Arulmozhi Saravanan began selling office supplies on the government e-marketplace (GeM) and expanded her business with a Mudra Yojana loan in 2016. Her first order was for just Rs 243 and now her business runs into lakhs. Meet this enterprising woman who Prime Minister Narendra Modi has talked about many times.
Not every success story begins with a dream. Some arise out of circumstances and the need to achieve a better standard of living for our loved ones.
Arulmozhi Saravanan’s is one such story - that of a young woman pawning her jewellery to start a business. From beginning with a single order of Rs. 243, she now handles multiple orders worth lakhs.
Her story of grit and determination reached the Prime Minister’s Office and Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned her in his monthly Mann Ki Baat address to the nation. He also met her on his visit to Madurai in 2017.
When I call Arulmozhi, her husband picks up the phone to tell me that she has taken their unwell daughter to a clinic. He sounds excited when I tell him that the Prime Minister mentioned her in his interview with YourStory Founder Shradha Sharma, and tells me that she will return my call soon.
A few hours later, she calls me back, sounding apologetic about the delay. The conversation slips into Tamil, a language she is comfortable with. She tells me that hers is an ordinary story, but as the conversation continues, I realise she is only being modest.
Arulmozhi grew up in a small village near Usilampatti town in the Madurai district of Tamil Nadu. She could not continue her studies beyond Class 12, because her family could not afford to send her to college. She sat at home for a year and got married at the age of 19.
Soon after, she became a mother to a son and the family settled in Madurai town. Two years after her daughter was born, Arulmozhi enrolled in a training course but did not look for work as she felt she could not do justice to her children if she got a job.
“I was scouting for opportunities to supplement my family income without having to venture outside for work. That’s when I heard about GeM (or the Government e-Marketplace where common user goods and services are procured). I registered on GeM to supply office products. I pawned my jewellery for Rs 40,000, and slowly and steadily started to buy the products."
Registering on GeM was just the first step. After that, it was a painful waiting game.
"For two months, I did not get any order," says Arulmozhi.
But she persevered. Eventually, her patience paid off. "I received my first order for 10 stamp pads worth Rs 243,” Arulmozhi recalls.
Encouraged by the initial orders and a small profit margin, the young entrepreneur wanted to expand the list of products she offered. Armed with a feasibility report, she approached a bank for a loan of Rs 50,000 under the Central Government’s Mudra Yojana Scheme.
She then used the fresh funds to source products from wholesale markets. In those days, she would plough back the profits into the fledgling venture. Her choice of stationery and office supplies was carefully thought out.
“If you ask why office supplies, I would say this is a business that comes with a lesser amount of risk, unlike perishable goods. Also, I felt good supplying products to schools, being a small part of children’s education,” she adds.
Arulmozhi uploads the details of products on the site, sources supplies and has employed five members of her family to help her. She supervises the entire process, right from procurement and packing to delivery.
“I use India Post for delivery. They are super-efficient and can reach even the remotest corners of the country. We even dispatched an order to Leh recently,” she points out.
Some time back, she saw a requirement for a thermos flask from the PMO worth Rs 1,600. She sent a “thank you note” to the Prime Minister along with the order where she explained how government schemes like GeM and Mudra Yojana have helped her to be financially independent and supplement her family income. And the rest, as they say, is history.
The Prime Minister mentioned Arulmozhi’s success story in his monthly Mann Ki Baat programme in 2017.
“I had no idea until I got a call from the PMO asking for my details. Later, I read the Tamil version of the show in the newspaper and was thrilled,” she says.
Since then, the Prime Minister has often cited Arulmozhi as an example of how a woman can empower herself if she puts her mind to it.
What about the challenges in her path? Arulmozhi admits that fulfilling the order for Rs 2,74,000 was difficult.
“There were around 50 products that had to be purchased separately, packed and delivered. I was scared whether they would reach safely. But they did and I also received the payment on time.”
She wrote to the Prime Minister again, updating him on the transformation in her life. According to the website, the turnover of her enterprise has crossed Rs 1 crore in the current financial year.
Arulmozhi wants to continue the business in the same way but is also looking at opening a manufacturing unit for office supplies soon.
“If you have a business idea but do not have the money required, don’t give up hope. Apply for loans under various schemes. If your project is feasible, you will surely get them. If you are intelligent, honest and willing to work hard, the sky is the limit,” she says.