Poonam Kaur

Adversity made Poonam Kaur a real entrepreneur

Poonam Kaur, 34, is an unusual customer of Village Financial Services: She is a graduate with a B.Ed degree when most borrowers have barely completed school.

Poonam, a resident of Sonar Patti village in Bihar’s Kishanganj district, had to move up the entrepreneurship ladder when local politics ended their first business, a dhaba that her husband Kushal Dev Singh, 41, had been running since 2012.

With a good income stream gone, Kushal set up a warehouse. But the initial income was not good. Poonam did not take long to pick a business. She noticed that women in her area had to buy lingerie from male shopkeepers, which was embarrassing at best. How does one discuss sizes and fittings or even browse a collection?

So Poonam decided to get into the ladies nightwear and lingerie business, with a sprinkling of infant wear.

She got the first loan—just Rs 12,500—from the Kishanganj branch of VFS in November 2019. She mortgaged a bit of gold jewellery and liquidated some savings to get her start-up capital.

She visited the Burrabazar wholesale market in Kolkata and Siliguri’s Hong Kong market to stock her shop. As her business grew, VFS was only too happy to lend more. Her total loan now is Rs 50,000.

She has added salwar suit lengths, kurtis and tops to her range. Today, her cheapest product is a baby dress priced at Rs 50, and the costliest is the salwar-suit length. The best-selling products are the salwar-suit lengths, followed by the lingerie collection.

To get her first customers, Poonam visited the market (her house is some distance away) and a women’s college nearby.

Her husband Kushal does the accounts. A major cement brand has taken his warehouse on rent. The warehouse rentals helped them tide over the first COVID19 lockdowns in 2020 when she had to shut her shop.

Kushal and Poonam have been married for around 14 years and have a son, 12, who is in Class 6.

Poonam earns a net profit of Rs 30,000 a month. Sales peak during Eid (she lives in a Muslim majority area) and the Diwali festival. She employs a woman assistant. Poonam’s shop is unique because it is run by women, but competition is tough as many shops in the market sell the same things.

Poonam also gives private tuition to children from Classes 1 to 6 in all subjects during the lean hours from 4pm to 6pm. Her husband supervises the shop while she teaches the kids upstairs.

Published on Oct 15, 2021 | Updated on Apr 13, 2022