Poverty, illiteracy and gender discrimination have been the underlying factors that have stifled development in the villages of Jharkhand state in northern India. In 2006, Hudlung village located in the outskirts of the steel city of Jamshedpur was acutely stricken by poverty with about 80% of the population living below the poverty line, as defined by the Government of India. Gender discrimination against females was also a rampant practice and avenues of education as well as employment were few and far between. The men of the households used to work in the paddy fields or as contract laborers in the steel industry, while the women took care of household chores.
This abysmal situation was prevalent when the Jains, Anurag and Shikha, decided to initiate a new paradigm of socio-economic empowerment of the local community. In 2007, they started Neev Herbal handmade Soaps with the vision to produce the highest quality hand crafted herbal products while providing a dignified means of employment for rural women and rejuvenating the rural economy. The enterprise has since had a remarkable transformative effect on the village community.
Currently, Neev products are primarily sold through 180 retail store partners spread across India and to a lesser extent through 10 niche e-tailing partners. The latest annual revenues for Neev stand close to Rs. 4.5 million. With a good market presence in the Metros and Tier I cities, Neev is exploring the prospects of partnering with mass market e-tailers to target customer bases in Tier II and Tier III Indian cities. This would not only generate more employment opportunities for the women of Hudlung but also enable it to compete with other herbal soap manufacturers who have already adopted the e-tailing channel.
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