centre, Coir Board, Canara Bank, local entrepreneurs and Kalanjiam members was organized on 11th Nov, 2008. A coir exhibition for identifying potential sellers and buyers was also organised. Capacity building of people involved in coir business, who were the members of Primary producer groups in Devadanapatti, Samathuvapuram, Jayamangalam, Melmangalam and Muthalakkampatti villages was done with the support of Coir Board.

Establishment of Common Facility Centre (CFC)

A common facility center from where community could access services for production of coir fibre and provides a common platform for the women to work and earn profit from production was established with the support of Periyakulam Coir fiber workers Industries Cooperative society which gave 50 cents of land on a long term lease basis to District Industries center, Theni which was the implementing agency. DHAN played a vital role in establishment of this center by enrolling all the stakeholders. The factory building was established at the cost of Rs9.50 lakhs in 2012 square feet. An office building and workers amenities were constructed at the cost of Rs. 1.62 lakhs in 170 sq ft.


Automatic yarn spinning units (9 numbers), Willowing machine (3), Silvering machine (3), Hand winding machine (3), Bobbins (60) and Unwinding machines (3)were purchased at the cost of Rs. 12.25 lakhs and installed in CFC.

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