BY ASAVARI KULKARNI
“Papa kehte hain bada naam karega” is a famous Bollywood song that depicts the prevalent patriarchal Indian Society, where the son is considered the hope of the house and is responsible to carry forward the lineage. However, there are examples of women achieving great heights that contradict this popular belief.
Meet Uma Prabhudesai, who has not only helped her father Uday Prabhudesai run their farm, called Jaidatta Agro-Farm, in Bhaidwada-Korgao, but also has etched her own path to success.
Always academically brilliant, Uma could have very easily become a doctor or an engineer. She, however, chose a field far removed from what one would consider prestigious in Goan society.
A friend of her father who was an agricultural officer suggested she try the agricultural field instead. Uma’s agriculturist father was initially reluctant to allow his daughter to pursue a career in agriculture, although he relented later on.
Uma went ahead and joined an agriculture college in Dapoli, graduating with flying colours. Back in Goa, agriculture degree in hand, she decided to pursue her dream of starting an agriculture-based business model.
After returning from Dapoli, Uma had a short stint at Reliance Foundation as an assistant manager. It was a job that left her with unfulfilled aspirations.
Meanwhile, Sanjivani Sugar Factory, Goa’s only sugar factory was facing closure, posing a big question mark to the financial security of sugarcane farmers, including her father. This was when Uma decided to start an organic jaggery unit at her father’s farm.
This was not a new idea since her grandfather had had a traditional jaggery-producing unit which was discontinued by her father for many years. After discussing the plan with her father, he agreed to begin the unit on a trial basis.
It took 6 months for the plan to be executed practically. Uma did intense research on organic jaggery production, visiting more than 30 jaggery-producing units in Maharashtra and Karnataka.
She was adamant that she would not compromise on producing the jaggery organically. After the unit was constructed according to requirements, experts from Maharashtra were invited to start with the pilot production of jaggery.
Nevertheless, when she observed that they had come prepared with chemicals to be used in the jaggery production, she refused to allow them to make the jaggery. She was now faced with the predicament of meeting the deadline of the inaugural date without the aid of the experts, who had left her high and dry.
However, Uma’s indomitable spirit was not one to cower before difficulties. She and her father decided to go ahead with the production themselves while trying to bring in other experts.
Fortunately, an expert from Maharashtra arrived at the last minute, helping them just before the inauguration. And finally, the jaggery was made on the inauguration day.
However, the colour of the jaggery was unusually black even for organic jaggery. It presented a puzzlement to her and her father, but they did not let this deter them and went on to formulate a recipe to obtain lighter-coloured jaggery.
The struggle didn’t end there. After the production, the next challenge was to market the organic jaggery. Dark-coloured organic jaggery was not exactly in great demand, and there were already some brands that had a firm foothold in the market that existed.
The father-daughter duo worked tirelessly to convince people of the health benefits of consuming organic jaggery. They participated in state agricultural exhibitions, Lokutsav, etc to advertise their product.
Three years later, they have a satisfactory sale of their organic jaggery, which is gradually turning into a profitable business.
Uma managed to make jaggery in three forms – powder, candy and block. She says that powder jaggery has more demand than the other two forms. People order their products online and also visit their farm to purchase the same.
Jaggery making is a labour-intensive process, hence hiring labourers, training them and then retaining them is a big challenge, she says.
Her father is a progressive farmer, who has been practising organic farming for the last 8 to 10 years. The man is a state award winner for his contributions and innovative agricultural practices, and has grown almost everything in his 13 acres of farmland. Uma helps her father implement these advanced agriculture practices and innovative business ideas.
This year, they successfully grew black rice, a medicinally important Assamese variety of rice. They formed a cooperative company of nearly 300 farmers to commercially sell farm products under one brand name.
Uma has trained her younger brother and some of her friends in jaggery making. They also train interested visitors in organic farming practices.
A lover of culture, Uma is pursuing a degree in classical bharatnatyam at Ponda. She has formed a local group called Nirvana to provide a platform for local talent.
She has won many awards at the school, college and state levels in acting and dancing. Her mother Maya, a nurse at the government health centre in Pernem, and her brother Ugam are her strongest supporters.
Uma is the perfect example of a young woman who makes her way to success and inspires their fellow youth to take entrepreneurial execution to the next level. Uma's father's support and encouragement were crucial in her journey towards realising her dream, but it was her drive and passion that propelled her forward.
She faced many challenges along the way, but never gave up. Her dedication to her craft and her willingness to take risks sets her apart from others. Her story is a testament to the power of determination and hard work.
Today, Uma is a successful entrepreneur who has inspired countless others to follow in her footsteps. She serves as a role model for young people everywhere, showing them that with hard work and perseverance anything is possible.