A small shift has helped 200+ Ironing Entrepreneurs in Bangalore have increased income
The ironwalas, ironing entrepreneurs, who work hard to iron your clothes are simple and small-time business operators who take to this profession with a lot of dignity. They make our lives easier by making sure that our clothes look crisp and wrinkle-free.
However, this seemingly lucrative business that is located in every nook and corner of Indian cities has not seen any change for the past 50 years. A vast majority of them continue to use traditional coal-based iron boxes that tend to pollute the environment, are a health hazard, and even damage the clothes at times. Not to mention the time it takes to heat a coal-based iron…that’s time which could have been well used to iron some more clothes and thus earn some more!
With an aim to help our Bengaluru ironing entrepreneurs, we at Udhyam Learning Foundation teamed up with Gromor Finance, to come up with an effective solution, that saves these entrepreneurs save time, reduce their costs, help them work more effectively, and in the process do their bit for the environment.
A lot of Ironwalas or ironing entrepreneurs as we call them, enter this profession because of their family, caste or lack of opportunity in any other sector. While studying the entire group of these entrepreneurs in Bengaluru, Udhyam discovered several challenges on a day-to-day basis.
The team from Udhyam worked and interacted with around 200 ironing entrepreneurs in Bengaluru and made the following observations:
Coal-based iron boxes are cumbersome to handle – It took around 20 to 30 minutes to heat the coal and this had to be repeated for at least four or five times a day.
High Overhead – The cost of acquiring coal from the market was expensive and the prices of coal were unpredictable due to a largely unregulated market.
Clothes Tend To Get Damaged – Owing to the coal box’s high temperature, clothes are unable to sustain the heat or the coal tends to leave residual ash on the clothes. As a result, ironing entrepreneurs have to bear the cost of damaging clothes and incur a loss.
Udhyam started exploring a more eco-friendly alternative to coal-based iron box - an LPG gas-based iron box can up as an obvious choice. They worked with manufacturers and distributors across India to acquire customized LPG gas-based iron boxes that work well for these ironing entrepreneurs.
But, as opposed to coal-based iron boxes, LPG-based iron boxes were expensive and cost more than double. This proved to be a barrier for these entrepreneurs because they were unable to access economic resources to buy the LPG iron box. As ironing entrepreneurs in India typically rely on local loan tycoons who charge exorbitant interest, they were unable to borrow money. They could not approach banks either since most of them were not educated enough to understand or sign documents.
This is when Gromor Finance stepped in to help the ironing vyapaaris in Bengaluru. Partnering with Udhyam. Gromor Finance started to offer small loans of approximately Rs. 9000 at low-interest rates. Udhyam and Gromore together started to educate these ironing vypaaris on making digital payments and opening bank accounts.
Implementing the Solution
Udhyam worked very closely with the ironing vyapaaris to help them adjust to the new iron box. When they understood the value in it and accept it. Udhyam provided training and conducted free trials to shed their inhibitions and remove their fear. Since the ironing vyapaaris were a closely-knit community, an intervention in one territory quickly had the scope to spread over to other territories. There was no strict competition between different ironing vyapaaris and so once they saw its benefits, it quickly passed over to other territories in Bengaluru as well.
Earlier the Udhyam Vyapaaris wasted close to 2.5 hours a day for the coal to heat. But, with LPG iron boxes they no longer needed to wait and were even able to iron an additional 50 clothes more than their original average of 100-150 clothes.
This has increased their income by at least Rs. 6000 per month according to the ULF study.
In addition, LPG iron boxes don’t damage the clothes and are easy to handle as well, making the job a little less tedious for ironing vyapaaris. LPG iron boxes don’t damage the environment and simply require a gas cylinder connected along with an insulated gas tube just like gas stoves. All in all, it made life a lot easier for these hardworking people who have never witnessed an intervention of this kind in their lives.
Today, the ironing vyapaaris of Bengaluru are able to earn better and have the ability to dream bigger dreams. All this has been possible because dedicated people wanted to find solutions to aide these entrepreneurs.
This impact has been possible through Udhyam Vyapaar, a Udhyam Learning Foundation program that engages with micro-entrepreneurs to help them create substantial and sustainable income uplift.
This article was originally published on Gromor Finance.