The inspiring story of micro entrepreneur Alpana Das

The management of Women on Wings’ partner Tamul Plates Marketing Pvt Ltd from Assam met Alpana Das for the first time in 2018. Both she and her husband worked as daily wage laborers in North East India. Due to the meagre income, Alpana struggled with the educational expenses of her two daughters. But when she started her areca nut leaf plate enterprise, Alpana began generating a better income and that changed the life of her and her family.

Palm leaf plates provide education
Tamul Plates Marketing Pvt Ltd (Tamul) produces and markets biodegradable disposable dinnerware, through community-owned micro-enterprises spread across North East India. Alpana Das is one of those micro entrepreneurs. She started her areca nut leaf plate enterprise shortly after she had met the Tamul management in 2018. Thanks to her newly earned regular income, Alpana ensured her daughters could get adequate educational support needed to excel further. Her eldest was a rank holder in class and she wanted some support with books and coaching classes, which Alpana was unable to provide before starting her enterprise. But now, two years later, her eldest is gearing up for her class 10 exams in 2021.

Surviving COVID-19 lockdown
But then, when the lockdown hit India in 2020, Alpana’s husband stopped earning almost immediately. The cash inflows ceased completely. But with the cash support of Tamul, which had raised funds to support its rural communities, the family survived the crisis. Tamul also urged Alpana to continue with the production and assured continued purchase of the products as soon as the lockdown regulations got relaxed. During this period, Alpana’s husband also started supporting her in the leaf plates production unit. This has not only helped the family grow, but also ensured that the girls remained in school and continued their education.

Changing socio-economic landscape
Alpana’s eldest daughter aspires to go to college and later become a teacher. If all goes well, she will be the first one in her family to graduate from a college and become a teacher. She also takes immense pride in being the only one in her class whose mother is an entrepreneur. The younger one is in class 5 and sees both her elder sister and her mother as role models for her own future. By becoming the areca nut leaf plate entrepreneur, Alpana is fulfilling the aspirations of her daughters. This is how Tamul and its areca nut leaf plate enterprises are changing the socio-economic landscape of rural North East India.

Women on Wings and Tamul partnership
Tamul generates sustainable livelihoods amongst rural women and youth North East India. Women on Wings and Tamul, a Dhriiti enterprise, are partnering since May 2015. Their joint effort is to grow the social enterprise so as to create more jobs for rural women and youth. Tamul provides high-quality all-natural disposable tableware like plates and bowls made from areca nut palm leaves to urban and global customers. It envisages to replace 2,000 MT of toxic disposable plates annually by 2025 and in the process generate employment for 20,000 rural women and youth.