STW talks to Shikha Jain, co-founder of NEEV Soaps, a small scale industry under the Khadi Village and Industries Commission and the profitable arm of the NEEV Social Enterprise. In the seemingly quiet and slow-paced state of Jharkhand, we find a shining example of an initiative that is planet friendly and empowering rural women.
From its beginning in 2007, Shikha and Anurag Jain (Founders at NEEV Social Enterprise) believed that NEEV handmade soaps would be more than just a commodity, but a vision. With the aim to produce the highest quality hand crafted herbal products while providing a dignified means of employment for rural women and regenerating rural economy, this entity had its humble beginnings just outside of Jamshedpur, Jharkhand.
Shikha says the art of soap making was self taught. The idea was to create a 100% organic or hand made products ranging from soap bars and hair oils, to body washes and hand cleansers. The result today, includes some of the best industry-quality products made from the purest ingredients, chemical-free, producing no water pollution. The soaps are Grade – A soaps with a Total Fatty Matter (TFM) greater than 76%, not achieved by any commercial brands. These soaps are also CRAFTMARK and AYUSH certified.
The journey to these achievements has been inspiring though certainly testing for this visionary couple. Shikha attributes much of their success to the hard work and diligence of the rural women and villagers employed specifically to the soap unit. The soap unit functions entirely with the help of these women, who skillfully work on each product, to perfection. From production to packaging – all activities are undertaken in-house, giving these rural women a dignified and gainful employment. In 2008, over 30 women from the village were trained to produce these wonderful products. Many of them stayed on and have assumed leadership roles today.
At NEEV Handmade Soaps they believe that their product quality speaks for itself and this quality assurance is a product of a group of dedicated women, working together towards a simple goal. In the rural areas of India, where women are still predominantly under-employed or uneducated, this initiative by Shikha and Anurag Jain provides a means to end this perpetual predicament. NEEV has had many significant breaks across India, since its inception, through participation in melas (a festival of shop stalls and people) and trade shows, presentations and papers at reputed business schools and now retails in over 80 stores and is the preferred brand at many eco and boutique hotels. NEEV also has an international presence, having participated in a Trade Show in China. Anurag and Shikha are recipients of several National and State awards (Bharat Excellence Award 2011, Vivekananda Yuva Samman 2012) as well. NEEV also hosts interns and visitors through the AIESEC program.
Through their enormous contribution to society and their positive outlook to business and life, Shikha and Anurag remain grounded despite great success. Approachable by all, they work hand-in-hand with the women at the soap unit and have recently expanded to a new facility.
STW honors their work and stands inspired by the difference a few can make to many. Great job Shikha and Anurag Jain!
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