How SBI Youth for India Fellow helped Cyclone-Hit Women Farmers through ‘Angai Soaps’

By auther pic. Shilpa Tiwari

April 22, 2021

How SBI Youth for India Fellow helped Cyclone-Hit Women Farmers through ‘Angai Soaps’

SBI Youth for India Fellowship

How impactful can the youth get in the social development sector? The possibilities are innumerable. This was substantiated by the SBI Foundation way back in 2011, when they launched their flagship programme called the SBI Youth for India Fellowship. Back then, the programme was in collaboration with three reputed NGOs and a pilot batch of 27 fellows that covered thematic areas like health, education, technology, social enterprise – amongst others. After a decade, the scenario has grown considerably. 


After almost a decade of inception, the most promising SBI Youth for India Fellows were noticeably working throughout the crisis period of the pandemic in the year 2020. The pandemic has probed several organisations in the world to take their offices at home, however considering the needs of the rural communities these Fellows took the road less travelled. This was the time when many of them created opportunities for reverse migrants, rurally-based unemployed and marginalised poor, with immediate remedies that were needed.


Even before the pandemic, the SBI Youth for India fellowship that spans for 13-months, was showing immense results. During the year of 2018-2019, there were SBI Youth for India Fellows who were working in the cyclone-hit state of Orissa. One such dedicated fellow who was bent upon devoting her life to a good cause was Roohi Kasim Patel from Ahmedabad. She pursued the fellowship, right after completion of her college degree with specialisation in International Relations. She resolved to enroll herself with the best fellowships in India which works at the grassroot levels. 


Once her fellowship eligibility was vetted, she appeared for an Online Assessment test, and finally an interview. After getting selected, she got the opportunity to work with the tribal community of Odisha, for a fellowship stipend of INR 15,000 (plus INR 1000 for transport allowance). Happy with her selection in one of the top five fellowships in rural space, Roohi was all set to lead from the field with a set of 30 women who were involved in the livelihood project of soap making. Roohi started out with the focus of assisting ‘Angai’ a handmade soap producer company with support from the partner NGO Gram Vikas, by creating Market Linkages for the tribal women working for the company.


Roohi with one the varieties of the soap ‘Angai’


What Roohi found after interacting with the tribal women was that their priority was also to pay-back a loan that they had already taken, prior to her arrival. Her focus was now parallelly divided between assisting the group in paying back the Revolving Fund provided by ORMAS, creating marketing linkages as well as assisting the group in creating an efficient production plan, improvement of the product and capacity building of those involved in soap making.


In order to establish market linkages, Roohi explored locally available options that included village markets, kirana stores and residential schools. She took the help of local administrative authorities wherein each of these linkage options were tried and tested by her. This way she ascertained if the group had the capacity to sell. After multiple trials, and with support from Integrated Tribal Development Agency and District Welfare Office, the soap-making group was connected to six residential schools in the near vicinity, who agreed to buy soaps on a monthly basis. 


This way throughout the month the women were busy with soap-making activity in a sustained fashion and sold their products once every month to the six schools. 


Roohi even made efforts to make the arrangement of funds by UNDP towards capacity building. Most importantly, the group introduced the concept of documentation for smooth running of the enterprise. One of the women from the group was also identified to carry out documentation. Moreover, Roohi laid out a feedback-tracking system from the customers for product improvement. This way the tribal women were encouraged to reinvent the soap recipe that was altered to meet the feedback given by customers. Similarly, her mentors from the NGO Gram Vikas kept giving her critical feedback, which was very helpful for Roohi’s progress in her project as well. 


Even today, work in Angai is being taken forward by fellows that came after her. 


  Loan repayment was a big burden off the women’s shoulders


Roohi not only provided the women with alternate income, but also solved an issue that affected them for a long time, the inability to pay back a loan. The daily motivation that she provided to them, especially when they lost everything after the cyclone was not easy and proved to be an uphill task. Daily visitations to the women while residing at their villages was initially a culture shock for Roohi but after living with them she started considering them family, someone she can always come back to.


She learnt how perceptions are built when you are living in an urban setup, and just how important it is to break them, and see all communities as one. 

Roohi established market linkages, a big boon to tribal women for selling soaps.



Furthermore, the foundation’s expertise also helped in a big way in the form of review meetings with the SBI Youth for India team, and domain experts. The SBI Youth for India Fellows in fact are friends and mentors for life.  Youth for India Alumni are always there and are ready to support even after a long time of the completion of Fellowship Programme. Roohi’s own life has had a humbling effect after the completion of this rural fellowship programme. She has been able to appreciate life’s offerings in a better way as against taking things for granted. Over 70% of urban youth that choose the development sector after this fellowship are happy to move ahead in the rural space  – just like Roohi Patel.


To apply directly to the fellowship, click here- https://you4.in/ngobox162021 and fill the form in 10 minutes on your mobile!


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Impact-Story is a series on development and CSR interventions leading to some impacts on the ground. If you have a project, innovation or intervention that has changed the lives of a few people or a community, please share a brief note at shilpi@csrbox.org. Our Team will get back to you after validating the information for a detailed coverage.


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Shilpa Tiwari is a New Delhi based Content Specialist with three decades of experience. She has worked extensively on a variety of researches and curricula across K12, Higher Education, Corporate and Social Development sectors. A Master’s degree in English Literature and a degree in French from Delhi University, alongwith International Business Programme from IIFT, most certainly provides Shilpa an added expertise to work as a Consultant on various research and consulting projects with Corporates, Educational Institutions, Publications, CSR Foundations and NGOs.


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