Sets new trend for tiny units

Mohan Padmanabhan

Kolkata, Dec. 21

Handrolled agarbattis, essentially a cottage sector art form perfected by tiny sector artisans at the village level, has taken its first major step towards science-backed quality systems, and in a far removed place like the disadvantaged north-eastern part of India.

The Agartala-based Jayanti Domestic Products (P) Ltd, one of the seven agarbatti vendors of ITC Ltd, manufacturing the nationally marketed (by ITC) "Mangaldeep" brand of agarbattis (Madhur fragrance), has received ISO 9001:2000 quality certification within 12 months of starting full-fledged commercial production.

Located at the RK Nagar industrial estate at Bodhjung Nagar, in West Tripura, Jayanti is the sixth vendor of ITC, and the first in the North-East to receive such quality recognition for a product like incense sticks.

Talking to

Business Line

at Agartala, at the sidelines of a function graced by the State Chief Minister to felicitate the North-East-based vendor for his achievement, Mr V.M. Rajasekharan, CEO of ITC's Agarbatti SBU, said the company's agarbatti business, developed on a 100 per cent outsourcing (from the small and cottage sectors) model, was now surging ahead on a comprehensive vendor development programme based on recognised quality management systems and other best practices.

He said now six out of the nine vendors of ITC Ltd, which markets the "Mangaldeep" brand nationally, have received ISO certification, creating a new trend in agarbatti manufacturing in the country. The other vendors are in Bangalore (three), Coimbatore (two), Puducherry (one), Chandigarh (one) and New Delhi (one).

Commenting on hand-cut bamboos, from which sticks are procured for agarbatti, he said machine-cutting of bamboo was preferred from the quality point of view.

According to Mr S. Pal, one of the directors of Jayanti, the unit, which started with a target of 10 lakh sticks per month last November, was today making 180 lakh sticks per month.

He said while the company now employed directly some 34 rural women for sorting and packing (earning on average between Rs 800 and Rs 1,000 per month), an additional 1,000 families in five village clusters are contracted to roll raw battis, earning a steady income while at home.

Citing constraints in sourcing of key raw materials like jigat powder (the binder for battis), which is made from debarked (from trees) material and charcoal, Mr Pal said some 10 tonnes of jigat and 40 tonnes of charcoal per month are required now for current level of manufacturing. Sticks are sourced internally, as Tripura accounts for over 60 per cent of bamboo forests in the country.

The Chief Minister, Mr Manik Sarkar, in his address at the felicitation ceremony, urged ITC to think of new bamboo-based projects in Tripura (for employment generation), where 60 per cent of the rural population was below the poverty line.

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(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated December 22, 2006)
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