BENGALURU: She was boycotted by her family, threatened by goons and isolated by the society, but she never gave up and grew to become the only woman cement dealer in Karnataka. She now trades in the top brands, after having been approached by industry giants such as Ultra Tech, Heidelberg, Bharathi, Dalmia and Chettinad.
Shakuntala Dodagoudar, 60, who has a masters in zoology, knew little of trade nuances. But, when her family was faced with a financial crisis, she had to take the lead and start a business in Dharwad. “My husband, now a retired botany professor, is into social service. He continued working for almost a decade without any pay. I had a baby. It was very difficult to run the house.”
Her sister-in-law's husband had started cement production and suggested she joins. “Apart from my husband and in-laws, no one in the family spoke to me. They stopped inviting me for any family function,” she says.
She started the business back in 1985. “It took me a couple of years to understand the business — buying stocks, payments — and I had to do it all by myself."
In those days, a woman could not even step out her house or run a kirana store. The biggest challenge, she says, was being a women in the cement industry. “A couple of goons would come in their bikes just to look at me at my outlet. Established men in the industry would dare me to do better than them. Some threatened me asking me to close my business. My daughter was born two years later and people would not want to deal with a woman sitting in an outlet with her baby. Men would mock at me saying what can a woman do. They thought I would give up.”
There have been times when she had to go to factories and wait in queues for days to book the order, without any accomodation, says her daughter Renu Dodagoudar. “She would go with just a blanket,” says Renu. Shakuntala adds, “I would go to the factories in the local trucks that go that way.”
She says, “My children were very cooperative.” Renu adds, “While she away at work from 7 am to 9 or 10 pm, my brother who is about eight years older than me, would look after me.
After ten years, when she got media attention and articles about her were published, people around her understood her struggle and what she has accomplished. Renu says that people who used to mock at her and her brother, now speak respectfully of their mother.
Shakuntala, who is known as Cement Madam in Dharwad, was felicitated at Women of Substance Season 3 by SRL Diagnostics.
After ten years when she got media attention and articles about her were published, the society realised that her struggle and what she has accomplished. “People would mock at me and my brother where is your mother and we would always say she is in office but people now speak to her respectfully,” adds her proud daughter.
Shakuntala, who is known as cement madam in Dharwad, was felicitated at Women of Substance Season 3 by SRL Diagnostics.