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From Humble Beginnings to Extraordinary Success: The Inspiring Journey of Lijjat Papad

From Humble Beginnings to Extraordinary Success: The Inspiring Journey of Lijjat Papad

Lijjat Papad is a household name in India and other parts of the world. It is a prime example of a humble beginning that transformed into a phenomenal success story. Started by seven women in 1959 with a meager capital of 80 rupees, Lijjat Papad has grown into a multi-million-dollar cooperative, empowering thousands of women and becoming one of India’s most iconic and trusted brands.

In this blog article we delve into the inspiring journey of Lijjat Papad, highlighting its growth, achievements, and the factors behind its remarkable success.

Inception and Early Days

Seven Gujarati women from Bombay (now Mumbai), who intended to build a business using their only skill—cooking—to generate a sustainable life, came up with Lijjat. This occurred in the ’50s.

Chhaganlal Karamsi Parekh, a social worker and member of the Servants of India Society, loaned the women Rs 80. They acquired a papad manufacturing business that was losing money and purchased the necessary supplies and the essential infrastructure needed to produce papads. As a result, a famous business founded and managed by women for the advancement of strong, devoted women.

They gathered on the terrace of their building on March 15, 1959, a nice summer day with the sun shining brightly in the clear sky. They then began to prepare 4 packs of papads. They began selling the papads to a reputable trader in Mumbai’s well-known bazaar, Bhuleshwar.

The early going wasn’t simple. The institution experienced its share of difficulties. The members’ patience and faith were repeatedly put to the test. The guiding principle was independence; no financial assistance, not even voluntarily made donations, was to be sought. Work then began on a business basis.

Their leader was Chhaganlal Parekh, also known as Chaganbapa. At first, the women were producing papads in two different grades so they could sell the weaker one for less money. Chaganbapa instructed them to prepare a typical papad and pleaded with them never to skimp on quality. He emphasised to them the value of managing it as a business and keeping accurate books.

Scaling:

Lijjat Papad adopted a cooperative structure and allowed younger girls to join initially, but later set the minimum age of entry at eighteen. Within three months, approximately 25 women were involved in papad production. They acquired essential equipment such as utensils, cupboards, and stoves for the business. The business made Rs 6,196 in sales in its first year, and any papads that were damaged were shared with nearby neighbours.

During the rainy season, the women faced a production halt for four months as the rain hindered the drying process of the papads. To overcome this challenge, they purchased a cot and a stove the following year. They placed the papads on the cot and the stove below, allowing drying to continue despite the rain.

The group gained significant publicity through word of mouth and articles in vernacular newspapers, attracting more members. By the second year, around 100 to 150 women had joined, and by the end of the third year, the membership exceeded 300.

Due to limited space on the founders’ terrace, the kneaded flour was distributed among the members who would take it to their homes to make papads. The completed papads were then transported back for packaging and weighing.

In 1962, the company decided to call its goods Lijjat, which is Gujarati for “tasty.” The official name of the group was Shri Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat Papad. The annual sales of papads reached Rs 182,000 by 1962–1963.

According to the Societies Registration Act of 1860, Lijjat registered as a society in July 1966. Around the same time, Lijjat was recognised as a unit under the Khadi and Village Industries Act by the Khadi Development and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), a government organisation that supports rural industries. Lijjat was acknowledged as a “village industry” as well. KVIC gave some tax benefits as well as an 8 lakh rupee working capital grant.

After their papads achieved enormous success, Lijjat broadened its product line to include khakhra (1974), masala (1976), vadi, wheat atta and pastry products (1979). The establishment of flour mills in 1975, a printing division in 1977, and a polypropylene packing division in 1978. Agarbattis (incense sticks), cottage leather (1979), and matches (1979) were among the businesses that failed.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Lijjat attracted the attention of foreign visitors and officials. The organization began exporting its products with the assistance of merchant importers in countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States, the Middle East, Singapore, the Netherlands, and Thailand. By 2001, its annual exports exceeded US$2.4 million. As Lijjat’s popularity grew, it faced the challenge of counterfeit Lijjat papads entering the market, leading to the arrest of three individuals in Bihar in June 2001.

