Manjula Vaghela – Journey from Rag Picker to Founder of a Firm with Rs. 1 Crore Turnover

Swach Bharat mission is the brainchild of our P.M and his Govt. Today it has taken support from various quarters of society and grown stupendously as a movement. But the key players in maintaining ‘Swach Bharat’ are Sweepers referred to as ‘Safai Karmachari’ in Hindi are not having a stupendous life. Though city corporations and municipalities operate with their sweeping staff to maintain cleanliness of cities and suburbs, with the massive production of garbage these staffs is clearly inadequate. Here chips in unorganized cleaning workers called rag pickers, who trek from one garbage hill dumped in one street corner to other for collecting recyclable waste and dispose it to recycling units in exchange for small Indian Rupee to make ends meet. Rag picking is the most unsought of the profession in our nation that even stray dogs on streets mercilessly attack them.

With this prelude, readers can easily guess that the ‘incredible human’ for this post is a Ragpicker who turned out to be an entrepreneur of 1 crore INR turnover cooperative sector who in her previous profession was earning 5 INR as daily wages! Yes, the focal point of this post is Mrs. Manjula Vaghela, who until 1981 worked as a ragpicker in the city of Ahmedabad. Today at 62 she runs a cleaners’ cooperative which does cleaning and housekeeping services for nearly 45 organizations.

The Inside story in Nutshell

Manjula Vaghela and her peer once came across Ms. Elaben Bhatt, founder of Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA). It is Elaben who guided Manjula to start a cleaners’ cooperative so that huge demand for organized housekeeping workers in various organizations could be tapped effectively. Manjula had the advantage of knowing collectives of rag pickers (Human Resource) first handed. She mobilized them to join her co-operative called – Shri Saundarya Safai Utkarsh Mahila Sewa Sahkari Mandali Ltd (SSSUMSSML). Initially, she could rope in 40 workers, and today it has swollen to 400. In all her media interactions she never forgets to thank the first two clients for her cooperative –‘National Institute of Design’ and ‘Physical Research Laboratory (PRL).’ She worked as the chief supervisor of the service rendered to these two reputed institutes. Her cooperative’s most exciting project has been involved in Vibrant Gujarat Summits which is a prestigious event conducted to mobilize foreign direct investment in the state of Gujarat.

Today her organization has grown to the extent of 400 employees (all former Ragpickers) who work precisely with modern cleaning equipment like carpet shampooing machines, scrubbers, extractors, cleaners, vacuum cleaners, high jet pressure, microfibre mops and floor cleaners.

Most importantly SSSUMSSML  is gearing up to procure E-Tenders as the majority of organizations are moving towards E-Tenders to bring in transparency in auctions. Undeterred by this technology savvy move of organizations, her cooperative is training handpicked employees on operating computers, the internet, and other online transactions.

On the family front, Manjula lost her husband in early days of her life. She had to educate her son singlehandedly. To the astonishment of many parents who fail to bear the burden of the expensive education system, she has made her son a Doctor.



  1. ashwini bendre June 16, 2017
  2. B.Mahesh Babu June 16, 2017

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