-penned by our Communications Intern Tanay Kagal

The Social Entrepreneurship Program (SEP) at Sharana provides women with interest-free and collateral-free loans for establishing their own small business or for developing an existing one. However, Sharana’s support extends beyond giving the loan. Social workers regularly follow up on the business, the well-being of the beneficiary, and their family (since their children are also often beneficiaries) and motivate them to carry on their enterprise. The beneficiaries are supported in every step of setting up and maintaining their business, such as helping them get certifications and training. 

About 30% of businesses involve food. For the beneficiaries, getting a Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) license is a way to legitimise their food business. When SEP Program Manager Prakash was working on getting cattle insurance for some of the beneficiaries who have a dairy business, he began to think of ways to legalise the other businesses in the SEP. The team at Sharana came upon the FSSAI certification and wanted to help the food businesses get it. 

The FSSAI registration, issued by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, is the legal process for all Food Business Operators (FBOs) in India to show that the food they sell is safe for human consumption. The license essentially validates a business. It safeguards food quality standards and instills a sense of trust in customers

In January of 2020, Mr. Prakash met with the Food Safety Director, who informed him that the women could get the certificate online. The son of a beneficiary had already got his mother an FSSAI license for her omelette snack shop, having paid Rs 1500 for the service. Every other agency online charged the same amount. This is a huge cost for our beneficiaries. The actual cost of registration is only Rs. 100, with a Rs 10 fee for online registration. Private agencies were charging more than tenfold that amount for providing the service. Sharana has since helped 17 women get their FSSAI certification, and is working to help more in this area.

There are several advantages to having an FSSAI certification. Having a government-sanctioned certification gives customers confidence in the establishment. It also increases the beneficiaries’ confidence in their own business. As an organization, we want to be the bridge between the support that the government provides and the beneficiaries, informing and educating the latter about the benefits that the former provides.