Pimki Kuman learned to sew with a simple needle and thread – mostly from her mother and grandmother. She also spent many hours watching tailors at work as she passed by their shops. For years, she’s been doing piece work for them and making only a small cut of their profits. But she just took out her first loan of 15,000 rupees ($250) from Accion partner Saija. With it, she purchased two used electric sewing machines and set up shop in her very own stall, shoehorned between apartment buildings on a quiet residential street in a neighbourhood outside of Patna, Bihar.
Pimki’s new sewing machines have allowed her to double production and she is now making 8-9 cholis – sari blouses – daily. She’s also been able to employ one person to help her and is ready to meet the demands of the high season through December, when it gets colder and sales drop off. While it’s too soon to see a change in her standard of living, she’s optimistic. “I know I’ll face success one day.”
Women swing by her stall to drop off fabric for new cholis; cottons, satins, and silks. Some request everyday wear and others order designer patterns with detailed adornments for special occasions. With her next loan, Pimki plans to increase her margins and save time by buying greater quantities of thread, sequins, beads, and other materials from wholesalers rather than from a nearby retail shop.
Pimki lost her husband years ago and faces the pressures of raising her 11-year-old daughter on her own. “When there are problems in front of you, you get smart,” Pimki reflects. And it is clear that she is making smart decisions: supporting her daughter’s education and setting the stage for her own financial growth.