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RAGS TO RICHES STORY OF SUSEELAMMA
Working as a manual worker at a nearby industrial unit in Fatehnagar, Susheelamma earned a meagre Rs. 1500/- per month with the day’s hard work. This combined with her husband’s income of another Rs. 2000/- was not enough to meet their monthly expenses, leave alone sending the children to school. And the income was not constant as the work was intermittent. The very sight of school going children on the street would sadden her as she was unable to send her own kids to school.

She wanted to realise her own unfulfilled dream of going to school by sending her children to a good school and see them as better citizens tomorrow. This determination ignited a spark in her to increase her family income and see to it that she gives a better life to her children.

With such intention, she approached the local moneylender as well as the nearby banks for a small loan to start her own tea stall, but was bluntly refused due to lack of any collateral security. With her hopes shattered, she continued with her normal work when one fine day she heard from one of her friend about a Micro Finance Institution (MFI) that supports the entrepreneurial poor people financially. Sensing her long wished opportunity of entrepreneurship within her reach, she thought, “This is the best route to get away from this drudgery (given my present skill-set) and supplement my husband’s income so as to care for the 3 children as well as the elderly mother-in-law”. She immediately rushed to the MFI with her proposal which was taken up with gravity and the process of funding soon started.

What started her off in her tea-stall venture was a small loan of Rs. 4000/- from the MFI which was to be repaid at the rate of about Rs. 90/- per week over a period of 50 weeks which she comfortably started paying off from her daily earnings of approximately Rs. 200/-.

All this, even though there existed a competing tea cart nearby!

Her dream which had been to work independently came true (it is incidental that her stall is under the lower portion of an unpainted Railway Over Bridge – home to various parked vehicles). Apart from being an earning member, her husband too has joined this trade and partners her, which has increased her respectability in addition to halving her workload.

With an enhanced annual family income of Rs. 60,000/- now, Susheelamma saves about Rs, 5,000/- annually after meeting all the household expenses. She also sends all her children to a good school nearby. Further, on the economic front not only have assets been purchased for the home but emergency needs too are managed after meeting all the family’s needs.

She keeps saying, “so useful has microfinance been that not only has my lifestyle changed but also enabled me to think of improving my enterprise”.

There was a sea-change in her lifestyle what with home improvement, greater attention to education, healthier family members and a diverse and nutritious food intake as well as a greater freedom to choose the desired lifestyle. So radical is the change in her life that regular earnings, high earnings, savings, school-going children that she now envisages purchasing a refrigerator and trade aids from out of her enhanced income.

As a group member also, she has gained a place in society outside the four walls of her home where she is treated with respect and she is also able to participate in all social events. She intends to expand her enterprise with more products on offer by investing on a fixed stall.


MS. ANJUM
Shehnaz is very pleased with the results of the earlier loan and says that “my (her) economic situation and consequently the adopted lifestyle have improved. I am now independent and my family is happy about it”. She is now capable of thinking of her own home for which a plot of land has already been acquired at Borabanda in Hyderabad in order to move her family to a lower middle class locality away from the present existence on the fringes of society. She finds this change tremendous.

The chance visit of a lady relative from overseas who was delighted at Anjum’s exquisite cross-stitch work changed the life of Anjum after she was encouraged to convert her work into petit point – a fine kind of embroidery that she pursued as a hobby. The fineness of the work may be gauged from the fact that it takes over a year to petit point a saree border – when working continuously! This involved work of such a high order that the raw material that was very expensive proved to be the stumbling block. It was then that Trident, a micro-finance institute, had stepped in to bail her out of this situation with a credit intervention of Rs. 8000 in November 2006. Most of the loan amount was spent towards acquiring the raw material, mainly the fine embroidery thread available in different colours. She managed the entire embroidery all by herself since it was extremely skill dependent. The petit point work had to be kept wrapped in cloth in order to prevent it from getting dirty.

A devout follower of Islam, Anjum was a housewife before turning into an entrepreneur. Unlike a large family with many children and multiple sisters-in-law, that is most common among the Muslim community, Anjum stayed separately with her husband Sheikh Afzal and three kids. Being a housewife, she has had to juggle both the home as well as the trade for which a compromise has been found with everyone pitching in to help her. She says “I wanted to fashion an enterprise so that I could work from home and not have to go out”.

