Gharai family lives in Midnapur town, the headquarter of Paschim Midnapur district which is one of the most backward districts in West Bengal and a part of India's Red Corridor. Tapan Gharai (age 41), husband of Mita Gharai (age 36), customer of Ujjivan, and his parents used to work as agriculture labors few years ago. From the very beginning, Tapan was very hard working and had the habit of taking new initiatives. One day he went to one of his relatives and took a loan of Rs. 36/- along with a few materials to open his own pan stall (betel leaf stall). From the profit he started his own business of hawking dresses and readymade garments whereas shifted the pan stall into a small grocery shop. When Tapan and Mita got married, Tapan was still involved into hawking whereas her father in law was looking after the small grocery shop.
After one year their son, Prabir (age 14) was born. The income from the grocery shop was very less, moreover Mita's father in law was getting old. Poor economic condition of the local area and emerging Maoist Activist problem in the district started affecting Tapan's business.
In such a helpless situation, in the middle of 2009, she came to know about a company named Ujjivan which was providing business loans to economically active poor women from one of her neighbours. Ujjivan had just started its operation in that area a few months ago. After discussing with Ujjivan staff, she along with some of her neighbours formed a group of women and applied for loans from Ujjivan.
Just after few days, she got her first loan of Rs. 6,000 from Ujjivan. By the time she took over the grocery shop from her old father in law and used the money to buy raw materials for her grocery shop. Gradually her business started improving with higher ticket size loans from Ujjivan. In her 4th loan cycle, she added a new vertical i.e., puffed rice business along with her grocery shop. This was the biggest decision they took. Suddenly their business started booming and Tapan too entered into this business stopping his own hawking business. Next year, in 2013 she became the first Individual Loan (IL) customer of Midnapur branch and took Rs. 70,000 from Ujjivan. They used the money to purchase a small plot of land just opposite to Midnapur Bus stand on the most important road of the town and construct a shop where their puffed rice business started expanding like anything. Currently she is accessing Rs. 1,50,000 for the 2nd time in her seventh loan cycle and they have used the money into both businesses.
Even though, Tapan is the main income earning member of the household, Mita's income from the grocery has also contributed significantly into their family income which, indeed, has increased by 7-8 times in last 7 years. Mita had to undergo some surgery recently. Their income has increased so much that they could spend the money from their own savings.
Not only in financial terms, Ujjivan's microfinance has impacted/improved her life in various other ways as well. Financial stability has not only improved her status within the household, but also improved their social status among neighbours. Relationships with her spouse, in-laws and neighbours have also improved. Participation in social and religious festivals has improved as well. Her participation in decisions on business related issues, household related issues and issues related to their son have improved a lot. Her son is currently studying in 8th standard from a private school. She is now spending almost Rs. 700 per month on her son's education. The increased income has given her the luxury of spending Rs. 500 for household durables per month and Rs. 500 for leisure as well. They have recently purchased one fridge and a bed for their home and a second hand motor bike for her husband.
She is now visualizing a planned business growth in coming years by not only increasing her stock but also by supplying puffed rice to various offices, jails within and outside the Midnapur township. They collect the puffed rice from places which are even 100-120 km away. They will be required to have access to higher loan amounts to meet their business needs. Ujjivan branch is also thinking likewise. They are planning to give her Rs. 1,50,000 loan under Individual Business Loan for shorter tenure (as she has already reached the maximum loan limit under IL) to her until Secured Business Loan with higher amount starts in the branch.
Mita thanks Ujjivan for all the help that she got and proudly states that "I am really thankful to Ujjivan for whatever I have now."..... "Let Ujjivan grow and let me grow at a similar pace too. Thank you Ujjivan".