In the patriarchal era of the 20th century, business historians ignored women and their contributions to the commercial successes of their entrepreneur husbands or fathers, undermining their roles in family businesses.
Here are three cases of the role of women in our family business.
1)My grandmother Laxmi.
During the initial years of my father’s enterprise, my father, the late N. Ranga Rao, Founder of Vasu Cycle brand Agarbathy, needed capital for his growing business to stock up inventory for the next festival season. When bankers refused to lend him money, my grandmother agreed to have my father sell her 2 acres of prime agricultural land in Tamil Nadu.
2)My mother, Seetha.
Recalling his difficult initial difficult days, my father has written in his journal: “My wife cooperated with me in making a hand-to-mouth living out of the profits I could make. She never demanded anything from me.” Moreover, my mother helped my father by assisting him in day-to-day administration and ensured that no paisa was spent on something unnecessary.
3)My sister Padma.
In 1952, my father came out with a new brand called NR Vasu, specially packaged in inner rectangular boxes with labels on the outside. My father took great precautions while calculating the board requirement for 100 dozen (1200 pieces) of NR Vasu Special Agarbathies for his launch. He was keen on ensuring that there would be no wastage of board. However, after the consignment was delivered, the size turned out to be smaller and insufficient to make four sides with gumming margin. He was disappointed with himself and started fretting and fuming at everyone around him in frustration. Finally, my eldest sister
Padma, who was 15 then, came to his rescue by thinking “out of the box” (pun intended). She formed a triangular packet, placed the black and white printed label, and wrapped the whole pack in red cellophane. She prepared twelve such pieces and made them into a hexagonal prism. The packaging looked fabulous. The brand became iconic in the ’50s through the early ’70s was the most successful brand through the 50s and sixties.
These three examples are a few of the innumerable contributions from women in our family toward the success of my father’s business journey.
If one were to dive into the scenes behind the efforts of businesspeople historically, it would be glaringly evident that lime lighting the roles played by women in family businesses is sparse and fragmented.
It is about time we started looking into the history of business enterprises and the indirect roles played by women.
Disclaimer: I am no longer associated with N. Ranga Rao &Sons. My views are personal as a son of the late N. Ranga Rao.