A quaint hamlet in the hills, inhabited by just 41 families. A total population of 190 people, living in immense financial hardships. This is what Banjani Village in Himachal Pradesh used to be. Up until it had a godfather in the form of Sanjeev Nanda.
A renowned hotelier and businessman, Sanjeev Nanda has been the brains behind several unique and successful projects. From establishing various successful restaurant chains, hotels and pharma businesses, he has had quite an adventurous entrepreneurial journey.
However, apart from being the successful businessman that he is, Sanjeev is also an avid social worker. His relationship with Banjani Village is one of the many personal connections that he has formed during his attempts at giving back to the society.
It all began the day Sanjeev Nanda and his wife, Medha Nanda, decided to bring about a radical transformation in the lives of the residents of Banjani Village, especially women. Him and his wife, understanding the economic and infrastructural hardships of the women, actively worked towards bringing the wave of development to this erstwhile untouched community.
Realizing the potential that the otherwise homely women of the village had, Sanjeev, along with his wife, encouraged them to come together and work collectively in order to bring forth their collective entrepreneurial capacity. The result was the formation of a self-help group, which helped the villagers, especially women, to uplift their lifestyle by augmenting their income.
Apart from Sanjeev Nanda, a local lawyer, M Thakur also aided the women in their journey towards financial independence. While Sanjeev encouraged them to utilize their skills to procure business and reap the benefits, M Thakur helped them in getting acquainted with the legal technicalities of the process to be followed while forming a co-operative society.
In a village where most modes of modern transport were non-existent and penury was a part of the lifestyle, the formation of an all-women self help group (SHG) was nothing short of a miracle. Mahila Ekta Group finally obtained its license, and was now ready to leap into product development.
Since Himachal Pradesh had banned the use of plastic bags in a bid to preserve the natural beauty of the state, the Mahila Ekta Group decided to manufacture artisanal paper and cloth bags. These bags were later sold to traders in Dharmpur, and fetched the women their first earnings.
Sanjeev Nanda has been closely working with the Mahila Ekta Group ever since its inception. In 2014, him and his wife arranged for the group members to visit the Bhuira Jam factory, where they got a chance to learn more about self help groups and entrepreneurship. The members of Mahila Ekta Group also received some extremely useful tips about running a profitable business from the founder of Buira Jams, Ms Linnet Mushran.
Sanjeev and his wife personally visit the village every now and then to assess and aid with the progress of the entrepreneurial ventures run by the Mahila Ekta Group. Apart from helping write this extraordinary tale of women empowerment, the couple has also arranged for transportation of children to and from school in nearby villages.
The Banjni Village of today is way different from what it was a decade ago. People’s incomes have increased, and their lifestyles have improved by manifold. And the villagers give all the credits to the couple for helping them bring about this transformation.