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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Meet Pratibha Krishnaiah who quit major media firm to build Himalayan Blooms for woman empowerment

Pratibha Krishnaiah runs a social business for woman empowerment. She started Himalayan Blooms after quitting a major media firm.

Pratibha Krishnaiah had a great job in which she earned a six-figure salary. However, she left city life for the hills to fulfil her fantasy of living in a village. Pratibha, who is from Bangalore, now runs a social business that provides livelihood for over 200 women.

Pratibha started working at a renowned media agency Thomson Reuters after graduating in software engineering, where she earned a seven-figure salary annually and enjoyed her job so much that she stayed for eight years.

Pratibha was having a good time with her family and friends, but she wasn’t truly happy and kept wishing she was in a quaint village away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Pratibha, the daughter of a farmer, enjoyed spending time in her father’s hometown of Mysore and began yearning to do so more frequently, which is when she realised she needed to make a change in her life.

Pratibha, on the other hand, played it smart by applying for and being selected for State Bank Of India’s Youth For India fellowship (SBI- YFI), which would allow her to not only fulfil her dreams but also help others.

For 13 months, the fellowship provides the youth with the opportunity to volunteer with various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in various remote villages in India.

In 2014, Pratibha travelled to Uttarakhand’s Khetikhan village. The geographical shift, language barrier, and cultural differences were initially difficult, but Pratibha quickly fell in love with Khetikhan.

Pratibha noticed that the women in the village were very skilled at knitting and crocheting, so she decided to help them monetize their skills by forming a self-help group.

Ten women were part of the group, by 2015. These women were hand-crafting everything from scarves and hair clips to bags and baby clothes that were displayed in Bangalore.

Much to the surprise of the women and Pratibha, their merchandise was completely sold out, which made the women realise they had a successful brand on their hands, and thus Himalayan Blooms was born. As the initiative’s success became clear, more women joined Pratibha.

And now, Himalayan Blooms has a network of about 200 women artisans from around 40 villages. This not-for-profit social enterprise’s turnover was Rs 4.5 lakh in its first year and is expected to grow fourfold in the 2020-21 fiscal years. Their handcrafted items are sold throughout India, including Mumbai, Delhi, and Bangalore, as well as internationally in the United States of America and Japan.

Although the turnover has increased, Pratibha does not take a large portion of it, and all of the money is used for reinvestment and payments to the women who work there.

“My goal in starting the business is not to make money, but to empower women and provide them with a sustainable source of income,” Pratibha explains.

Pratibha started the venture for woman empowerment. You can see this in Himalayan Blooms’ all-women core team of six.

In just five years, these ladies went from having no confidence in their abilities to now creating new designs, performing quality checks, handling orders, payments, and accounts, among other things.

Working at varying hours, these women earn anywhere between a monthly Rs. 3,000-Rs.7000.

Women in rural areas are far smarter than we in the city believe.

Pratibha started Himalayan Blooms as part of her fellowship initiative and planned to hand it over at the end of the fellowship term, but the NGO she worked with refused to take on the responsibility.

As a result, she decided to pursue it full-time and registered Himalayan Blooms India as a not-for-profit social enterprise as a trustee and co-founder.

When Pratibha’s family first learned of her decision to remain in the village, they were taken aback.

Her family couldn’t believe she was leaving a perfectly stable life in Bengaluru to continue living in a Himalayan village, Pratibha says.

However, once they realised that her work contributed to the empowerment of rural women, they changed their minds.

Pratibha Krishnaiah wants to leave this village and explore another, so she is grooming the women to lead the initiative and become entrepreneurs before she leaves.

They should be able to manage Himalayan Blooms on their own terms within the next few years as a non-profit social enterprise.

For their community, and run by their community’s women.


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