By 2002, Lijjat had a $300 billion revenue and Rs 10 billion in exports. It had 42,000 employees working for it across 62 divisions across the nation. The ‘Best Village Industry Institution’ award went to Lijjat in 2003, and in 2005 it won the PHDCCI Brand Equity Award. On March 15, 2009, Lijjat celebrated its 50th anniversary. Its current yearly turnover is Rs 800 crore.

Cooperative Structure and Values:

One of the defining features of Lijjat Papad is its cooperative structure. In 1966, the organization transformed into a registered cooperative society, allowing women to become members and take ownership. The cooperative model empowered women by giving them an equal say in decision-making and profits. The organization’s core values, including unity, trust, and fairness, have played a crucial role in its success.

Quality and Innovation:

From the beginning, Lijjat Papad focused on maintaining high-quality standards. The organization adhered to strict hygiene practices, used natural ingredients, and employed traditional methods to ensure the authentic taste of their papads. This commitment to quality gained the trust of consumers and contributed significantly to the brand’s success. Additionally, Lijjat Papad continually innovated and expanded its product range, introducing flavors like masala, jeera, and Punjabi papad, catering to diverse consumer preferences.

Grassroots Marketing and Brand Building:

In the initial years, Lijjat Papad relied on word-of-mouth marketing, with the women themselves selling the papads door-to-door. This grassroots approach helped create a personal connection with customers and build trust. As the business grew, the organization invested in packaging and branding.

The iconic red and yellow packaging, featuring the Lijjat Papad logo and the tagline “Jiyo Lijjat,” became instantly recognizable. Lijjat Papad also leveraged advertisements and endorsements by popular celebrities to enhance brand visibility.

Women Empowerment and Social Impact:

Lijjat Papad’s success goes beyond financial achievements. It has been instrumental in empowering women, especially from marginalized communities, by providing them with a sustainable livelihood. Women from various backgrounds have joined Lijjat Papad, gaining financial independence and the opportunity to contribute to their families’ well-being. The cooperative model ensures that the profits are shared among the members, uplifting their socio-economic status and improving their overall quality of life.

Awards and Recognitions:

The exceptional success of Lijjat Papad has garnered recognition from various national and international platforms. The organization has been honored with numerous prestigious awards for its contribution to women empowerment, entrepreneurship, and quality products.

Some notable accolades include the Rajiv Gandhi National Quality Award, the Indira Gandhi Sadbhavana Award, and the International Food Award for Excellence. These accolades not only validate the brand’s commitment to excellence but also inspire others in the industry.

Social Initiatives and Corporate Social Responsibility:

Lijjat Papad has always been mindful of its social responsibilities. The organization actively supports various social causes and initiatives. It has initiated programs for the education of girls, healthcare facilities for members and their families, and vocational training programs to enhance skills and employability. Lijjat Papad’s commitment to social upliftment sets an example for other corporations to follow.

Challenges and Resilience:

Like any successful journey, Lijjat Papad has faced its share of challenges. The organization has encountered issues such as raw material shortages, fluctuating market conditions, and competition. However, through sheer determination, resilience, and effective management, Lijjat Papad has overcome these obstacles and continued to flourish. The unwavering spirit of its members and the cooperative model have played a crucial role in sustaining growth even in the face of adversity.

Lessons and Inspiring Legacy:

Lijjat Papad’s success story offers several valuable lessons. It emphasizes the importance of quality, innovation, and adaptability in a competitive market. The cooperative model demonstrates the power of unity and collective efforts. The organization’s commitment to social welfare and women empowerment sets an inspiring example for businesses worldwide. Lijjat Papad’s legacy serves as a beacon of hope for aspiring entrepreneurs, proving that with determination, dedication, and a strong value system, extraordinary success can be achieved.

Conclusion:

Lijjat Papad’s remarkable journey from a small venture to a renowned and respected brand stands as a testament to the power of determination, perseverance, and women empowerment. The cooperative’s commitment to quality, innovation, grassroots marketing, and social initiatives has not only propelled its growth but also positively impacted the lives of thousands of women.

Lijjat Papad’s success story serves as an inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs, highlighting that even the humblest beginnings can lead to extraordinary achievements when fueled by a vision, unwavering dedication, and a commitment to creating a positive impact.

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