Restarting Small Business in Rural Tamil Nadu

With grants averaging Rs. 3000 per person, over 1700 small scale-vendors impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic have restarted their work and are earning income of Rs. 200 per day.

Quarantine safety measures such as work-from-home are not available to much of the rural workforce, who are involved in employment that is not amenable to online participation. Communities and families relying on daily wage labour, therefore, have been battling the concurrent difficulties of the pandemic, poverty, unemployment and associated risks such as malnutrition and loss of education for children.

To sustainably address these co-dependent crises, AID India introduced a livelihood project in rural districts of Tamil Nadu.  By providing food relief as well as grants to various small-scale vendors, the team at AID India helped individuals restart various activities that would generate income, immediately improving their nutrition and health and beginning to overcome the long-term impacts of the pandemic.

By July AID India had disbursed Rs 3,000,000 to 1000 people through a targeted approach of identifying individuals by need and developing a business plan, either in a new business or adding value to their existing occupation.  The range of vendors include fruits, vegetables, dairy, tea, snacks, clothing, flowers, animal husbandry, repairs and services, tailoring, wood-cutting and even street singing.  By November, the number of people who have restarted their businesses with this support of, on average, $41 per person, came to 1739.

From Chennai, Damodaran of AID India reports:  “All the beneficiaries had started making use of the grant and had a reasonable income generation during this pandemic period. Since we have received good feedback from the community, we are also planning to incorporate the health and hygiene factor into livelihood. Since many of our beneficiaries are running the idli shop successfully, they would like to expand it to the next level by adding more nutritious food and provide it to the children to eradicate malnutrition.”

Some stories from the field: 

Prema, 39, sold vegetables and supported her daughter, husband, and mother in law with her earnings of Rs. 300 / day. Lockdown forced her to close. When Rani of AID India learned of her plight she helped her restart. Prema now packs and sells the vegetables, and earns ₹200 a day, helping her family live better in spite of pandemic restrictions.


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