Parama's journey into Sustainable Livelihoods
Community is not just one more stakeholder, but the very purpose of business.” Jamshedji Tata, founder of the Tata Group
After almost two and a half decades of diverse experience in Strategy, Business Planning and Finance, Sales, Marketing and Human Resources at organizations like Thermax, Tata Administrative Service (TAS), and Tata Motors, a few personal experiences related to health made me take a break from the corporate world. Being a firm believer in integrative wellness and the healing power of nature and natural products, I delved deep into finding holistic solutions to modern-day self-care issues that we usually ignore. PARAMA NATURALS (www.paramanaturals.com), a range of 100% natural daily essentials for skincare and wellness, was launched to bring back the benefits of time-tested traditions and pure ingredients (especially Turmeric) in a range of effective formulations which were convenient for daily use in modern, busy lives.
Inclusivity & Sustainability
With value systems imbibed in our home and at the esteemed corporate houses, over many years, I had been volunteering in several areas including holistic education, environment and women's empowerment at the grass-roots. These aspects inspired me to have "Inclusivity" and "Sustainability" as two of the 5 cornerstones of the philosophy behind Parama Naturals.
Combing these 2 cornerstones, with the broad aim to work on sustainable livelihoods, Parama Naturals has worked both internally (with employees) and externally (through suppliers, partners and other associates). Parama Naturals has ensured continuing education for community youth combined with hands-on skilling and mentoring. It has been working closely with organisations like Development Support Team and YouthAid Foundation ever since its inception in 2019, for supporting micro-entrepreneurs, women and youth from urban communities, as also practitioners of traditional livelihoods.
Sustainable Livelihoods & Grass-root Micro-entrepreneurs
While the communities and the specific objectives vary with time or situation, the process of mainstreaming grassroot entrepreneurs and providing them market linkages for their products and branding the same has been a common thread.
Wearing the lens of a for-profit enterprise but with a social objective is a huge challenge. We grapple with different issues at each stage. It could be the needs of the community, the training or procurement cost issues at low volumes, the skill levels or quality issues.
The pandemic was a big setback for small businesses and led to their closure. Working with DST and YouthAid Foundation, we identified the current challenges and adopted approaches to address them to increase business turnover and build economic resilience. The objectives and approaches have changed each year based on market needs and in response to the challenges faced.
2019 - Empowerment of community women
2020 - Revival of livelihoods of microentrepreneurs
2021 - Survival of traditional arts & crafts
2022 - Innovative products with upcycled fabric
Our efforts were on continued the past efforts, and adding on the extra boost required in the thrust area envisaged.
Product Quality - Key ingredient for successful partnership between "for profits" and "grass-roots"
We have been involved in identifying potential skill sets, products that complement ours, design and aesthetic improvements to ensure that it meets the exacting quality standards of our discerning customers, and finally, delivery schedules to match the market timeliness.
Sourcing from community entrepreneurs is not an easy task--ensuring product quality requires handholding and support in terms of identifying existing skills, designing innovative products, reviewing samples and sharing feedback on improving the quality and finishing of the final products.
This whole experience has been very interesting. Sometimes difficult, even uphill. But satisfying and fulfilling, nevertheless, when we see the progress and the outcomes.
"I am proud to share that the products that are sourced from the community entrepreneurs meet all these criteria and we are able to give them a larger platform for their products like the Yellow Ribbon Fair. They have also featured these products on the Parama Naturals website and included them as part of the bulk festive corporate gift collections." - Mrs Sonia Garcha, Director Youth Aid Foundation