Kolkata is the "land of festivals", with 15 celebrated annually, from Poilo Basakhi to Bhai Phonta. At most festivals beautiful idols with colourful sarees and ornaments are the centre of attraction for all. Bengali artistic idols are famous all over the country, as well as abroad. Elements of the idols, like colour, costumes and ornaments, are produced by local, small manufacturers. This niche market has great potential to grow as a cottage industry
Mrs. Shankari Kundu, age 42, is one of the manufacturers of costumes for idols. She makes ornaments and costumes at her home. Shankari got married at an early age when her husband, in service, earned a minimal salary. Dependent on such a low income, the family found it difficult to live according to the lifestyle they desired. As a solution, Shankari decided in 2008 to join Ujjivan via the Subhashgram Branch in Kolkata. She took a business loan of Rs.8000/- to support the personal business she launched between 2003 - 2004. She wished to take on - and grow - the family business of manufacturing costumes for idols.
Starting out with a mere 2 metres of cloth, Shankari could make just a few sets of costumes. The first challenge she faced was sales. To ascertain demand, she sent her husband to the street to sell the product in front of a daily market. Gradually, with lots of effort and dedication, the couple started seeing results. Shankari's products are now well received and, day by day, demand increases. With activity flourishing, volume has increased to a level that allows Shankari to buy her raw materials at wholesale rates. She is a familiar face at Bara Bazaar, India's largest wholesale market. With her final products she returns to Bara Bazaar, in addition to the Kalighat and Garia Markets to sell her inventory as part of the high-volume wholesale trade. (*Kolkata Cultural Note of Interest: Kalighat is a popular destination for pilgrims, as it is home to the "Ma Kali Temple", one of India's well-known devotional sites).
Shankari works year-round filling large orders of her basic product line, as well as customized products to meet unique market needs. She plans to expand her territory by exporting to Assam. Today, she is working with 8 to 10 Than (1 Than = 20 – 22 metres) of cloth per week, though to meet actual demand she requires much more. With the services of Ujjivan, Shankari has gradually purchased 4 motor double sewing machines and has employed 10 permanent female workers, 2 of which are dedicated soley to packaging. Clients now come and call directly on Shankari at her home, reflecting her value in the marketplace. Her dream is to soon design a sophisticated, commercial "Workshop" within the house, to further increase business, while adding the capacity to monitor transactions in a truly professional manner.
As a successful, returning customer, Shankari last year received a Business loan of Rs.25,000/- from Ujjivan. This year, after closing that Group Loan, she plans to solicit a larger, Individual Business Loan. Through her hard work and commitment, and a partnership with Ujjivan, Shankari is a powerful example of a woman determined to "Build a Better Life."