VFS customer with readymade garments

Indrani Maity

Bengal mom makes a living selling garments door to door

Indrani Maity is good at reading the pulse of her customers: when she returns home in the evening, her large bag of readymade garments is much lighter than it was in the morning when she set out with it. For her immediate neighbourhood, she walks. For longer distances, she uses her bicycle.

Indrani, 40, has been in this business in Batanagar near Kolkata for almost a decade. During that time, she ensured that her daughter stayed in school and got into college even as she bought up her toddler son. The daughter is 22, the son is 12 and studying in Class 6.

Indrani had to quit school after Class 10 and is determined not to let that happen to her children. Her husband, Shyamapada, 48, works in a shoe store. They have been married for around 25 years.

Indrani has many advantages over shops: she often lets her customers buy on part-credit, she goes to the customer, she networks with women in her area, and her products are cheaper than comparable ones sold by shops in Batanagar, the town in Maheshtala near Kolkata that was once home to multinational shoe giant Bata.

Indrani began the business in a small way, inspired by neighbours. Then she took a loan from the Maheshtala branch of Village Financial Services to expand the business.

Once in a while, she goes to Burrabazar in Kolkata, one of India’s largest wholesale markets for almost everything, or Metiabruz nearby, the hub for readymade garments. She keeps some on display at her house for customers who drop in.

Indrani offers a wide range, from bed linen to lengths for shirts and trousers, readymade kurtis, leggings, frocks and tops. The cheapest item in her stock, a baby dress, goes for Rs 30, while the costliest could be a fancy sari with a price tag of Rs 5,000.

Indrani does not employ any helper: she lugs the heavy bag (or two if she uses the bicycle) herself.

Indrani says she was making a profit of Rs 10,000-15,000 a month before the COVID-19 pandemic struck the world in 2020, and the lockdowns began in March that year. Now, she is struggling to catch up with the sales she lost then. No customer credit, for now, she has decided.

Published on Oct 22, 2021 | Updated on Apr 13, 2022