With Loans, Poor South Asian Women Turn Entrepreneurial, byt Cris Prystay

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Every morning, Sarjoni Nandyala puts a few bars of Unilever PLC’s Lifebuoy soap and sachets of Clinic shampoo in a canvas bag and sets off to sell them to her neighbors in this dusty farming village in southeastern India.

For Mrs. Nandyala, who took out a $200 loan from a state-run microcredit agency to start her business, the work is challenging and the returns modest — $16 a month is her average profit.

But Hindustan Lever Ltd., Unilever’s Indian subsidiary, is counting on thousands of women like 40-year-old Ms. Nandyala to sell more goods to tens of millions of low-income rural consumers it couldn’t reach before. Today, about 13,000 poor women are selling Unilever’s products in 50,000 villages in India’s 12 states and account for about 15% of the company’s rural sales in those states. Overall, rural markets account for about 30% of Hindustan Lever’s revenue.
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Source: The Wall Street Journal