Tagline: The superwoman’s shop
A solar lamp brightens up the cheerful colours of hundreds of sachets: Blue shampoos, purple chewing gums, red tomato ketchups, yellow detergents, white toothpaste, pink soaps… wafer packets, biscuits, chocolates, toffees, match boxes, cigarettes… but nothing as bright as the face of 34 year old Rama Sarkar, happy to be telling us her success story. Rama is an excellent example of why daughters should inherit land or property from their natal homes. She lives and works on her own land, given by her father, and her confidence is a pleasure to see.
She and her husband set up their own bidi making unit. At this point her husband started falling sick, and the doctors said that he should stop working with tobacco. The husband and wife were forced to wrap up their business at a loss of about Rs one and a half lakhs. But fate hadn’t reckoned with Rama’s determination. It occurred to her that since her house was right on the main road, any shop she opened there was bound to run. And so, back in 2014, she took a loan of Rs 10,000 from Gram Vikas, as well as another loan from a local microfinance company called KDS. The couple built a tin structure on the road, bought products, and began a grocery-cum-tea shop.
How many people come in a day? Rama pauses and smiles slyly. “Let me put it this way. My tea is well known in this area. And the curd I set is really famous; People come from quite some distances to get it. So every morning, between 7 and 9 there is a mela here. The same in the evening, from about 6 to 9.” The shop hours are 7 am-1 pm and 4 pm-9.30 pm. In the middle of this, Rama manages to send her children to school, cook meals, and set her famous doi (yoghurt). She makes an income of Rs 12,000-15,000 every month. Rama now has Rs 14,000 from Gram Vikas, and a total loan of Rs 49,000 from all her financers. She took the solar light one and a half years back, at Rs 2,400, buying it outright. “It was essential in the shop in the evenings and night; practicalities apart, who wants to come to a dark shop? You simply can’t depend on the electricity in these parts.” Even with the electric bulbs on, the solar is a bright add on at no extra charge, making the shop additionally attractive.
Rama wants to increase her scale. “Anything I sell will do well at this location,” says the young entrepreneur confidently. She wants to start keeping more items, like cold drinks, and wants to sell mishti doi (sweet yoghurt) which she is so good at making. “I need to make a separate room and furnace for larger quantities of sweet doi. I need to make the shop pukka too, because with this tin-andlock arrangement, we do have to face the odd theft.” “A pukka shop is necessary, especially to keep the products properly in the monsoon. I can buy more cupboards to stock the products, and have a better seating arrangement for the customers. It’s just a couple of wooden benches right now. Who knows, we may even hire workers. And then I want to make my house bigger and have a thriving shop…Oh well! Human beings’ plans for the future never end, do they?”