Married to a farmer in a rural household in Osmanabad, Maharashtra, life would have been routine for Kamal Kumbhar had it not been abject poverty that forced her to look for a livelihood in 1998. But little did she know that her decision to step outside the four walls of the house would create turbulence in her marriage.
Many questions were darted at her. “They (husband and in-laws) would ask me where I was the entire time (when I would be out looking for a job). They said I was just roaming around pretending to work,” recalls 37-year-old Kumbhar, who, not able to take it any more, ended her marriage the same year, but continued to live in Osmanabad.
Soon, she started a bangle business. “I would walk to five villages to sell bangles when I first started. It was very difficult,” says Kumbhar.
Not finding the business lucrative, she started Kamal Poultry and Ekta Sakhi Producer Company, a poultry-cum-hatchery business, later the same year with a capital of `2,000, which was all that her personal savings were.
That business metamorphosed into a micro-enterprise venture by 2007. A serial entrepreneur, Kumbhar today owns six different businesses ranging from hatcheries to micro-finance outfits. And in 2017, she even won the CII Foundation Woman Exemplar Award in the micro-enterprise category.
Kumbhar’s tenacity has brought her a long way. Today, she is not just financially independent, she has also been instrumental in making many other women like her self-sufficient by providing them employment and the training needed to run a micro-enterprise—she has encouraged around 3,000 women in the drought-prone region of Osmanabad to successfully run poultry farms, doubling their household incomes.
“Earlier, I thought only about myself. But when I started interacting with other women, I realised that there is a need to shift focus from myself to others as they also needed help,” she says.
Kumbhar believes it’s very important for women, especially in rural areas, to become economically independent. “If you earn, it becomes easier to live with dignity, even within a household,” she says.
Revealing her success mantra, Kumbhar says, “One shouldn’t be bogged down by the challenges at hand. You need to keep moving ahead and do something new. To achieve financial stability, one has to diversify into more than one business,” she says.