Pushcart recipients at the GMRVF ceremony

Last year, we started supporting the GMR Varalakshmi Foundation (GMRVF) in India, and specifically their SMILE programme – Supporting Marginalized Individuals with Livelihoods and Empowerment. This is a long-running initiative that supports entrepreneurs in New Delhi to become financially independent.

We were delighted to be able to support again this year, and contribute to help another 25 recipients of the push-pull carts, sponsoring their business endeavours. It was even more special when we got to hear the personal success stories of the men and women who benefitted from our funding last year.

Gudiya’s story

Gudiya selling fruit on her pushcart

Gudiya selling fruit from her pushcart

Gudiya is one of the beneficiaries of a NATS sponsored pushcart. Gudiya’s husband lost his job as a labourer due to the pandemic, which meant the family couldn’t afford their rent, bills and school fees for their children.

Gudiya made the decision to start selling bananas from sacks on the ground. However, she faced several problems including discrimination and stock issues, especially during rainy season when customers didn’t want to buy fruit that was kept on the ground.

Thankfully, Gudiya was offered a cart which not only gave her more space to sell other fruits, but meant she didn’t have to worry about the rain as she had an umbrella on the cart and the stock was kept off the floor. After a while, Gudiya was able to expand her business to offering different fruits on alternate days. This meant the cart not only looked appealing with its range of produce, but it attracted more customers and returned higher profits as a result.

Thanks to the pushcart, Gudiya has been able to support her family, and her children are now studying in better schools through her pushcart income.

The carts have provided a much-needed lifeline, allowing people to rebuild their lives and run their own businesses, from selling items such as fruit and vegetables, to clothing, beauty products, shoes or tea.

To mark the funding of the carts this year, I was honoured to attend a ceremony at the Varalakshmi Foundation’s centre in New Delhi, which took place in March on International Women’s Day. And this year, the SMILE programme is focused on empowering women, many of whom have lost either their partners, livelihoods or both in recent years due to Covid-19, leaving families struggling to survive.

Of the 200 women who have received pushcarts and are linked with the SMILE street vending scheme, most are now able to sustain their families independently. In fact, every one of the 25 people NATS supported with pushcarts last year returned a higher income than they had the previous year. A testament to some of the additional support GMRVF give; to assist the beneficiaries with the supply of produce and provide guidance on how to gradually introduce higher return products so the stallholders can grow their income.

There’s no doubt of the positive impact that’s been made by the pushcart donations, and I was honoured to join some of the families who had benefited from them at the ceremony. While it was a day of celebration, there were certainly moving and emotional experiences shared by those who were present.

The GMR Varalakshmi Foundation is clearly doing good work in its communities, including upskilling people to learn trades and skills to enrich their careers. I’d like to thank them for giving me such a warm welcome at the celebration event, and for allowing NATS to be part of this life-changing project. We look forward to following the careers of the beneficiaries, and we wish them all enormous luck with their businesses.





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