TAMIL NADU

Tasting financial success through pop-up stalls

College Bazaar Group brings together 17 self-help clusters run by women from economically weaker sections of society

A small group of women entrepreneurs is trying to chart its own way to self-determination and financial independence in the city through pop-up stalls held exclusively on college campuses.

Calling itself the ‘College Bazaar Group’, the soon-to-be-registered initiative brings together 17 self-help clusters run by women from economically weaker sections of society.

And as a symbol of its inclusiveness, the College Bazaar Group also has a stall run by Kajol, a transgender activist and businesswoman marketing bamboo products through a pop-up store.

“I kept turning down invitations from this group to participate in their shopping events, because I was afraid of being teased by the public. But I’m glad I decided to join this year; the response has been really great, and I have realised that people are more interested in your workmanship than your appearance,” Ms. Kajol told The Hindu as she showcased her products at her stall in the Holy Cross College recently.

P. Subbulakshmi, the coordinator of the group, who runs a garment pop-up, said that restricting their activities to colleges had been a conscious decision.

“As an all-women gathering, we find it is safer for us to function on campuses, which have regular timings and good infrastructure,” she said.

“Also the products that we like to sell, such as costume jewellery, cloth bags, garments, paper products and other decorative items, are oriented towards a youthful customer base.”

Prices at the College Bazaar Group’s stalls are extremely reasonable, keeping in mind the budget-conscious student customers. “Garments in my stall cost in the range of Rs. 50 to Rs. 250,” said Ms. Subbulakshmi, who sources her stock from suppliers in Bengaluru and Tirupur.

“We all manage to earn a minimum of Rs. 5,000-10,000 per event in a month,” she added.

Similarly, Ms. Kajol has bamboo knick-knacks and planters starting from Rs. 40. “I got inspired to create bamboo products after seeing the variety of goods you can make from it in online videos,” said Ms. Kajol, who manufactures her material with the help of two friends at a facility in Ariyamangalam.

The College Bazaar Group has shortlisted 15 colleges in the city for its pop-up shopping events, said Subbulakshmi, and will be officially registering itself soon.

“We are hoping to reach out to residential college campuses in remote areas, where students don’t get an opportunity to go out much for shopping,” she said.

A senior official of the District Mission Management Unit of the Mahalir Thittam (under the aegis of Tamil Nadu Corporation for Development of Women) said that there are approximately 10,000 women’s self-help groups (SHG) in Tiruchi district, with 1,000 of them based in the city.

“We have a team of Assistant Project Officers (APOs) to guide the SHG members on finance and business, besides capacity building. Financial aid for starting ventures is available from Rs. 1 lakh to 10 lakh, but very few groups take up business activities on a large scale,” he said.

As an all-women gathering, we find it is safer for us to function on campuses, which have regular timings and good infrastructure

P. Subbulakshmi

Coordinator, College Bazaar Group

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