VFS microfinance borrower at her grocery

China Dutta

Birbhum woman starts a new life in middle age

China Dutta is one of those microfinance customers who turn entrepreneurs at an age when most women sit back after running a household and bringing up children.

China, 55, has had a tough childhood: she was one of nine children of poor parents. She had to quit school after Class 8 and was married off when she was 19. Today, she has two daughters and one son. The eldest is 35 years old, in the medicine distributorship business; the next is 30 and a housewife, and the son, 24, is a medical representative.

China became an entrepreneur ten years ago but her tryst with microfinance and Village Financial Services was in 2016. Her husband Tapan had retired as a teacher in a primary school, the children had grown up, and China wanted to supplement their income.

She borrowed Rs 20,000 from the Ahmadpur branch of VFS to expand her grocery cum stationery business and stock it better. She buys wholesale from the Bolpur market and does brisk business as she saves her fellow villagers the cost of traveling 20 km each way to Bolpur.

Tapan, 67, fetches the fresh stocks and helps her run the shop. There are three or four shops like China’s in the area, but China claims she has the widest range. She earns an average profit of Rs 7,000-10,000 a month despite the competition. The COVID19 lockdowns of 2020 affected the business, but she survived since grocers could stay open for limited periods.

China has named her shop Monimala Variety Store, after her late mother-in-law. The shop has fared better than China when it comes to names. China’s name has nothing to do with India’s northern neighbour. It is the Bengali word for (I/We) don’t want. China happened to be the fourth daughter in a row for her parents, who did not want another daughter.

The next five children born to her parents were sons.

Published on Dec 10, 2021 | Updated on Apr 13, 2022