The 91-year old woman behind India’s most famous papad brand gets the fourth highest civilian honour ⁠— she started with ₹80

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The 91-year old woman behind India’s most famous papad brand gets the fourth highest civilian honour ⁠— she started with ₹80
Jaswantiben Jamnadas Popat being conferred with the Padma Shri by President Ram Nath Kovind.Rashtrapati Bhavan/Twitter
  • Jaswantiben Jamnadas Popat was conferred the Padma Shri award on Tuesday.
  • She is one of the founders of Shri Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat Papad.
  • Jaswantiben began her journey with an investment of ₹80 along with six of her friends.
On March 15, 1959, Jaswantiben along with six of her friends met on a terrace in Girgaum, Maharashtra and started making papads, using a sum of ₹80, which were borrowed from Chhaganlal Karamshi Parekh, a social worker.

Today, the brand is called Lijjat Papad, and it has grown to be a ₹1,600 crore business with 81 branches and employs over 45,000 women across the country, all of whom are considered co-owners in the enterprise.

Recognising her journey, the Indian government gave the Padma Shri award, the fourth highest civilian award in the country, to the 91-year old entrepreneur.

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While most people may not recognise her by name, it is unlikely that you are unfamiliar with her product. If you are someone who watched television during the 90s, you will probably remember the popular Lijjat Papad jingle with a hand puppet bunny chomping on crispy papad.


A humble beginning



Jaswantiben, who hails from Mumbai’s now affluent Girgaum area, began her journey as an entrepreneur to contribute towards her family’s income.
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While she did not have any knowledge about running a business, her hard work and courage allowed her to start this venture. She started making papads with Parvatiben Ramdas Thodani, Ujamben Narandas Kundalia, Banuben. N. Tanna, Laguben Amritlal Gokani, Jayaben V. Vithalani, and Chutadben Amish Gawadem.

“Making papads does not require education, which is why we started Lijjat,” Jasnatiben says in an interview. “Everyone here is a partner and does not work for any other person, which was one of the factors that enabled women to join at the beginning,” she adds.

The 91-year old woman behind India’s most famous papad brand gets the fourth highest civilian honour ⁠— she started with ₹80
Lijjat Papad's logo.Lijjat Papad

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“We do not require anyone to pay money, we do not check their caste or religion or do any background checks while adding a partner, where else will you find such a partnership business,” asks Jaswantiben.

The group first made a batch of four packets of papads, which were sold to a businessman. Soon after that, the group increased from seven members to twenty-five and later the group registered as Shri Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat Papad and in 1962, it was renamed to Lijjat Papad.

The papads are sold across the country and even exported to countries like the United States, Singapore, United Kingdom, Thailand and Netherlands among others.

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Not just papads, now Lijjat also sells masalas, atta, chapati and even detergent. The organisation has also had its share of failures, such as cottage leather, match sticks and incense sticks, which had to be shut down.

“The credit of Lijjat Papad goes to every woman working here. This recognition is the fruit of their hard work,” Jaswantiben said while speaking to SheThePeople after being awarded the Padma Shri.

Jaswantiben-led Lijjat Papad believes in the principle of self-reliance and does not accept any donations or contributions. To ensure that the members do not lose out on employment, the company does not use machines and till date rolls the papads using hands despite making over 4.5 billion papads each year.

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Equal profits



Every woman that joins Lijjat is called a Lijjat Ben (Sister) and is given equal share in the profits. Jyoti Naik, the former president of Lijjat Papad during an interview had revealed that Lijjat’s committee consisting of 21 members decides how profits are to be distributed.

“Even a ben who has recently joined gets the same share as others who have been with us longer,” she said.

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The profits are usually distributed by purchasing gold coins -- either 5 grams or 10 grams, depending on the profit.

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