VFS microfinance customer with medicine distributor business

Bilquis Ara

The go-to person for vet drugs in Kamarhati

Kamarhati residents with ailing dogs or cats probably turn up at the shop run by Bilquis Ara, 38. They must: Bilquis says she has been in the business for ten years and is the only one in the area focused on veterinary medicines.

Bilquis first visited the Village Financial Services branch in Ariadaha in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district ten years ago, when she decided to put her husband Shamsuddin’s familiarity with veterinary medicines to good use. Shamsuddin’s family had a khatal or makeshift dairy. But khatal owners were under pressure to clean up their act and the business had no future.

Bilquis was married off at the age of 17, just after she had cleared Class 10. When her first child, a daughter, began school, Bilquis had dreams of ensuring a good education for her. Good education means money. The cattle in their khatal needed medicines, for which they had to go to other towns.

Bilquis decided to sell veterinary medicines. Her first loan from VFS was a modest Rs 30,000, a VFS product branded Briddhi meant for microfinance beginners. After ten years of hard work, Bilquis got upgraded earlier this year to Sambriddhi, which VFS offers individuals who have shown that they no longer have to be part of the discipline of a JLG or joint lending group. Her current loan is Rs 1.5 lakh.

Briddhi loans are up to Rs 30,000, Sri Briddhi up to Rs 60,000 and Sambriddhi up to Rs 200,000.

Bilquis says her husband, a graduate, was familiar with veterinary medicines as a cattle owner and wanted to do something for himself. He started as a retailer and roped in Bilquis.

The business is thriving today as keeping pets—and spending on them—has become a lifestyle with the middle class. Bilquis’s daughter is in Class 11 and her son is in Class 6, both in Sacred Heart Convent School. Bilquis says it is the best school in the area.

Bilquis says her overheads are low. The shop is in a ground-floor room of their house, and the store is on the first floor. The 2021 VFS loan helped them become a wholesaler.

Published on Dec 24, 2021 | Updated on Apr 13, 2022