The trio of homemakers paved their own way as entrepreneurs, promoting agri development to create a source of income for them and other women in the community too. The skills of preparing food in their home kitchen turned into a small business. The team invested four to five lakhs each and opened a factory to produce vegetable pickles. They started by processing carrots into pickles, providing jobs to 15 women from the village.
The business had quite a few challenges from the beginning. Facing a lack of resources and technical skills to produce processed pickles, the team faced early losses. “ The first batch of carrots did not make it to the final product as we missed having a proper storage container and had to throw all preserved carrots. It was a massive loss for us,” said Purnima Upadhyaya. However, it made them realise the need to handle raw materials for the product, equipment, and store management. So all of them took training to run operations using raw vegetables. Gradually they were able to preserve the food quality and make better food products, which also helped them diversify their product line.
Today Shreeji Foods is a medium-sized company supplying processed fruits and vegetables for consumer products like ketchup, pickles, chili paste and soya sauce all over Nepal and outside the country.
The Nepal Agricultural Market Development Programme (NAMDP) Phase II, also known as Sahaj, operates under a bilateral agreement between the Government of Nepal and the Government of Switzerland. Sahaj is a Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) project, implemented by a consortium of Swisscontact (as the lead agency) and the Center for Environmental and Agricultural Policy Research, Extension and Development (CEAPRED). Sahaj provides financial and technical support towards improved access to services and innovation for agri-businesses in Province 1 Nepal. This will increase demand for smallholders’ produce, including them in value-added supply chains, and build resilience in rural communities through higher employment and income.
To help grow the business and sector, Shreeji and Sahaj established a partnership in September 2021. Under this partnership, Shreeji will be supplying preserved raw materials and services such as transportation and vegetable expertise to small and medium-sized enterprises in Province 1.
Sahaj’s objectives are based on a vision of a thriving and inclusive agriculture sector, aiming to grow employment and income for Nepal’s rural population.