Mousumi Das

Assembling toys from parts fetches her good money

Mousumi Das, 38, had one business failure ten years ago. She was determined not to let the coronavirus lockdown cause the second one: scores of workers depended on her this time.

In 2010, her sari business failed, leaving her with debts. Her first son had just begun school and she used to be alone at home after her husband Manoranjan left for his job as a government peon.

Depressed and lonely, Mousumi went to a local doctor, who advised her to keep busy with some creative work. Mousumi, who was from a poor family, had no idea of hobbies. She used to visit a friend who was assembling toys at home for a dealer. As luck would have it, the friend relocated and left her business to Mousumi. She jumped at the chance, although she knew nothing about it. First, she hired ten workers to complete the pending orders.

Then, she came across Village Financial Services and took her first microfinance loan, from its Baltikuri branch. With the Rs 3,000 she borrowed, she bought more toy parts from the dealer. Soon, the venture she had started to keep busy was a full-fledged enterprise.

Before the lockdown was imposed in March this year, she had 244 people working for her–most from their homes or other godowns, and 10-15 at a godown she had taken on lease. She had borrowed Rs 1,50,000 from VFS in August 2019, having graduated to an SME customer.

She was making an average monthly profit of Rs 25,000 after paying for raw materials, labour and godown rental.

Although the lockdown halted the business, Mousumi says, she continued to pay those working at her godown for two months out of her savings before she ran out of money and had to let them go. She got some suppliers to pay for the rest. She was able to re-employ 100 workers after the general lockdown was lifted. But the weekly lockdowns, restricted market hours and poor road transport are not allowing her business to pick up fully.

She has women as well as men working at her godown-factory, which is a short walk from her house. A manager looks after the godown and the work and Mousumi tracks the accounts.

She supplies her toys to godowns in Salkia, Ranaghat and other places, from where they go to wholesale markets at Burrabazar and Howrah. She makes flutes, toy cars, peacocks and other plastic stuff. Now she wants a bigger loan to scale up.

Over the years, Mousumi has bought land and gold and sent her children to school. One is 17 and will be writing his higher secondary examination in 2021. The other is in Class V.

Updated on Sep 2, 2020