Keka Paul

No gender issues for her on the income front

The five-year-old has simple tastes—her parents make a range of lovely soft toys for a living, but she prefers a teddy bear. Not a “Papri” doll (which is a desi version of a Barbie). Not a cute puppy. Not a Kashmir doll. Just a teddy!

Suchibrata, 45, and his sister were making and selling soft toys for seven-eight years, even before he got married to Keka in 2008. He taught his wife the nuances of soft toys. Keka, now 34, was quick to pick up. For Keka, a graduate, it was also her first business venture.

When the couple decided to scale up the business, they took a microfinance loan. In 2016, Keka took her first loan from the Naihati branch of Village Financial Services in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district. Keka used the loan to make a proper workspace and extend it.

They had to: they employ around 30 workers, a mix of men and women. Some work at Keka’s place, while some take work home. They have a few sewing machines. That’s it.

They buy raw materials—poly fur, synthetic cotton, plastic eyes and hot glue—from Kolkata’s Burrabazar, the largest wholesale market in eastern India.

They sell their products to vendors or in fairs. The COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 hit their sales since fairs and markets were shut down. They continued to make the Papri dolls.

But business is again booming now that the lockdowns have gone.

They earn an average of Rs 80,000 a month, factoring in the seasonal variations. Winter sales are always better. Their soft toys—which range from teddies to the fancy Kashmir Doll—are priced from Rs 22 to Rs 1,500 each. At the melas or fairs, they push the cheaper ones, which are price at Rs 100-200.

Keka and Suchibrata are totally involved in the business. She looks after the shopfloor (the manufacturing), while her husband handles the accounts and the raw-materials supply chain. But Keka decides how the income is shared.

Published on Apr 12, 2021 | Updated on Apr 13, 2022