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Breaking the glass ceiling

Kong Syrpailin Warjri’s journey to becoming a successful entrepreneur did not happen overnight. She had her share of hardships too but her hard work and perseverance saw her through. 

A resident of the rustic Thainthynroh village that falls under Mawphlang C&RD Block, located about 36 km from the state capital of Shillong, she never stopped striving for success and always looked for opportunities to support her family financially. It was this passion for self-reliance that drove her into taking up a relatively rare business. Today, Warjri is a successful entrepreneur who runs her own ice cream-manufacturing unit. Through this enterprise, she has not only been able to support her family but also created employment opportunities for others, thereby helping them have a sustainable livelihood. 

“There are people working with me and I support my family through this initiative,” she says. She has a large family of 10 members and had worked as a teacher under the ad hoc grant-in-aid for two years. “I was working as a teacher and my salary was mere Rs 600 per month. I have a large family of 10 members to feed,” says Warjri.

Needless to say, running a family of 10 with this meagre amount was not realistic. She needed to find other means of livelihood. After weighing all the risks that awaited her, Warjri resigned but was determined to work hard and give her best to find better income-generating activities to uplift the financial status of her family. 

Soon after, Warjri took up farming as a business activity. Being an enterprising person, she also decided to venture into the dry fish business as a supplier. However, the dry fish business did not turn out to be profitable as the dry fish were highly perishable in the hot summer months, and thus, resulted in losses.

“I bought the supplies from Shillong and traded them at border markets in Nongjri, Balat and Mawsynram but the dry fish business was not going well,” she adds.

However, failure did not deter her. She was persistent in her search for a business that would fulfil her family’s financial needs and she finally came up with the idea of selling ice creams after being inspired by a vendor at the Balat weekly market. She was confident that a mouth-watering scoop of the enticing ice cream would be quite soothing in the hot climatic conditions of Balat and her business would flourish. 

Warjri started to source varieties of ice cream from companies like Priya Ice Cream, Triple Ice Cream, Maushmi Ice Cream and Rollick Ice Cream, who agreed to provide her with the required supply. In 2010, she began selling ice cream in the border haats twice a week. By selling 1,000 ice creams per day, Warjri made a good profit. As time passed, Warjri realised that manufacturing the product on her own would further cut down on the expenses. The knowledge she gathered over the span of 2-3 years gave her enough confidence to take the next step and in 2013, she invested in the necessary equipment for manufacturing ice creams, including a freezer and six ice boxes, and began her new endeavour. Initially, she started with manufacturing only simple ice sticks. By selling them at Rs 10 per piece, she could earn between Rs 3,000 and Rs 4,000 per box. 

Warjri then learned about the Enterprise Facilitation Centre (EFC) of the Meghalaya Basin Management Agency (MBMA) and the facilities that it provides to entrepreneurs like her. She registered with the EFC at Mawphlang in 2013. The MIE provided her with the necessary support and guidance, teaching her how to manage and sustain her business. For a hands-on experience, Warjri was also sent for an exposure visit to one of the ice cream manufacturing companies. She was also sent to training programmes organised by the DIDC. 

Leveraging on the knowledge that she gathered from various training programmes, Warjri decided on experimenting with manufacturing different types of ice creams. The variety fetched her good profits than the simple ice sticks. Today, to meet the growing demand, she has employed a few people to help her run this enterprise. 

Like most newly begun businesses, Warjri too faced a few stumbling blocks. One of them was the issue of sourcing the basic tools and machinery required for running the business smoothly. Most of the equipment was not available in Shillong and had to be procured from other states. In addition to this, an all-in-one, automated ice cream-making machine was also required to cut down on the time consumed and reduce additional expenditures.

The journey of Warjri as an entrepreneur has not been a smooth one. But her grit and determination saw her through. In her words, the hurdles in life are just part of the learning process and her goal is to keep moving forward. With the self-belief, passion and awareness that she had, Warjri emerged as a successful entrepreneur and was able to transform her dreams into reality. She and her husband have been able to provide quality education to their children in renowned institutions of cities like Chennai and Bangalore. Her story is an inspiration for the youth and women in particular, which highlights the story of attaining success through struggle and sheer hard work. 

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