Self help groups in Uttar Pradesh learn to use the mobile phone as marketing tool

Rural women who run self-help groups are not short of confidence, but struggle to market their products. Social Saheli, a platform that helps women entrepreneurs with marketing, has taught them how to record videos, narrate their stories, and tap into the power of social media.

Mithilesh Dhar Dubey
| Updated: March 13th, 2021

Social Saheli is a platform that further helps these women-run groups with marketing their products better. Photo: Social Saheli

Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh

Hina runs a women’s self-help group in Uttar Pradesh and also teaches crochet on her YouTube channel ‘Sadabahaar life’, when her schedule permits it. Only her hands appear in the videos, though. “I simply could not speak into the camera. Then, I was taught this method. I was worried how people would react to the videos, but it’s worked out well. Now, I’ve also learnt to face the camera, and am learning to make videos with my face visible,” Hina, 27, told Gaon Connection.

Today, the Rani Lakshmi Bai Mahila Aajeevika, the self-help group run by Hina, a resident of Ghaila village in Lucknow’s Chinhat locality, along with 12 others, benefits from the guidance of Social Saheli, a platform that helps women entrepreneurs with marketing. The group currently earns Rs 5,000 to Rs 6,000 every month through diverse activities such as pounding of spices or sewing. Hina liked crocheting and she wanted it to be taken up by more and more women.

“Social Saheli is a social initiative of People Like Us Create, through which we train women in self-help groups to tell a story using their mobile phones,” head Shamita Harsh told Gaon Connection. The enterprise began by training women from Gorakhpur in December last year. 

Member of the self-help group recording a video. Photo: Social Saheli

Self Help Groups (SHGs) are groups run by women who help each other by creating a small pool of savings among themselves. This money can then be used by one or more group members for setting up some business. The National Rural Livelihoods Mission launched in 2011 aims to increase the livelihood of rural households and bring them to the mainstream by linking them with financial services.

Social Saheli is a platform that further helps these women-run groups with marketing their products better. 

Social media presence

Hina wanted to help the women of her village with some means of livelihood, and so created the self-help group. “We struggled to market our products such as spices and crochet items. This was when the Social Saheli team visited our village and helped us. They taught us to make videos and to speak on camera. Now the group’s women are able to tell people about their products on Facebook and Instagram,” Hina said.

Vibha Anand of Laulai village of Chinhat block in Lucknow district has a similar story to tell. She earned about Rs 5,000 from her job at a boutique, but COVID-19 lockdown put paid to that. After losing her job, Anand worked quickly to set up a group to work and support her family.

The team imparts training to women associated with these groups in the finer aspects of social media so their products reach more people. Source: Instagram

“The government help we received in the form of training and cotton fabric made our work easy, but there was the challenge of reaching out to the maximum people with our products — face masks, spices, dalia (broken wheat) and sattu (powdered Bengal gram). I had a mobile phone, but did not know we could even sell our products through it. Social Saheli helped resolve that issue for us,” she told Gaon Connection.

Anand is the sakhi of the Lead India Women Livelihood self-help group, which has 85 members. “During the lockdown, I learnt the state government was helping groups that were providing livelihood to migrant workers, and I approached the Rural Livelihood Mission office in Lucknow. With their help, we trained the women in our group in sewing,” she said.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, various self-help groups in her village received an order of 40,000 masks by the government, of which, her group made 1,300 masks at five rupees a mask. Now, the group also markets dalia, sattu and spices.

Like Hina and Anand, many more rural women entrepreneurs associated with various self-help groups in Uttar Pradesh are able to find buyers and visibility with the help of technical training from Social Saheli’s online platform. The team imparts training to women associated with these groups in the finer aspects of social media so their products reach more people. 

Through the initiative, women in self-help groups are trained to tell a story using their mobile phones. Photo: Social Saheli

Gayatri Chandrawar resides in Basantpur of Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, and her Gita Self Help Group makes jute bags and papads. There are 10 active members in the year-old group. Chandrawar used to once shy away from video calls. Today, she has an active Instagram account. 

Chandrawar told Gaon Connection over the phone that previously, the members would sell their goods in nearby markets. “I often thought of expanding the business, but it never happened. Social Saheli taught us how to hold our mobile phones while recording, how to widen the reach of our posts and how to speak in front of the camera. We are receiving many product inquiries from distant places,” she added. The group currently earns up to Rs 7,000 a month.

Harsh of Social Saheli said they train women in how to make themselves heard far and wide through story-telling, and how to use the mobile phone and social media better. “In the last three months, we have trained one hundred and fifteen women. In the first phase, we are training women in Uttar Pradesh, and shall expand later,” she added.

Read the story in Hindi.