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Subicsha: Empowering Rural Women*

ET Cases - GSMC, 15 Pages
AUTHOR(S) : Prof. Vijaya Bandyopadhyaya, Prof. Uma Nair and Madhulima Shekhar, Chandragupt Institute of Management Patna

Case Preview

Subicsha: Empowering Rural Women


Sitting in his quiet office room in an early November afternoon, Mr. M Kunhammad Master (Mr. Master), Project Coordinator, Subicsha pondered over the future of his organization.

Subicsha, an innovative special project under Swarnjayanthi Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY), was started in 2002 in the Perambra Block of Kozhikode, Kerala. Mr. Master was associated with the Subicsha project since its inception. The aim of the project was to provide sustainable livelihood options to women Below Poverty Line (BPL) by engaging them in various stages of the value chain of a single agricultural produce ‘coconut’. Women Self-Help Groups (SHGs) in the Perambra block were involved in the project. Starting with one SHG, Subicsha linked around 588 SHGs involving more than 5000 women who are engaged in producing and marketing 41 value added products from coconut. Subicsha Coconuts Producers Company Ltd. was formed in 2006 for producing and marketing Subicsha products. The Company also had a turnover of over 1.24 crores.

Despite the impressive growth, the reach of “Subicsha” brand products was mostly limited to the State of Kerala. How to increase the reach of the brand beyond the  State? Though online marketing efforts started, how to link up with the regular marketing channels? Mr. Master was not having adequate funds for developing the required marketing infrastructure for expansion..................

Subicsha Project: Background

In 2001, when the operations of a copra drying unit set up by the Perambra block Panchayat in Kozhikode was affected by shortage of raw materials, nearly 200 Kudumbashree SHGs were roped in to collect coconuts for the unit. This not just helped deal with the shortage, but brought attention of the Panchayat members to the unique advantage of their block: that they were the largest producers of coconut in Kerala, the largest coconut producing state in the country; and they had ready access to a workforce. They were willing to take advantage of this and start some venture that will help the farmers to alleviate poverty in the region. They approached the Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode for guidance and support...........

Subicsha Coconuts Producers Company Ltd.

The Subicsha Coconuts Producers Company Ltd. was established for centralizing the manufacturing and marketing of products of the SHGs linked to the Subicsha Project. Providing funds, common production facilities and marketing of the products under a common brand name ‘Subicsha’ are the major objectives of this SHG-based organization. There was an active PRI involvement in the project for providing free-land for setting up infrastructure..................

Subicsha Working Model

During development of project proposal for Subicsha, a three-tier strategic framework was proposed for the micro-enterprise development, keeping in mind the resource and demographic constraints of the area (Exhibit II)............

Project Financing and Support

Economic growth can be achieved through a continuous supply of finance, in the form of secure and accessible loans from microfinance institutions. The assistance from the SGSY special project scheme is directed towards skill development, capacity building, infrastructure creation, training, back end subsidy and other common expenses for which repayment in monetary terms is not anticipated. Hence repayment schedule is not relevant for Subicsha. However the economic and social returns that accrues from the initiative is expected to repay the amount spent under Subicsha on a macro scale............

Capacity Building & Skill Development

The Subicsha project could be viable only if most of the activities were carried out by the SHG members themselves. Even though the target women were literate, it was imperative that extensive training be provided to them to impart necessary skills in production, marketing and administrative functions. Training was provided in four major areas viz. technical training, marketing training, training on soft skills development and management training...........

Infrastructure creation

A range of common infrastructure like land, building, production machineries, Quality Control (QC) Laboratory, Administrative & Marketing facilities were required for successful implementation of the project. The infrastructure facilities that were proposed to be built included activity cluster buildings for select production SHGs, buildings for administrative units, packaging center, common production infrastructure with machinery, transport infrastructure including mini trucks and pick up vans, laboratory testing center for quality assurance and information centre and basic training infrastructure...........


There were 41 value added coconut products which were envisaged in the project. These can be divided in to 4 categories namely food, cosmetics, fertilizer and industrial products. Virgin coconut oil was the most important revenue earning product. Other products include coconut based pickles, jam, edible coconut oil, coconut powder, chutney powder, chips, sweets, squash, vinegar, toilet soaps, hair care products, shell charcoal, coir fibre, coir and coir pith fertilizer etc............

Production Process

To start with, copra drying, oil processing and coir making were the main options provided to the members of the 700 Kudumbashree SHGs identified for providing employment. Each SHG consisted of 10 members, and the idea was to provide employment to 7,000 women. “A general orientation session was held for the 700 SHGs, and the women were given the freedom to choose the line of work they preferred, be it soap, coir, oil etc”, said Mr. Liji EM, Director of Subicsha...........

Quality Assurance

Subicsha deals with an extensive range of products and focuses on producing the finest quality of products cost efficiently by using State-of-the-art infrastructure facility. Quality is one of the key differentiating factors of the Subicsha products in comparison with the products generated by similar micro enterprises. Quality Control Lab set up by the Coconut Development Board has been instrumental in maintaining the standard of the product............


