Driving on Belman main road in Udupi district, you will pass through Golikatte, a nondescript village of 1,500 people. A tiny grocery shop sits on the side of the road. Even more nondescript you might think, until you know the story behind it. We would have missed it, too. But we were heading for it, around 70 km from Mangalore.

The shop is run by a 15-member all-women self-help group, Vishwas. Necessity inspired the group’s venture. “We all needed a shop nearby for our everyday needs,” says Shivakanthi, from behind a chain of pickles and shampoos sachets strung across the shop. The shop gets around 25 customers every day. It sells soaps, detergents, pickles, soft drinks, eggs and incense sticks (agarbathi) and sweets. The shop also sells curd but since the shop has no fridge, the packets are stored in a neighbour’s house.

“When there are no customers, I busy myself with tailoring,” she says, pointing to the sewing machine parked at the corner of the shop.

Like Shivakanthi, other members of Vishwas also multitask. Most of them cultivate the Shankarpura jasmine. During wedding season, they do brisk business. All the members take turns to give Shivakanthi a break from the shop. Agnes, who is physically challenged, helps manage the self-help group’s finances, says Gracy Andrade, a member, and Prafulla, president, Vishwas.

Cost-cutting maybe a gaining ground in the corporate world; but for these women it comes naturally. Their shop is owned by the panchayat, and they got a waiver on the rent. Electricity bills never singe them. They use solar lamps in the shop which is open till 9 p.m..

Vishwas is unusual and cohesion in a group is particularly difficult in a retail venture, said N.V. Bhat, Manager, Planning and Development, Regional Office, Karnataka Vikas Grameen Bank (KVGB). Vishwas banks with KVGB.

“The shop is making sufficient profits,” said Narayan Yaji, Regional Manager, KVGB.

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