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Panchfula's Pappadums

By Opportunity International Australia

Panchafula started her pappadum business in the kitchen area of her home – a space no larger than a single square metre, located directly beside the sleeping mat where her entire family slept each night.

"We had only a one-room space where we had the kitchen on one end and bathroom on the other end," she says. "In that same small area we also had our bed and near it we used to sit and take our meals."

It was her mother who taught her how to make the pappadums, back when she was a child growing up in this same poor community of Nagpur, India.

With few ingredients on hand and little money to buy more, Panchafula borrowed spices and flour from neighbours and scraped together what she could, determined to make a batch large enough to sell.

Everything was difficult at first. "There was no proper equipment, we had no appliances and no way to pay for anything."

But Panchafula's pappadums proved popular in her community, and soon people were putting orders in for more. Orders she had no way of making without capital.

But then a new microfinance organisation arrived in her community, offering small loans to people with strong business ideas. Panchafula quickly applied, sharing her plans for her new pappadum business. She was proud and excited when she was named the first client of Opportunity's program partner in Nagpur.

As well as investing in bulk ingredients, Panchafula used her small loan to buy the appliances she needed to make her pappadums on a larger scale. "We have machines, a stove and all things necessary for this business now – things like utensils."

As well as paying for daily needs like food and schooling, Panchafula was able to use the new income from her business to pay for the medical treatment her husband and daughter needed when they became unwell.

"Even I had an accident and also had to spend for my treatment," she says. "Only through this business could I meet all our expenses. There have been lots of changes in my life since then. My financial condition was very bad, but now we have what we need."

"I want women to take inspiration and see that they should do business, too," Panchafula says. She's taking steps to help them practically. Each night she prepares enough dough for women in her community to join her in frying them the next day, providing them with an income, too.

Together they make between 20-25kg of pappadums a day, which they can divide up and sell for Rs.100 (A$1.97) a packet. "We go to offices and visit houses and go door-to-door," says Vaishali, Panchafula's daughter (30) who is also employed by the successful business.

"I am glad that mother's business is running well," she says. "She works really very hard."

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