The Young Lawyer from Mumbai Who Revived a Highway Restaurant Run by Tribal Women in Gujarat

Giving up a fledgling career in Corporate Law, Sunayana K moved to a remote Gujarati village to work with a SHG. Here she helped the 18 women rejuvenate their failing restaurant business with innovative meal plans and recipes. She now hopes to use her experience and legal training to study issues faced by migrants and thus push for better and more inclusive policies for the rural poor.

The Sunayana K, a lawyer by profession, has been putting her skills to good use in the remote village of Gangpur in Gujarat. This city girl has helped a local SHG (self-help group), that runs a restaurant, to improve services and profit through her interesting approach.

The restaurant, Nahari, is located on the highway which is a perfect spot to attract customers. Serving authentic tribal food and nutritional products at affordable prices, this restaurant had all the ingredients to be a hit but failed to attract customers due to its setup and services. Nahari offered no variety, with just one meal plan, and its focus on authentic tribal food meant that only the adventurous would stop to try such unfamiliar foods. In addition, the women running the restaurant were shy and could not communicate well with customers.

The restaurant was also losing its USP by replacing the authentic tribal vegetables and grains with regular vegetables that one could get in the city.

This was the scenario when Sunayana got involved. She started with some research into the kind of customers Nahari gets, what kind of vegetables are available and how the enterprise could be scaled up. She improved the decor of the restaurant, worked with the 18 women of the SHG to boost their confidence and communication skills. She also designed a menu card offering different meal plans and dishes suitable for both local villagers and outsiders.

Due to Sunayana’s efforts, Nahari’s profits have increased by 30 per cent in just a few months. The women are more energetic and confident. They now go and talk to the customers and tell them about various offers. The change in attitude is clearly visible.

She has helped the women open personal bank accounts so they can save some money every month. In addition, she is bringing tribal vegetables back on the menu and is experimenting with recipes.

Sunayana’s journey has not been a bed of roses. Initially it was difficult, especially because she didn’t know the language. She wanted to do something in the field of women empowerment and alternate livelihood. She spend the time with them. Soon they became friends.

With the success of Sunayana’s model in Nahari, it will be replicated in other branches of the restaurant. There are currently eight Nahari restaurants run by local women at different locations in Gujarat.

Most of the policies in our country are made without considering the masses. Rural India is invariably ignored or doesn’t get the due benefit.

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