Janki Bhat was born in Rajasthan where her childhood was a struggle. She lost her father when she was just 10 and was soon taken out of school within a year due to the poor financial condition of her family. Children's education is always the first to be impacted when the going gets tough for financially-challenged families.
Janki began helping her mother in the making of glass bangles. At the age of 14 she was married off by her family and both Janki and her husband moved to Mumbai to enhance their livelihoods. Initially, they spent their nights sleeping in the parks /streets around the city. Janki took up work as a housemaid while her husband started washing cars and also worked at a general provisions store.
As they settled into a routine day-to-day life, Janki and her husband moved to an area in Wadala taking up a one-room slum settlement on rent. One day, Janki spotted a wall advertisement of an organization, which commissioned stitching work projects to housewives. She took up the opportunity and visited the company with cloth samples of her Rajasthani-style hand work. After just a few stitching projects, Janki received appreciation for her workmanship, and soon she bought a sewing machine to undertake stitching work locally. Soon, they bought a one-room-settlement in the slum by selling off their family land in the village.
After some time, Janki and Kantibhai (her husband) started making toys and for the past 12 years, both, she and her husband have run this skeletal business. The toys which Janki stitches are sold by her husband at busy traffic signals and on the streets. The raw materials for the toys are small pieces of wastage cloth known as "chindi". They use these chindi in making shapes of animals such as horse, camel, elephant etc.
Only the past few years have they been able to grow the business thanks to microfinance loans from Ujjivan.
Business cash flow
Raw materials used in making the toys: wood, dry grass, velvet cloth, zari (metallic yarn), chindi (wastage cloth), sutali (twine)
Toys produced in a week: 20-24 nos.
Expenses per week: Approx. Rs.3000 [approx. Rs.150 per toy]
Kantibhai, her husband buys the raw material from markets in the Dadar & Kurla (central and suburban Mumbai) area.
Over 100 kilograms of dry grass and 30 kilograms of sutali are used every month in making the toys. Using the loan amounts, Janki is able to purchase these raw materials in bulk, since they are able to get far more economical rates. Earlier, they had to purchase the raw materials every few days depending on their earnings from daily sales.
Earnings per week: Approx. Rs.4000 – Rs.6000 [Each toy is sold for Rs.200 - Rs.300]
Net profits: Rs.1000 – Rs.3000 per week
Janki's first loan was Rs.10000 which she used to buy large quantities of raw material at economical bulk rates, to produce more toys. After completion of her first loan tenure, Janki took a second loan of Rs.15000, investing it in her business. She says that her income has increased by 30%. Janki feels that she has grown in confidence and can now take the next step in entrepreneurially expanding her business.
With the influx of cheap Chinese-made toys, Kantibhai finds it tough to make sales. It has put pressure on their profit margins. Only select clientele who are patrons of traditional handicrafts now form the bulk of the buyers.
With a Handicrafts Exhibition scheduled to be held in Mumbai in July, Janki has decided to take up a stall and display her products. She expects to increase her sales at the exhibition and Janki is planning to hire a piece-rate worker to help produce bulk quantities of the toys.
Janki has been married for 31 years and has 3 children – two girls (19 & 13 years old) and boy of 10. She having missed out on education despite her fondness for studies, Janki does not want her children to suffer the same fate. So, both she and her husband aim to provide proper schooling for their children. Janki knows that if her children get a proper education they can build a good life, and she realizes that she needs to generate more income through business to pay for their education. So whatever profits she makes from her business, she invests half in business and saves the other half for her family and children.
Kavita, the eldest daughter finished her Class 12 examinations and also trained on a Computer course. She helps her family in making of toys until she finds a job. Janki would like to get her married in a couple of years.
There are many like Janki who have migrated to large cities to look for the proverbial pot of gold. Many of these migrants have made it big within a short span of a few years. And there are also many like Janki who are risk averse, with a safety-first attitude in regard to their family finances. For many of these poor it takes time before they decide to take the leap and embark on a larger scale entrepreneurial venture.
Microfinance helps in building confidence among such folk and catalysing entrepreneurial ambition to action.