Star Entrepreneur of 2013: Alamelumangai
Alamelumangai was not good enough for her husband’s family. Her husband had been a child laborer since the age of ten, having run away from home to work in a soft drinks company in Chennai. At age 16, she met Katturaja, and they ran away to Chennai to work in the factory. When she became pregnant, they returned to the in-laws, who housed her husband but gave her a place on the stoop in the back yard to live. She was also treated inhumanly by her own family.
After a year, the couple rented a small thatched house and initiated a small soda unit there, with Katturaja’s brother as a partner. Katturaja’s brother and father began to make trouble and set up a competitive business. Alamelumangai and her husband approached the local panchayat leaders to help them claim their share of his family house and soda production equipment, but without success.
They struggled to restart the business, which expanded production and sales from 7 to 30 shops in 13 villages. Since Katturaja’s deliveries were now impossible by bicycle, they purchased a TATA-AC (three wheeler car) with a loan at an exorbitant interest rate from a broker. Soon, they learned that the broker had sold them a stolen car and ended up cheating them of Rs. 60000, even with the help of the police. By this time, the family had grown to include two boys and a girl.
Alamelumangai’s husband had a habit of running away, and eventually ran off with another woman. He lived with her for five years, while Alamelumangai worked to enlist the help of the police and local panchayat leaders to get him back. He didn’t stay put for long, though, opting
to work in Kerala, 300 kilometers away, returning once a month. His lavish spending caused the whole family to suffer.
Alamelumangai managed to pull the business together with the help of her second son, who had to discontinue his studies. She borrowed money at exorbitant interest rates. When she was unable to repay them, she was mocked by the creditors. By producing superior products over those of her husband’s family, she acquired clients from 45 shops in villages up to 15 kilometers away. Yet, she struggled to provide the family’s basic needs.
Finally, Alamelumangai met SHWET’s field staff Subatha, who encouraged her to become a member. Her hard work and character led SHWET to give her a Prosperity Rings loan in the amount of Rs. 10,000 ($167). She was able to increase her inventory to 720 bottles and lids, essence, sugar, and pay for gas and transportation to eventually supply 55 shops in 21 villages, at a profit of Rs. 1000 ($16.70) a day in peak season. She now employs two women regularly to wash and clean the bottles and equipment. Alamelumangai says that with the support of Prosperity Rings, “I will become self-supportive and a model to many women coming from this kind of hardship.”
Alamelumangai is recognized as Star Entrepreneur of the Year for her exemplary participation as a SHWET borrower, her courage to stand up for her rights, and her perseverance in molding a better life for her family.