Rathnamma is an agarbatti (incense) roller in the Kudlur district of Channapatna, a semi-urban area outside Bangalore, India. She started rolling agarbatti over 15 years ago after she was recruited by one of the wholesalers in the area. Before she was a roller, Rathnamma was a day laborer, picking out weeds from the fields owned by others. The agarbatti wholesalers provide all the raw materials while she provides the labor and makes 25 Rs for every 1,000 sticks of agarbatti she produces. She can make 5,000 sticks a day, working about six hours a day. The rest of the day, she supports her other business—selling wooden bangles. Channapatna is rather famous in the area for their woodcraft and the bangle business helps augment her household’s income.

She became a client of Ujjivan, one of Women’s World Banking’s network members, when a loan officer named Ramesh visited her neighborhood and spoke to the women about taking a loan. Rathnamma and her husband were in need of a loan, and prior to learning about Ujjivan, they were taking loans from local moneylenders made them pay weekly at the exorbitant interest rate of 10-15%. After hearing from Ramesh, she took out a loan from Ujjivan to support their bangle business.”Ujjivan has helped us a lot,” Rathnamma smiles, her practiced hands rolling the sticks without even looking. With her agarbatti and bangle business supported by loans from Ujjivan, she and her husband have been able to educate their children, both of whom are now adults. Their son lives in Bangalore proper, working at a goldsmith’s ship while her daughter has a bangle business of her own. Asked what she wants now that her children are settled, Rathnamma gestures to her home. “We want to renovate this house, no, we want a bigger house to settle in for the rest of our days.”