May, 2021: The journey of Spoorti Jute Works took wings with a simple question in an internal team meeting of UltraTech Cement’s Andhra Pradesh Cement Works (APCW) in 2016: “Why do we need to order uniforms from commercial agencies?". More important was the context of the discussion itself wherein the team was exploring various approaches to support the local community in a sustainable manner.
The journey started as early as May 2012 when the unit team engaged with local community members to train women in jute bags stitching to enhance their livelihoods. With the support of the unit's Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) team, these 30 women have been registered as a Self-help Group (SHG) called Spoorti Jute Works. This project was extended in the year 2016 to cover uniforms for the employees in the unit giving it both scale and sustenance. In 2016, the team realised that while women in the adjoining areas of the plant undertook small stitching jobs, mainly related to women and children clothing, bigger jobs such as stitching workers' uniforms was out of their reach. Lack of necessary skills was the main barrier. In February 2016, the Spoorti Jute Works project set up a division that would train women from nearby localities in uniform stitching and similar activities. So far, 30 women in the nearby villages of Kolimigundla and Tadipatri Talukas of Kurnool and Anantapur districts have been trained under this programme.
The uniform stitching job orders are given to the self-help group thus streamlining the process. Initially, the unit supplied 25 sewing machines and stitching accessories to the SHG for them to have the necessary equipment for fulfilling the orders in a timely manner. Over the years, Spoorti's business opportunities have only increased, with more orders coming in from other cement manufacturers in the same locality. To meet this increased demand, the unit team has trained 10 more women from the local communities under the Spoorti Jute Works initiative. Today, Spoorti Jute Works is a self-sustaining organisation.
In addition to the Spoorti Jute Works, the unit has also set up basic tailoring training centres in three nearby villages, where another 90 women are trained in basic tailoring every year. This training empowers the women to start their own self enterprise units, with a potential income earning of Rs.3000 per month. Up next, APCW is also gearing up to provide training in other livelihood options such as mushroom cultivation and baking.
It is commendable that Spoorti Jute Works has been able to provide support during the pandemic by stitching nose masks to cater to the requirements of the various industrial units in the area. So far, this SHG has delivered more than 50,000 nose masks at competitive prices.
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