VFS microfinance customer at her tailoring shop

Nasima Bibi

Class 8 dropout employs 3 at her business

Not all Indians buy clothes online or as readymade apparel. Most still depend on the neighbourhood tailor: they get to choose their fabric and the fit and it’s cheaper. That’s why women like Nasima Bibi of Tarakeswar in West Bengal’s Hooghly district can run a thriving business and employ other women.

Nasima, 33, had learnt to stitch as a teenager. After getting married and bearing two children, she decided to become a pro and enrolled at a government outfit for a tailoring certificate. The instructor left just before Nasima completed the course, so she had to start afresh at a private outfit to get the certificate.

Nasima says her formal training helped her in two ways. One, she learnt everything at one place and does not have to scrounge for tips. Two, she is authorised to train others, which means a fee income.

Today, Nasima’s Sana Tailors employs three women who help her with the stitching. She does the cutting. Nasima and her tailors make ladies garments, starting from frocks for little girls, blouses, salwar suits, kurtis and even lehengas. Their making charge begins at Rs 20o.

Nasima, who dropped out of Class 8 in a Hindi medium school, is proud of her three daughters. The eldest, 15, is in Class 10, the next (12) is in Class 7 and the youngest, just eight years old, is in Class 3.

The youngest is lucky: Nasima named her shop Sana after her. The word Sana sounds smart and catches young customers, Nasima says.

Nasima’s husband did not have a proper job and she got a divorce after the third child was born. They were staying in Nasima’s parents’ place, which is close to Tarakeswar Railway Station.

She began the tailoring shop in 2010 with a loan from the Tarakeswar branch of Village Financial Services. She used the money to buy a couple of Usha and Singer sewing machines and some bolts of cloth from Burrabazar in Kolkata.

The cloth shop nearby directs possible customers to Nasima. Many students in a women’s college in the area have become her regular customers. Being near a railway station, she also gets customers from Singur, Arambagh and Haripal. Tarakeswar is a major pilgrimage centre and famous for its potatoes so it always has a floating population.

Nasima says she has a monthly income of Rs 22,000- 30,000, depending on the season. Business peaks during Durga Puja, Diwali and Eid. The COVID19 lockdown in 2020 hit her business in an unexpected way—She had gone to a family wedding in Delhi and was stuck there for months!

Nasima can cut and stitch around seven salwar suits a day and earns around Rs 700-800 a day after costs. She says she puts aside money in the bank for her daughters. The daughters, however, have no interest in her tailoring enterprise. The eldest will look for a job, the next one will do what “didi does”. The youngest? Who knows? She could be another entrepreneur!

Published on Nov 1, 2021