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There?s nothing stationary about this stationery shop

In a busy corner of Bhavani Peth in Pune, a woman clad in a simple sari walks down the street towards a stationery shop. Her face is a study in calm determination, but her long, confident strides are charged with purposeful energy, as if daring obstacles to come between her and her goals.

She reaches the shop, lets up the groaning shutters, and welcomes the first stream of customers. A student needs urgent photocopies of his study notes, a mother buys her daughter a compass box, while a middle-aged professional demands a discount on a bulk purchase of diaries. Their purchases completed, they leave satisfied. On the other side of the counter, the charismatic woman smiles too – 12 long hours to go, but her day is already off to a promising start.

Meet Padma Prabhune, an indomitable business woman who has faced more than her share of challenges in life, but still finds the strength to meet each day with unbridled positivity and enthusiasm.

Getting into business wasn’t easy at first.

Padma never planned on becoming an entrepreneur – she hadn’t even attended college. When she got married, her husband’s family owned a modest stationery shop in Bhavani Peth. Driven by necessity and a hunger to do more, Padma started participating in the daily administration and management of the shop. What she didn’t learn at school, she quickly picked up through keen observation. Soon, Padma started bringing in a significant portion of the family’s income.

But as time passed, things started falling apart.

The family business suffered a series of losses. Footfalls reduced. Sales started dwindling. Worse, the road outside their shop was widened, forcing them to give up the shop premise. Padma and her husband moved their business from one place to the next, never finding a permanent address.


Unfortunately, the worst blow was yet to come.

The stress of the business losses finally took its toll on Padma’s husband – and his health started deteriorating alarmingly. Padma immediately took over all responsibilities of running the shop, and tended to her sick husband.

Managing the business single-handedly was tough. But though they had lost much, Padma never lost her indomitable courage and optimism. She kept her head on her shoulders, took strategic decisions, and played it smart. For example, upon realising that her shop was surrounded by schools and colleges, Padma started offering photocopying services. At first, the machine she had was good enough, but soon, she needed a more advanced one. New machines though cost money, and Padma found herself caught up in the jumble of loan paperworks, once again at wits’ end.


A chance encounter, a deliberate decision, and a happy beginning

While visiting the bank to enquire about the loan, Padma happened to learn about the deAsra seminars for small businesses. She made up her mind to attend the seminar, and that according to her, proved to be a life-saving decision. “The advice and hand-holding support deAsra facilitators offered was exactly what I needed to get my business on track. The team helped me fill the necessary bank documents, accompanied me to the bank, and finally got me the loan. I bought my machine immediately, and today, my business is growing by leaps and bounds thanks to deAsra’s advice and timely intervention.”

Why Padma won in more ways than one

Padma rose against all odds to carve a niche for herself. But in her victory lies a bigger triumph. While clearing her path of obstacles, Padma was also silently paving a new path for the neighbourhood women, who, after hearing her story, were inspired to start supporting their husbands in their businesses too.

In this way, Padma’s victories were not only her own, but they also marked a triumphant milestone in the larger battle of equal rights for women. Today, Padma commands the respect of everybody in her conservative community, right from the oldest senior to the youngest boy – who now know that a woman’s place is not only in the kitchen – but wherever she may deem it to be.

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