Monday, November 14, 2011

“Shri Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat Papad”

The more technologically bent amongst us were surprised how the ‘Dabbawallah’s’ in Mumbai were able to function so efficiently with no aid of technology. Well, this story will prove that the ‘Dabbawallah’s’ are not the only ones to do.

The story of Shri Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat Papad is a tale of stupendous success achieved through sheer determination. Today, Lijjat is more than just a household name for 'papad' (India's most popular crispy bread). Started with a modest loan of Rs.80 (merely $2) in 1959, the cooperative now has annual turnover of Rs. 650 crore ($144 Million), with Rs. 29 crore in exports (As of 2010).[1] It provides employment to around 42,000 people.[2] What's more stunning than its stupendous success is its striking simplicity. Sticking to its core values for the past forty years, Lijjat has ensured that every process runs smoothly, members earn a comfortable profit, agents get their due share, consumers get the assurance of quality at a reasonable price and society benefits from its donations to various causes.

How has all this been possible? Its story shows how an organization can infuse Gandhian simplicity in all its activities. Here we look at its distribution cycle.

Every morning a group of women goes to the Lijjat branch to knead dough, which is then collected by other women who roll it into papads. When these women come in to collect the dough, they also give in the previous day's production, which is tested for quality. Yet another team packs the tested papads. Every member gets her share of vanai (rolling charge) every day for the work she does and this is possible only because the rest of the system is geared to support it. [3]

The entire papad making process is a manual one and there is no use of technology anywhere in the chain. The President of the association claims that the core principle of the company is to liberate the not so educated lower middle woman by providing her with a job which guarantees a steady source of income. The use of technology would commercialize the process and would destroy the foundation on which the association was formed and would render them no different from anyone else in the business.

A lot of parallels can be drawn with the ‘Dabbahwallah’s’ when it comes to the recruitment, culture, lack of use of technology and organizational structure. Like the Dabbahwallas, the members of the Lijjat Papad family are considered to be entrepreneurial. The entire association is split into several branches that are responsible for ensuring that the quality of papads meets the standards and every branch maintains its own accounts.

However, there is one starling contrast between the Dabbawallah’s and Shri Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat Papad. The working force of the Dabbawallah’s comprises entirely of men, whereas that of Lijjat Papad comprises entirely of women. Even though men are employed for distributing the products or along the other parts of the supply chain, the association members can comprise only of women. This is because, the association began as a co-operative movement which aimed at liberating women and eradicating the social stigma that women are child bearers and should not be allowed to work.

Like the Dabbahwallah’s, Lijjat Papad proudly claim 'consistently good quality' to be their USP. From the moment a new member joins, she is repeatedly told to make quality her mantra. At the training session, bens (women association members are called bens) are taught to make the 'perfect' Lijjat papad. And every member has absorbed the concept totally.

Out of this strong belief in quality delivered at an affordable price comes the act of ignoring competitors. Many companies selling papads have come and gone. They don't consider them; they continue doing their own thing. Their belief is that if their quality is good, consumers will buy. Their quality does not differ whether it is for exports or for the local market. There is just one quality. And that's good quality. Again and again and again!


[1]: Surekha Kadapa-Bose (2005-04-01). [( "Their kitchen radiates energy"]. The Hindu Business Line. Retrieved 2007-01-15.



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