Since this work was found to be very expensive by the contemporary society, she has yet to complete a sale of the saree but has been filling her free time with small patch work for decorating dresses and regularly repaying her loan from these other earnings. The work on a single piece was very time consuming so she reduced her downtime by turning out small pieces of embroidery work which had a quick turnover too.

Even though completely lacking in a formal school education, she is now a much sought after person offering advice to various persons in her society about microfinance. Other pillars of support to her were the members of the family and society who supported her in the chosen enterprise. Since the skill was native to the main person, Sheikh Afzal could not help his wife with the petit point, but did help in the logistics part of the purchasing and transport of the raw material as well as finished goods in his auto-trolley. Apart from sharing the workload, he had made a customized wooden frame to fit the saree to be embroidered so that Anjum could pursue her chosen work with ease. With their sufficient income, they could send their girl child also to school who otherwise are normally neglected among the poor Indian families.

The 3rd standard educated Shahnaaz, a neighbor of Anjum used to lead a hand-to-mouth existence with her very meagre basket of family income during her days as a manual laborer which would only suffice to supplement her husband’s meager income in order to make ends meet. Here too, poverty forced upon her the dignity of a nuclear family and she would dream of an ample income for which she experimented with contract work for readymade dresses which did not bring in much income inspite of all the long hours of work. The earlier works were not dangerous and did not involve work in an unhealthy environment but obtaining work or getting properly paid for the work were proving to be problems.

She realized that her native manual embroidery skill was still in demand in spite of the machine made variations available in the market. It was her husband who provided the initial impetus to start her on a dress-making trade on her own. Her peers and neighbors who were also members of a self-help-group informed her of the microfinance interventions of Trident and she found the way out for her enterprise after her unhappy attempts at obtaining loans from the banks or the moneylender. Some simple formalities later, she was the proud possessor of a loan of Rs. 6000 from the Trident which enabled her to marry her embroidery skills to the commercial skills. The Rs. 6000 launched her into this enterprise of embroidering dresses and sarees. However unlike many others, she does not stock any input and purchases just what would be sufficient for the business at hand.

Her earlier life has now improved to a modicum of ampleness and she had the confidence of being able to choose her sources of finance after weighing the pros and cons. She also proposes to purchase a sewing machine and/or start soap as well as a perfume making unit in order to expand her business for which she would be requiring further credit facility.


VEERAMANI - THE BRAVE
Ms. Veeramani, a forty year old widow had to earn to make the ends meet even though her twenty year old son brought home about Rs. 2500. However, for her earlier work as a plain vegetable hawker she had to roam the streets and by lanes of Fatehnagar and it was proving to be difficult for her physically as well as mentally. Her household members, especially the menfolk, too did not find it palatable. It was then that the thought of a small loan came in and they knew that she could comfortably do a small business with it.

She tried to think of ways to raise money for an independent venture and discussed this with her family members, concluding that the local moneylender would charge usurious rates of interest and adopt questionable practices.

It was her neighbours, who were group members and knew about Trident activities, who encouraged her to approach Trident. Her husband encouraged and planned for this small scale general store as the means to her emancipation so that she may build on her previous experience even while being bereft of all other skills.

Trident extended a small loan of Rs. 6000 and she has been able to earn up to Rs.1500 each month which goes into her family kitty. Her stall which is just opposite her home involves day-long hard work. She has been managing the trade so successfully that she was now able to remain away from the trade for days.

Veeramani is fond ofsaying “excess money is bad, contentment is happiness”

From a mere kirana she has now expanded into a kirana, vegetables etc store so that her earnings level out. The latest addition have been poultry products Managing the inventory (purchase, stocking etc.) have depended on fund flows from the respective product range.

She has been saving regularly for her family members and is not interested in expanding her business or starting a new trade. With the men folk now earning regularly while she makes upwards of Rs. 50 each day, she aspires to retire from work sometime in the future soon and has informed the staff of the MFI accordingly.

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