Pabiben Rabari didn’t just rise above financial adversity, but also overcame social stigma attached with working women in rural communities to make a name for herself.
Hailing from the Bhadroi village in the arid region of Kutch in Gujarat, Pabiben Rabari started out as a daily wager earning one rupee for fetching water. Today, she is the entrepreneur behind the pabiben.com website with customers and admirers around the globe. She has empowered more than 160 women in her community to make a career for themselves.
Pabiben was five years old when her father passed away. She had to give up her studies after class 4 due to the dire financial situation of the family. The education was free but she had no money to travel to school.
She helped her mother in supporting the family and taking care of her young siblings. On the side, Pabiben started to learn embroidery, a family heritage with her grandmother and other women also having done it in the past.
Women in her community used to embroider for dowry purposes but the heavy and time-consuming activity was stopped by her village in 1990s. But that did not hold back Pabiben.
Determined to continue, she joined an NGO called Kala Raksha in Bhuj for Rs 1,500 a month.
It was here that she decided to disrupt the industry by envisioning an alternative technique called ‘Hari Jari’ instead of the time-consuming embroidery practice of the region.
She created the famous Pabi bag which now has admirers across the globe.
Pabiben was motivated to start her own Hari Jari business after her work was admired and enquired for by some foreigners who attended her marriage.
With the vision of opening her own crafts business, Pabiben reached out to the General Manager of Kala Raksha. She trusted him with her idea and left her job to invest her entire time to create a successful online business.
Pabiben built a successful rural business model and provided employment to local artisans at their homes. Slowly, her fellow villagers, who initially opposed her, warmed up to her success as the community received attention and employment opportunities. Since then, Pabiben and her venture have grown from strength to strength.
During the COVID-19 lockdown when artisans all over the country struggled, Pabiben’s company came up with an innovative idea of making local gift boxes at affordable prices.
From earning a rupee as a water bearer, she now oversees a turnover of more than Rs 30 lakh. Her products have featured in hit films like ‘Luck by Chance’ in Bollywood to ‘The Other End of the Line’ in Hollywood. She received the Janki Devi Bajaj Award in 2016 for her ‘outstanding performance in the rural sector’.