Humans of Mitti Ke Rang — Rajashree Goswami

“I grew up in a very small village named Rangamati, Bihaguri, a village nearby Tezpur. In my grandfather’s family, all are government officials and so is my father. Being an entrepreneur was not included in my childhood dreams, but I always had the urge to do something for my land, for the people here.

My great grandfather was a freedom fighter and he was also one of the most respected people in my village, being a reformer of the area. In my childhood, I often wondered about the stories told by my father and grandmother to me, about him. Apart from that, I had also seen my family members being there with the villagers whenever required, in their tough times. Once, my father mentioned a story, where the entire village was under the clutches of Cholera. Around 8 people died in one day. Most of the villagers were daily wagers or farmers, and hence, to save the people, my father along with my uncles arranged medicines and saline for the entire village. One of my uncles, who happened to be a businessman sent a truck full of medicines and saline from Guwahati within a night to the village.

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There were many more such stories. Often, father would also discuss gratefully, about how the villagers worked as a community during difficult times of the Assam agitation in 1983, how they helped him, my grandmother and my uncles during their financial crisis after my grandfather’s death. These were the 'Cinderella stories' of my childhood. It impacted me and helped me get a picture, to understand the importance of a community, how a community can help one another and most importantly, these stories impacted me so much to become someone who can help a community, being a part of the community.

During my high school, I used to visit Tea Gardens along with my father during his inspection visits. I got acquainted with the Tea Garden Community and ex-tea garden community of Assam in that way.

All the incidents, interactions, stories, reading together played a very crucial role in my journey. In fact it won’t be an exaggeration if I say all these together showed me a direction.

After completing my board exams, along with my studies I voluntarily initiated working for a few Adivasi families, in nearby areas to my village. Furthermore, whenever I got a chance, I visited different Tea Gardens of Assam to know more about the community. Initially, I was randomly working with them. During my graduation days, I was more into exploring the socio-cultural status of women in the community, but in my Masters I got the opportunity to work with PAJHRA — an NGO working dedicatedly for community and later I worked with Delhi based NGO, NAZDEEK, as an Intern in there maternal maternity project. I travelled and visited many tea gardens and villages and witnessed that in most cases of Maternal mortality — lack of awareness about rights, illiteracy, financial dependency, make women vulnerable.

Couple of my friends and I started working on these issues on weekends or whenever we got free time. We conducted legal awareness camps, menstrual hygiene camps, literacy camps in different areas and villages under our initiative — WE DO.

After completion of my masters I worked as a Research Assistant, a Research Investigator on projects on Women and Child trafficking, forced labour issues in different border areas of Assam, both national and international projects. However, one of the major aspects I have noticed during my work is that; the importance of being financially independent of a woman to curb the menaces like trafficking, domestic violence, etc.

Also, personally I was not earning enough to conduct the voluntary awareness camps on a larger scale. In the year 2017, I joined the Assam University as a Research Scholar and initiated my research in the area of development communication, with a special focus on women trafficking. To carry on the work, I started a part time job as a content writer in an organisation in Silchar itself.

In that period I visited the maiden café of The Chocolate Room India Pvt. Ltd, in North East India that was located in Silchar. I liked the place. However, the dream of starting a venture of my own was always there in the back of my mind. In the same year, I along with one of my friends formed an online platform, VoxPop Daily, where we initiated to write about the inspiring stories of people and simultaneously I engaged in content writing services.

During the process, I interacted with many inspiring young personalities like, Padma Shree Nominee of 2018 and the founder of Writers Rescue Centre, Nikhil Chandwani; Miss Wheelchair India, Priya Bhargava; The Padman of Assam, Nayan Saikia; the founder of Kharkowa and one of the inspiring entrepreneurs of Assam, Devanga Pallav Saikia, and many more young people who are contributing to society in their own ways.

The dream of starting another venture, which can support financially to achieve my goal, becomes stronger. And in that process, I along with my business partner came across The Chocolate Room India Pvt Ltd. The best part was that they were supporting women and young budding entrepreneurs to start their own venture. The Asst. Director, Dhawal Shukla, was who encouraged me to take the opportunity. Well that was a big project for me. However, on November 29th I opened my own café with my business partner.

