In the backyard of the rustic terrain of the north Indian state of Haryana, online commerce has provided a level-playing field for women who have long faced the brunt of an age-old patriarchal society.
The story of Ritu Kaushik, who hails from a nondescript village near Sonipat, Haryana, is one such story among the many that highlight the growing wave of financial liberalisation of women from remote corners of India – a phenomenon made possible by an enabling ecommerce industry.
In 2018, women entrepreneurs across India accounted for 10 percent of the total number of sellers on the Indian online retail giant, Flipkart. Ritu, a 31-year-old seller, is among those women who have transformed themselves from being housewives to becoming top sellers on the online retailer’s platform.
Ritu’s passion was handbags, and in 2016, she began selling the self-designed collection of handbags under her brand Ritupal Collections on Flipkart. But the naysayers were many, she says, adding, “Many of my neighbours and relatives told me that there was no need for me to earn, as I am, after all, a woman."
But none of this deterred the gritty mother of two. With the help of her husband, she learnt how to use a computer, and practised on it when her children were in school.
In fact, taking risks was not new for Ritu. Before starting her business and becoming a Flipkart seller, Ritu took the rare decision to go back to college and complete her graduation, despite having two children to take care of. Having married early at the age of 16, Ritu says the encouragement of her husband, a government employee, provided her the opportunity to study again.
On completing her graduation in 2016, Ritu took the next big step of starting her own handbag business online. The idea to sell online first came to her when she saw everyone in her neighbourhood shopping online.
Even though she had a chance to get a loan, she wanted to be financially responsible, and used her savings to start up.
At the end of the first year, Ritu was earning around Rs 1 lakh per month on Flipkart. Three years later, today her handbags help Ritu rake in monthly revenue of around Rs 7 lakh to Rs 8 lakh.
Ritupal Collections, which features bags in the price range of Rs 200-1,500, is now a favourite with customers in south India. But Ritu is determined to grow her business in the eastern and western parts of the country.
“I am aiming for my monthly sales to increase to Rs 20 lakh,” she says.