Kajal Bej

How a garments and sari retailer survived the lockdown

Kajal Bej did not let the coronavirus lockdown torpedo her spirit –or her sari and readymade garments retailing business. Although she had to keep her shop closed for months, she used her phone contacts to keep in touch with her regular customers in the locality and could supply them by working from home.

Her efforts paid off once the lockdown was lifted and she could reopen her shop. The bottom line: People need clothes even if they are working from home during a lockdown.

A resident of Belgachia village in West Bengal’s Howrah district, Kajal, 45, continued to repay her loan instalments to Village Financial Services through the lockdown. Husband Bablu has a fish stall in the local market, which was open during the lockdown and brought them some income. Her two sons, in their twenties, are independent. One is an electrician and the other a salesman.

She took her first microfinance loan from VFS in 2005, borrowing just Rs 3,000 to buy saris from a wholesaler and then selling them locally. As her business picked up, she started retailing readymade garments as well. Howrah has some of the biggest wholesale garments markets.

She then took a break and came back to VFS again in 2015.

Before the lockdown, her average monthly turnover was Rs 90,000 to Rs 1,00,000, and she was left with an average monthly profit of Rs 10,000-15,000 after deducting the cost of buying saris in bulk (which she does periodically) and other expenses, which added up to Rs 70,000-80,000.

Currently, she is in her fourth loan cycle, having borrowed Rs 50,000 in July 2019.

Updated on Aug 26, 2020