NEW DELHI: The Ajeevika store launched in Madhya Pradesh recently to provide an outlet to rural women to sell products directly to consumers is set to be expanded across the nation as the Narendra Modi government seeks to bring self-help groups into mainstream retail.
Officials said the rural development ministry is readying to undertake a branding exercise along with state governments to SHGs’ goods under Ajeevika, whose name has been derived from the ongoing scheme of the National Rural Livelihood (Ajeevika) Mission. The stores may have a common logo of the Ajeevika Mission as their brand symbol, they said.
The Centre will provide funds under the mission for setting up the shops at district and block levels, as per the officials, who said states will be asked to ensure space and proper location for the outlets. The ministry is also considering partnering big e-tailers including Amazon, Snapdeal and Flipkart to expand Ajeevika stores online.
“We will have to achieve some standardisation of products before we do that… We were also discussing setting up our own e-commerce platform but there are already big players present in the space we could join hands with,” said a senior government official, who did not wish to be identified.
The ministry is in the process of drawing up a detailed plan for the Ajeevika chains including an estimate of funds required to set up each store. Companies such as Dabur, ITC and Fabindia have been sourcing products from the rural SHGs in the past.
Recently newer players such as Big Basket have also tied up with vegetable produce groups in rural India for their supply needs. “A dedicated chain to sell all the handmade items of SHGs will be a first and provide them with a great entrepreneurial opportunity,” the official said.
The government wants to use the initiative to ensure employment and livelihood opportunities for the rural poor in their own village so they do not have to leave their land in search of employment.
SHGs have more than 3.5 crore women members. By 2019, the government wants to have 40 lakh SHGs with four crore women members. Rural credit in India raised by SHGs grew 40% in 2015-16 to `30,000 crore through their bank linkage programme.
Formed in 2011, the SHGs have mobilised credit of about Rs 70,000 crore, nearly half of which was raised in the last financial year to fund creation of social capital in villages that could lift non-farm job creation.
The government expects demand to grow to Rs 40,000 crore in the current fiscal as skill development activities gain more traction.