#1 | Kamala: Rural Women — Part I

D91 Labs
D91 Labs
Published in
8 min readAug 19, 2019

Life without dreams is like a bird with a broken wing. It can’t fly — Dan Pena

This research was conducted in collaboration with Buzzwoman (Previously BuzzIndia) foundation.About BuzzIndia:
BuzzIndia is a non profit organisation that conducts programmes on financial awareness and entrepreneurship with rural women to set them into a journey of self-empowerment.

Short story:

Kamala is a 35-year-old woman living in Tumkur with her husband, son and her mother. Kamala’s home is a 1RK (1 Room Kitchen), which accommodates all the 4 people under one roof. The family’s current source of income is cattle rearing which was purchased recently. Kamala’s husband stopped working a few months back owing to his critical health conditions and her son pursues ITI course [1] from a government college. Kamala is a self-driven woman and comes across as an influencer who takes up initiatives for the community wellbeing. She was recently made the Gelati (Community leader) as a part of the BuzzIndia program.

ITI: Industrial Training Institutes (ITI) and Industrial Training Centers are post-secondary schools in India constituted under Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship to provide training in various trades.
Image courtesy: iStockPhoto

Family & Education:

  • Kamala has completed her SSLC (High school) and believes her son’s education is the only way for the family to move out poverty.
  • Her current location lacks access to public transportation to nearby towns. This poses a challenge for her son to commute to the college on a daily basis. Her son temporarily uses her brother’s two-wheeler for the commute. But the family does not own a vehicle on their own.
  • Kamala looks forward to starting a small business on her own along with other women in the community to overcome her current financial situation.

Income Streams:

  • Kamala’s family owns a piece of land of about 0.5 acres where they grow ragi and coconuts. Kamala’s husband used to work in the fields but due to his recent knee operation, he has been advised not to engage in the fieldwork anymore.
  • The family currently resorts to their cattle as their only source of income and survive through the daily challenges by being spending every penny judiciously.
  • The milk from the cattle earns the family Rs.6000 ($84) per month. Out of which Rs.3000 ($42) is set aside for the monthly household expenses and the Rs. 3000 ($42) is put in savings.
  • Kamala’s son gets a scholarship for his education, through which the family manages the education fees.

Conversations from the transcript:

S: How are you paying for his education?
K: We sell milk from our cattle. We save every month. We manage household expenses for 15 days and make savings for the other 15 days. With whatever money we get from cattle milk, we set aside say, Rs. 500 monthly for his education expenses. We deposit it in a bank account exclusively for his education. It is my husband’s account. We make around Rs. 6,000 from cattle milk, out of which we save Rs. 3,000. The remaining Rs. 3,000 will be used for expenses. These savings make it convenient for us to fund our son’s education.


  • Groceries emerge as the major expense for Kamala. She claims that it would come around Rs.3000 ($42) per month.
  • The groceries are once in a month purchase but the fresh vegetables are purchased once in a week as they lack a refrigerator to store the vegetable for a longer duration. Kamala’s son is handed over the list of items to be purchased and he brings them home as the grocery store is close to the place where he studies.
  • The other expenses are water, gas, electricity and cable TV.
  • Buzzindia’s course on financial education has helped Kamala to be mindful of her expenses. Prior to Buzzindia course, Kamala spent a lot of money on feeding guests who visited them from time to time.
  • Kamala currently tracks her expenses through a notebook provided by BuzzIndia.

S: How do you keep track of your expenses?
K: We maintain it in a book. BuzzIndia has given us a book to keep track of our daily expenses.

S: How were you tracking your expenses before?
K: I would spend a lot. I would keep track but my expenses were very high. I would spend up to Rs. 15,000 unnecessarily. I would spend Rs. 5,000 without reason. If somebody visited us, we would spend a lot to serve them. We have stopped that now. The same Rs. 5,000 is being saved. I have reduced such expenses and started saving more. I have learnt to make savings from income through BuzzIndia training.

