by Kelli Ross
Vasanti Uikey struggled against extreme poverty to become a successful microentrepreneur. Now, this 45-year-old mother of two has been named the 2008 National Runner-up and the Social Responsibility Category Winner (West and Central) by the Citi Micro Entrepreneur Awards program. She was chosen out of 2,500 nominees for this prestigious award.
This program was founded in 2004 to recognize individual micro entrepreneurs from across India who have risen from poverty to self-sufficiency.
Thanks to a $62 loan from Five Talents partner, Community Development Society (CDS) in India, Vasanti now owns a milk distribution center and a grocery store in the Pandhrabodi slum of Nagpur.
Ten years ago, Vasanti worked as a nurse and her husband drove a rented auto rickshaw but their income was meager. To increase their family income, Vasanti decided to start a dairy business because there was no milk shop in her community. In 2002, she applied for government assistance and gave up her job in order to sell milk from a roadside table. Encouraged by her customers’ response, Vansanti began diversifying into other groceries.
Later that year, she learned about CDS and a women’s Self-Help Group they had recently formed in her neighborhood. Vansanti joined the Self-Help Group and in 2005 took her first loan to set up a grocery shop which she operated out of her home.
Today, Vasanti overcomes competition by offering credit to customers and keeping her store open 17 hours a day.
Vasanti is also a community organizer and helps others in her neighborhood improve their quality of life. Her initiatives include forming women’s Self-Help Groups, assisting unemployed youth find part time jobs, running a subsidized playschool in her neighborhood and helping needy students gain access to scholarships from CDS.
“We thank you Five Talents for your participation in developing many clients like Mrs. Vasanti through your funds,” said CDS Executive Director Rev. P.Y. Singh.