As of now, I am a part of the Franchise Network The Chocolate Room(India)Pvt.Ltd and co-owner of The Chocolate Room Tezpur. At present, I am trying to shed light on the women entrepreneurship scenario in North East India and working towards providing opportunities to young and budding entrepreneurs of North East, holding the dream of creating a community of women entrepreneurs in this region.

To support this effort, through the initiative Women Empowerment and Development Organization (WE DO), my team members and I are focusing on empowering women, irrespective of diversity, ethnicity, culture and space, by creating awareness about their rights and helping them to understand the mechanism through which their rights are ensured by the Constitution.

The Chocolate Room has been established in different parts of Northeast India, precisely in three different states, viz. Assam, Manipur and Mizoram. TCR Tezpur is the 318th café of the Franchise network; The Chocolate Room (India)Pvt. Ltd, is the second cafe in Assam that belongs to this cafe chain and in north east it is 4th Originated in Australia, The Chocolate Room India was established in the year 2007 by Vikas Punjabi and L. Chainthainya Kumar. The brand grew swiftly in the last decade and now it has its presence holding a chain of chocolate cafés in 11 different countries. This is the first chocolate café brand who initiated to spread its franchise network in India. Furthermore, this is the maiden brand who introduced the concept of live kitchen in the Indian café industry.

We are now focusing on making a community of women entrepreneurs from the grass root level. Theirs is a long way to go. But it is very much important for women to become financially independent to curb many of the menaces that are happening to them. Along with that education and awareness is also vital. Hence, we have planned to offer educational scholarships to a few students of diverse communities on merit basis, so that financial hindrance cannot become an obstacle to attain the education.

Along with it we are also focusing on helping women and other young potential entrepreneurs to help understand various schemes and other aspects associated with entrepreneurship. As a part of the TCR franchise network, I am also trying to bring the opportunities of the company which are beneficial for the young entrepreneurs in the North Eastern region. Besides that, there is a plan to space up the café and to generate more employment.

During my community working days, I noticed there were many young people who have creativity and aspiration to do something of their own: to help themselves, to help the community. All they require is guidance and someone who has trust in them. With the little knowledge I have, I am trying to help them. Together we are growing. I am trying to build a community of entrepreneurs from the grass root level where the community can help each other as a network to achieve their goals. In the process, I am also trying to generate employment where skilled young people can earn their livelihood.

In my personal journey as an entrepreneur, as a community worker, there are various hindrances I have faced. I grew up in a small village and studied in a vernacular medium. I was an introvert and most of the time I was unable to make people understand about the goal I am trying to achieve. Well, you always feel this pain when you find yourself alone, when there is no one to listen to you. Apart from that, I had to pass through certain personal life crisis, that affected my mental health as well. Overcoming all these was not easy.

But the obstacles that came in between entrepreneurship were bigger. Right from, arranging the capital issues to tackling with the mind-set of people, there was a lot to tackle with. Infact, there was a time when I also gave up on my dream of opening a café. I had to fight with higher authorities to claim my rights. People were at denial to give a place to a woman to start the venture. I belong to a middle class family and the first line generation in entrepreneurship. So everything I faced was first-hand experience. When I dreamt of the café I had zero capital but I dreamt a dream and I refused to give up.

The decision to become an entrepreneur is a life changing decision for me. It was like a journey from self-doubt to confidence. I lived my life in anxiety and though I worked, I met people, I was invisible, but with a business on my side I am away from the uncertainty I was into.

Never give up on your dreams. Plan, work, take decisions and have faith in yourself. There will be times when you feel like giving up, you will be broken. It is okay to be broken as long as you are determined to rise again. Be positive about the work you do. And remember life is rough but be someone celebrating it with decisions rather than living a life run by circumstances. Invest time on yourself. Being an entrepreneur is about constantly evolving, learning as well as growing in all aspects of your life and business. It’s about crafting the life one wants to live and always wanting to be more and give more.”

— Rajashree Goswami

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A social venture dedicated to empowering widows and single women to overcome poverty and dependency. https://mittikerang.myshopify.com

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