S: What are your monthly expenses?
K: Groceries cost Rs. 3,000. We buy groceries once a month, but fresh vegetables once a week. I send my son to buy them so that he learns to handle responsibility. He studies close to the place. So I give him a list and ask him to buy the groceries. Water bill is very minimal. Gas bill will have to be paid once in 3 months. Rs. 675 is fixed. We pay Rs. 300 as current bill in a month. Cable bill is regular, every month. We have to watch TV. It comes up to Rs. 180.

Bank accounts & cards:

  • Kamala’s husband owns a bank account and all the money for the family is parked in that account. The family usually has around Rs.4000 in the bank account.
  • The family holds a debit card for the bank account and the son operates the debit card to withdraw cash from the bank account from time to time. The money for the milk sold is deposited in the bank and withdrawn using a debit card.
  • The cash is withdrawn once in a month and is withdrawn again only during the times of emergency.

S: Do you use ATM cards?
K: Everyone uses it.

S: How often do you use the ATM card?
K: We use it once a month. Only if there is an emergency. We don’t accept cheques for milk, it is mostly through ATM card. News is that ATM will also be cancelled in a few days, we are not sure. However, we use the ATM once and at most twice in a month, if it is really that unavoidable.

S: Where do you park your money?
K: We keep it in the bank. We won’t keep it anywhere else. We usually have Rs. 4,000 in the bank. If there is a shortage of funds or there is an emergency, we will withdraw cash from the ATM. If we use a cheque in such cases, it will be a long, delayed process. If it an ATM, we can take it immediately.

S: Who withdraws money from the ATM?
K: My son. I have only one son. My husband cannot understand this much, so I send my son on most such occasions.

S: How did he learn about this?
K: He has studied. We have enrolled him to an English medium school since 1st standard. His mind is good but he is a little naughty. He knows how to withdraw cash from an ATM very well. His sir said he is proficient with computers. He can teach people about computers. There is a computer office from the government which is for free. He teaches some 10 college girls there. He has learnt all about banking and computers from this organization. He also knows how to take land ownership documents.

Bills and utilities:

  • Cash is the king. All the bills are paid through cash. For most of the services, the payment is made over the counter through cash and for certain services like cable TV monthly payment, a representative arrives at the doorstep to collect the cash.
  • The family uses a cheque to pay the instalment of loan that they had acquired from the bank.
  • Kamala’s brother transfers money monthly to the son through mobile banking (UPI or IMPS) to contribute to her son’s education.

S: How do you pay the bills?
K: We don’t have to go and pay the bills. People come to our village and collect payments for gas and current bills. There is one person in our village who will pay all our cable bills, we pay him. There are also recharge facilities in our village so we don’t have the necessity for us to go outside. Even though it is a village, it has made considerable progress of late. It was not this refined before. It is much better now.

S: What modes of payment do you usually use?
K: We use cash, we have used a cheque to repay our bank loan. The loan was in my husband’s name, we had taken it for our field. They had given us Rs. 22,000, we cleared it just yesterday. We had taken a gold loan as well, which was also cleared yesterday and we retrieved it.

This interview is broken into two parts. The second part of the interview talks about Kamala’s investments, loans, insurances, life goals and ambition.

In meanwhile check our other series called ‘Decoding Bharat’, where we interview people from emerging economies in India


Interviewed and transcribed by
Soumya Mukund

Edited and published for Medium by

About the research:

This documentation is a result of the in-person interview along with the participants’ consent. The interviews might be conducted in their native languages and translated to English in the best possible way to reach a large audience.

Disclaimer: The names and organisations in this documentation are masked to honour the privacy of the participant.

About D91 labs:

This research was executed and documented by D91 labs. D91 labs is an open-source initiative by setu.co to help Bharat build great fintech products. We organise and publish user research, insights and frameworks for fintech in India. Please follow us on medium for more exciting stories and insights on Bharat.

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