House centered production and marketing activities are carried out by a number of SHGs linked to Subicsha. It may be noted that a sizable portion of the products are marketed by such groups themselves and the remaining products are deposited with Subicsha, which accounts for a sizeable portion of the turnover of the company............

The Road Ahead

Subicsha has big expansion plans in the coming years, both operations expansion and increased market reach. The company’s motto is ‘one factory, one year’. Subicsha is trying to explore new urban markets around the country and looking for marketing tie-ups with various agencies. The company has started selling online and begun entering the Gulf export market as part of its market diversification plans..........

Assignment Questions

1. How can a successful business model be built through unifying efforts of rural micro-enterprises in a region? Explain with respect to the working model of Subicsha.
2. What are the critical drivers of success of supply chain of value added agri-based products? “Replacing the traditional fragmented food supply chains with centralized production and marketing infrastructures and branding of agri-based products can help enhance profitability”, explain with respect to the case of Subicsha.


Exhibit I: Increase in Turnover of Subicsha Coconut Producers Company Ltd.

Exhibit II: Three-Tier Strategic Development Framework of SUBICSHA

Exhibit III: SUBICSHA Working Model

Exhibit IV: Number of Units and Women Involved in Various Activities

Exhibit V: Sources of Funds for Various Activities

Exhibit VI: Entrepreneurs Trained in Various Activities

Exhibit VII: Packaging at Subicsha Office Premises, Perambra Gram Panchayat

Exhibit VIII: Few Packaged Products of Subicsha

Exhibit IX: Sericulture by Subicsha SHGs

Exhibit X: Virgin Coconut Oil Making & Mechanized Packaging Units at Cheruvannur

Exhibit XI: Edible Oil Unit at Cheruvannur

Exhibit XII: Coir Pith Fertilizer Unit at Changaroth Gram Panchayat

Exhibit XIII: Fuel Making Unit at Cheruvannur Gram Panchayat

Exhibit XIV: Coir Mat Making Unit at Changaroth Gram Panchayat

Exhibit XV: Brand Logo of SUBICSHA

Teaching Note Preview

Subicsha: Empowering Rural Women



The premise of this case study is to enable discussion about how the traditional fragmented supply chain of a local agricultural produce may be effectively managed through capacity building of local women workforce to produce and market value added products. The Subicsha model can act as a role model for development of a region by engaging women in revenue generating activities of microenterprises where the women are the entrepreneurs and producers who can produce value added products for urban consumption. Providing common production infrastructure and development of proper marketing channels and branding of the products can have far-reaching impact on poverty alleviation and overall development of the rural region.

Prerequisite Conceptual Understanding before the Classroom Discussion

The students/participants should be encouraged to read a basic text book on entrepreneurship to have meaningful discussion and proper analysis of the case study. Conceptual understanding of self-help groups, micro finance and micro enterprises is required before discussion.

The following text book may be recommended for reading: Roy, R. Entrepreneurship 2011, Oxford Higher Education


This case study is expected to sensitize the participants about how a SHG-based organization may be developed through capacity building of women to produce marketable products utilizing the natural produce of a geographical region. Given the importance of understanding the conceptual working model of such organization, the funding and support required, capacity building exercises that need to be done and also the production and marketing infrastructure required for profitability and growth of such organization. Accordingly, the classroom orchestration (assuming a 75 minutes class) may be done as shown in Exhibit (TN) – I.................

Rs 0
Product code: ENTP-1-0013, ENTP-1-0013A


This case study is meant to introduce the students/participants to the concept of supply chain management of value-added agri-based products through development of a micro-enterprise based organization. It specifically explains how fragmented activities of micro-enterprises may be unified giving a common efficient production platform to ensure standardized product quality and how branding of these products may add to their marketability and enhanced profit generation. These concepts are explained through the case of Subicsha, an innovative special project, started in Kerala under the aegis of Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode. Subicsha was later registered as a private company with a federation of coconut farmers having shareholding rights in the company. This case study explains the Subicsha model of enterprise development aimed primarily at economic development of a region and how it became successful. Students may assess the possibility of adoption of the model elsewhere through identifying the product, sources of funding and institutions that can provide technical support for the same.

Pedagogical Objectives

  • To understand how supply chain of a local agricultural produce may be effectively managed through capacity building of local women workforce to produce and market value added products
  • To understand how fragmented activities of micro-enterprises (women self-help groups) may be unified giving a common efficient production platform to ensure standardized product quality
  • To understand how branding of products made by Self Help Groups (SHGs) may be done to add to the marketability of the products and enhanced profit generation

Case Positioning & Setting
This case study can be used for Post Graduate Management or Post Graduate Rural Management Programs for Entrepreneurship Development and Development Management courses. It can be used for Management Development Programs, specially designed for managers or government officials working in the development sector. It can also be used in Entrepreneurship Development Programs conducted by technical institutions, both engineering and management.

Entrepreneurship Development and Development Management courses:
1. Development of a SHG-based organization through skill development of women to produce marketable products utilizing the natural produce of a geographical region
2. Branding of products made by SHGs (unifying brand name can also add to the marketability of the products and enhanced profit generation)
3. Developing distribution channels for marketing local products by small enterprises

* GSMC 2016, IIM Raipur

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