Ukhrul: Yangmila Zimik, a single mother and entrepreneur from Manipur’s Ukhrul district, has proven that with hard work and belief in oneself, one can fulfil their dreams, even with mere Rs 500 in her pocket.
In 2015, with nothing but sheer interest in food products and processing, Yangmila went on to purchase gooseberry worth Rs 500 and started distributing it to her friends and neighbours. However, she did not expect the positive responses that came pouring in and gave wings to her dream of owning an enterprise under the label Shirin Products in 2019.
Speaking to EastMojo, Yangmila said that from an early age, she was interested in artistic skills. However, due to her family’s financial constraints, she couldn’t continue her schooling.
A resident of Pharung village, she was raised by a single father along with her other three siblings after their mother passed away when she was young.
Yangmila shared that she started her business with basic materials after attending basic training on food processing at Shirui village in the Ukhrul district. For ingredients, she collected locally-available fruits like gooseberry, plum, wild olive, etc., and processed the produce at her residence in Viewland.
Later, she was introduced by one of her friends to the officials at the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). Seeing her potential and interest in food processing, the ICAR extended their assistance by providing her with a wooden oven, gas stove, and jumbo box among others under Socio-Economic Action Plan (SEAP).
Lauding the entrepreneur for her consistency in maintaining the quality of her products, Yurmeila Zimik, who works with the ICAR, Ukhrul, said Yangmila had attended two seminar-cum-training on food processing and vermicompost organised by the organisation.
“As per our quality analysis, Shirin Products has high-quality assurance. However, there is a lack of proper marketing channel to source her products,” Yurmeila told EastMojo.
With steady growth in her business by supplying her products to various cities, including Guwahati, Dimapur, Imphal and even Delhi, Yangmila has already engaged farmers from 30 villages for fruits and other locally-available ingredients.
At present, six young women are working under her of which two are also getting formal education besides the employment opportunity.
“Four of them work as full-time employees but I am sending the other two girls to school and train them during their free time after returning home,” said Yangmila.
Before starting work at Shirin Products, 26-year-old Aleen Horam did not know the importance of fruits being found widely in the district. However, this changed after September 2021, when she joined Yangmila.
“Earlier, I used to work in hotels and restaurants. Working with Shirin Products has made me financially independent and also improved my knowledge of food processing. I also want to now pursue my career as an entrepreneur in food processing in the future,” Horam told EastMojo.
Shirin Products currently produces over 30 purely organic food items. The items include pickles, candies, juice, cakes, etc. And she plans to add more items by exploring more local ingredients.
Recently, Yangmila was honoured with Assam Women Entrepreneurs’ Award for being an impactful entrepreneur in the rural category.
In 2021, she was adjudged the 1st runner-up entrepreneur of the year under the micro section by Satya Microfinance Vijayalakshmi Das Entrepreneurship Award 2020 in Delhi. She received the award in recognition and celebration of her acumen in business and empowering other women through her entrepreneurial journey.
As Shirin Products has become a household name in Ukhrul town and other places, Yangmila said they are unable to meet the demand due to a lack of machinery and a proper work shed.
At present, the workers are making the food items manually in a congested temporary workshed out of her kitchen.
However, despite all the challenges and difficulties, Yangmila is undeterred and aims to expand her food processing business and generate more employment opportunities for women.
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