Parvati, 73, leaves her home in Sangam Vihar at 9:45 am in the morning, reaches the unit set up by ORCO, a brand that provides handground, hand-pounded and hand-cleaned organic condiments and spices, at Sainik Farms, at 10:00 am, and prepares these spices for the company, every day. “It was my young son’s sudden death five years ago that forced me to work to sustain my widowed daughter-in-law and two grandchildren.
I don’t feel like working as a maid at people’s homes, but there is dignity in this work. Now, I earn Rs 8,000 a month,” adds Parvati, a widow, who has been working here for three years. Meena Devi, 33, who has been with ORCO for two years, also reports at 10:00 am, changes into her office dress, wears hair cap, gloves, and foot covers.
“And then, we start picking the whole spices, sieve them and grind them using mortar and pestle. My husband’s income was not enough to run the family and raise two children, so I had to take a job. I feel comfortable working here because we are an all-women team,” adds Devi.
ORCO has a team of 100 such women, who are living an independent life and are even contributing as a helping hand in the family. ORCO began when Co-Founder Pragya Agarwal witnessed her domestic help going through a difficult phase. “As I had suspected, it was the result of domestic violence at home, and this was not the first time I had seen my house help being abused,” adds Pragya.
That’s when she decided to help these women become financially independent, and started the venture with her daughter Adhvika in 2017, with just four women working parttime in their backyard. ORCO just launched a new range of 32 products including Organic Garlic Granule, Organic Onion Flakes, Organic Ginger Powder, and more. About the venture, Adhvika says, “We do not grow our spices, but procure certified organic spices from farmers or vendors and then pound/ground them. A team member visits these vendors to verify the quality of spices and if they are grown organically or not.
Moreover, all our spices are lab tested and hold certifications from FSSAI, USDA, European Union (EU), Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development (APFPED).” As an added benefit, they even provide pick and drop service to all the women. “We are picked up in the morning from our homes, and the van drops us back at 6:00pm,” adds Parvati. Remembering the difficulties they faced during the initial days, Pragya says, “Setting up a small business is a job that comes with many hurdles, but we were determined towards our mission to help women in need.
We faced trouble in procuring original organic spices, and even in training some women, but things fell into place eventually.” Every new employee is put through a two-day training, where the whole process is explained to them. “We aim to help each and every woman who has the will to work; and assign them roles they are best at.
Every packet is packed and sealed manually by our women workforce, whom we call ‘Orcopreneurs’,” says Adhvika. The duo plans to employ up to 500 women next year. Pragya says, “We had the task to educate people about the importance of fresh and hand cleaned spices prepared without any chemicals, and have made a significant difference through our marketing drives.”