While we were in India, we had the opportunity to interview a successful Rudiben and when we came home we wrote up a case study about her story, which is inspiring. Here is her story:
Surya Baa’s journey started in the Gujarati village of Rajpar, where she was a housewife, a mother, and a leader of a SEWA savings group. Her involvement in local charities meant frequent travel to the surrounding areas, and she was intrigued when SEWA approached her about taking samples of its spices to villages where she worked. Not long after, she began to sell small amounts of RUDI products, and eventually chose to leave her work in child development for a new life as a Rudiben. Now, almost a decade later, Surya has become one of RUDI’s most successful saleswomen, and has recruited and trained new Rudibens who she hopes can emulate her achievements. While Surya’s path to entrepreneurial success has been difficult at times, it serves as an inspirational reminder that the determination of a proud mother can lead to a better life for those she loves, regardless of circumstances.
Defying Social Norms
Surya comes from a rural community where women rarely spend time outside the household or contribute substantially to family income. When she became a Rudiben, some family members and friends were nervous about how working out in the villages, especially at night, would reflect on Surya and her family. Despite pressure to quit, Surya forged ahead. To help her gain acceptance, RUDI staff visited her village to educate chiefs and village members about the organization’s mission and its impact on the community. Her motivation to continue as a Rudiben was twofold: she wanted her children to be more educated and lead better lives than she had, and she felt that the organization’s work was critical to the future of her “sisters,” other women all over India. As an experienced Rudiben, Surya has recruited and trained ten such sisters to be Rudibens, and has helped each of them develop the courage and skills needed to succeed as entrepreneurs.
Developing Business Skills, Passing on Knowledge
Surya knew early on that RUDI’s products were high quality. Convincing Gujarati villagers of that quality, however, was challenging. As the only Rudiben in her area for more than two years, she struggled to introduce locals to a new brand and earn their trust as consumers. She overcame these obstacles by working hard to develop her sales techniques, and building lasting relationships with customers. Over the years, she has passed on her sales and marketing knowledge to the women she trains to be Rudibens. Together they have built a loyal customer base in the Rajpar area.
Creating a Network of Success
Surya’s work as a Rudiben transformed the lives of those around her. Her network of Rudibens sells to ten villages and over six hundred customers, and she is able to put aside nearly 5000 rupees per month for family savings. Surya commands respect in her family and her community for her success as an entrepreneur and mentor. More importantly, Surya’s children have gained access to education that was too expensive prior to her involvement with RUDI. Her eighteen and sixteen year-old children are currently pursuing college degrees, while her fourteen year-old will complete ninth grade this year.
Surya’s message to other Indian women is simple:
If she can overcome society’s expectations and prejudices to become a successful saleswoman in rural areas, then other women can do the same. She foresees a brighter future for women everywhere and hopes for a world where opportunities like becoming a Rudiben are available to all.