'Incense industry empowering rural Indian women'
K.R. Balasubramanyam December 12, 2013The fortune that lies at the bottom of the pyramid is what makes India attractive economically. But what is forgotten is that to unearth that fortune, the market needs to be nurtured and grown. The 640,000 or more villages in India are predominantly dependent on agriculture. They are vulnerable to monsoon's vagaries and thus look for alternative sources of income.
The incense industry is a labour-intensive industry with each incense stick being handcrafted, predominantly by women workers.
The industry has long been benefiting from this resource. These women spend few hours a day rolling incense sticks after attending to the daily needs of their homes. In the past few years, there has been a rise in training for activities like agarbathi rolling that has promoted economic independence, and employment for a large number of people, especially women seeking extra income.
The Rs 2000-crore agarbathi industry is dependent predominantly on rural India. Many industries can use this untapped resource and connect with the rural families providing both livelihood and rural empowerment.
The incense industry has always had low entry and exit barriers due to easily available raw materials, a relatively simple process of manufacturing and high dependence on labour. Earlier, entrepreneurs would venture into the category with a short-term business interest.
Post the 1990s, as the Indian economy started opening up, globalisation and rapid development of technology and communication created several jobs in the country.
Increase in the per capita income of customers also enhanced the demand for better incense. This saw the industry consolidate from several small players to a few large companies. Several NGOs and government institutions have approached the incense manufacturers to provide training in incense stick making and thus employment in economically deprived areas.
Cycle Pure Agarbathies play a leading role in empowering rural women by training them in bamboo splitting and hand rolling and we have various training and distribution-collection centres across states like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar and several areas in the North East.