Memories take us back but dream take us forward. The dream that seven Gujarati women has seen has now turn into a brand. Once in our life we have eaten the famous “Lijjat Papad”. But we have ever imagine there is a motivational story behind this Lijjat papad.
Lijjat was the brain child of seven Gujarati women from Mumbai. The women lived in Lohana Niwas, a group of five buildings in Girgaum. They wanted to start a venture to create a sustainable livelihood using the only skill they had i.e. cooking. The women borrowed Rs 80 from a social worker. They took over a loss-making papad making venture by one Laxmidasbhai, and bought the necessary ingredients and the basic infrastructure required to manufacture papads.
Lijjat expanded as a cooperative system. Initially, even younger girls could join, but later eighteen was fixed as the minimum age of entry. Within three months there were about 25 women making papads. Soon the women bought some equipment for the business, like utensils, cupboards, stoves, etc. In the first year, the organisation’s annual sales were Rs. 6196.
In July 1966, Lijjat registered itself as a society under the Societies Registration Act 1860. In the same month, on Chaganbapa‘s recommendation, U N Dhebar, the chairman of KVIC personally inspected the Lijjat. KVIC or Khadi Development and Village Industries Commission is a statutory body set up by the Government of India for development of rural industries. In 1966, KVIC granted it a working capital of Rs.800,000 (0.8 million) and was allowed certain tax exemptions.
In the 1980s, Lijjat also started taking part in several trade fairs and exhibitions, which improved its sales and made the brand name “Lijjat” well-known among the people. The advertising was undertaken through the vernacular newspapers, television and radio. The institution sponsored programs and gave away gifts for the winners of specific shows in the television. The money for advertisements was spent by the Polypropylene Division, which recovered the same by adding it to the price of the bags that it supplied to all the branches and divisions throughout India.
Lijjat received the “Best Village Industries Institution“ award from KVIC for the period 1998–99 to 2000–01. In 2002, the “Businesswoman of the Year“ award was given to “The Women Behind Lijjat Papad” at The Economic Times Awards for Corporate Excellence. At the awards ceremony, the President of Lijjat urged the State Governments of Maharashtra and Punjab to reconsider their decision of withdrawing the tax exemption on Lijjat’s Sasa Detergent.
In 2002, Lijjat had a turnover of Rs 3 billion and exports worth Rs. 100 million. It employed 42,000 people in 62 divisions all over the country.The 62nd branch became operational at Jammu and Kashmir in 2002, enrolling over 150 members. In 2003, Lijjat received the “Best Village Industry Institution“. It also received the PHDCCI Brand Equity Award 2005. Lijjat marked its 50th year of existence on 15 March 2009.
The growth of the Lijjat is often seen in the larger canvas of women and their empowerment. The organisation has undertaken various efforts to promote literacy and computer education for member-sisters and their families. A literacy campaign for sisters began through literacy classes at Girgaum on 18 June 1999. Later, the managing committee decided to start such classes in all its branches. From 1980 onwards, Lijjat started giving Chhaganbapa Smruti Scholarships to the daughters of the member-sisters.
In 1979, Lijjat teamed up with UNICEF to organise a seminar in Mumbai on “Child Care and Mother Welfare”, as part of the International Year of the Child celebrations. In October 1984, Bhadraben Bhatt represented Lijjat at the UNESCO sponsored international workshop on “The role of women in the assimilation and spread of technological innovation” held at NITIE, Powai. Alkaben Kalia represented Lijjat at the national level meeting on women convened by the National Commission on Self Employed Women.
Out of this strong belief in quality delivered at an affordable price comes our act of ignoring competitors. Lots of companies selling papads have come and gone. We don’t consider them, we only do our own thing. We do not take into consideration what the competition is doing.
We know that if our quality is good, consumers will buy. Our 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!