Inspiration in the face of adversity in India

We’re proud to share the stories of two formidable women entrepreneurs we’ve supported through our Driving Women’s Business Growth in India project





Dhanashree and Preeti are from India’s Maharashtra region and have both overcome significant odds to achieve entrepreneurial success.

Thanks to a partnership with the Mann Deshi Foundation, 550 promising entrepreneurs like Dhanashree and Preeti received business and financial literacy training and support to become owners of sustainable and profitable businesses. They’ve gained the confidence, skills and practical support they need to develop successful enterprises, improve the lives of their families and become role models to other inspiring women entrepreneurs in their communities.

Here are their stories.

When Dhanashree lost her hand operating a noodle-making machine in her grocery store several years ago, she fell into a deep depression, believing it to be the end of her entrepreneurial dreams. But she refused to let disability stand in the way of her success and now she runs several thriving enterprises.

Dhanashree was encouraged to take part in our project by the Mann Deshi team who visited her at home. She received training on key business skills, such as financial management and marketing. Her newly acquired knowledge inspired her to expand her operations and diversify her product portfolio by establishing a sari business, in addition to her grocery store and milk-selling business. She also learnt to cross sell her products which helped expand her customer base.

Dhanashree says, “if I take help from others, I feel handicapped”. But our workshops provided the right level of support, equipping her with the skills and confidence she needed to take her aspirations forward herself.

After receiving marketing training, Dhanashree created leaflets and business cards to spread the word about her saris. She also took a loan from the women’s savings collective in her village to buy eight more cows and expand her milk-selling enterprise. Having quadrupled her income, she is now able to pay her children’s school fees and is determined to send her daughter to university.

“Despite the loss of my hand, I have continued my work. I don’t want to stop now, I want my kids to gain higher education and increase my business like never before.”

Preeti turned to entrepreneurship to make enough money for her family’s survival, refusing to give up even in the face of financial and practical obstacles. After all, she believes that without effort there can be “no fruits”.

Initially, Preeti’s only independent source of income was traditional broom-making. However, the money she earned from this activity left her unable to pay for household expenses and her children’s schooling. Living in a small house with her husband, three children and parents-in-law also left Preeti with no room to scale up her enterprise: “We don’t have enough room for our family members; where could we store raw materials?”

Preeti began selling sauces at the local Nimbhore village market, and found a nearby abandoned house with enough room for her to grind the spices she needed for her products. The roof of the house had fallen in, so Preeti had to work all day in the blazing sun.

During this time, Preeti learned from some other women owners of small businesses about our Driving Women’s Business Growth project, and signed up to improve her skills in key business areas such as time management, marketing and saving, insurance and loans.

Demand for her homemade sauces grew quickly, after Preeti increased her marketing efforts and began to exhibit her goods at district-level festivals, and thanks to word of mouth recommendations from customers. She secured a loan from Mann Deshi Bank to buy a packing machine and electronic scales to improve the consistency and professionalism of her products.

Preeti’s income has almost doubled since participating in the project. This meant she was able to pay for her husband’s health care when he was hospitalised after becoming injured in an accident. She also took out two insurance policies, opened a savings account with Mann Deshi Bank and is now considering taking out a further loan in order to purchase a flour mill and chilli grinder to grow her business even further.

Find out more about our Driving Women’s Business Growth project

Driving Women’s Business Growth supported women entrepreneurs in India from 2015-2017.

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Cherie Blair CBE KC and a woman entrepreneur in India