As many as 27 marginalised salt pan workers, who earn their living in Kutch by producing salt from the area, are now proud owners of a private limited company called Sabras, formed a year ago.
These workers hold 65 per cent stake in equity and are planning to raise it to 74 per cent. Of the three directors on board of Sabras, two are salt pan workers. The remaining 35 per cent in Sabras is held by Saline Area Vitalization Enterprise (SAVE), a public limited firm.
Besides, there are similar attempts on the anvil for onion and mango growers. Inspired by Sabras project, SAVE now aims to form another company called Veg-India where primary producers will have majority stake of 74 per cent. The producers of Sosiya village in Gujarat are in the process of joining hands in Veg-India for selling sweet kesar mangoes.
The board members of SAVE include Chairman Chinubhai Shah of Gujarat Investors & Shareholders Association, Sukhpal Singh an IIM-A professor, Dinesh Awasthi, director of EDI, Daksha Shah, advisor, Friends of Women World Banking, and founder member of NGO Vikas, Rajesh Shah, who is the MD of SAVE.
Shah claims it is for the first time in the country that people below poverty line are majority stakeholders in a company.
An architect, Shah who has come up with this unique concept believes, if you want to go to the moon, you can't go on a bicycle; you need a rocket for it.
"The urban markets are beginning to restructure and voluntary oragnisations also need to do so. If I am a non-profit organisation, I can't teach how to make profit. Empowerment can come to the poor by way of wealth generation," he added.
For marketing the produce, a wholly-owned subsidiary of SAVE called SETU Tradelink has been formed. About 10 per cent of the equity in SAVE is with Below poverty Line members.
In the first year of the formation of Sabras, the company asked the salt pan workers to contribute 10 per cent of their salt produce to the company. They generated about 10,000 tonnes in the first year.
The company faced some problems of transportation and storage and had to suffer some losses initially, said Uday Gaekwad, director of Sabras. The company aims at producing branded Sabras salt, very soon.
This year, the company is targeting 20,000 tonnes and has already entered into supply agreement with companies like GHCL and Nirma.
Sabras is aiming to rope in chemical companies as equity partners in the company. "The companies can get assured supply of the quality and quantity of salt they require," according to Gaekwad.