A Look Into The Lives of Tailors Who Benefited From Micro-Loans

October 16, 2016
By Rang De Team
Tailors like Jayshree More work 16 hours a day, running two other businesses alongside tailoring

Over the last eight years, you have helped us disburse over 5000+ loans to tailors across India especially in the states of Maharashtra, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Karnataka.

A profession popular among women in rural areas, tailoring is usually taken up as a means to add to the family income that usually hovers near the poverty line. Most women learn the skill at a young age while others join training centres when their children grow up and go to school.

Women in rural areas take up tailoring since it can provide a lifelong source of income for them. Unlike agriculture or dairy farming, tailoring does not depend on external factors and only their skill and the longevity of their machine matters.

Of the total tailoring loans disbursed, over 1500 loans have been disbursed in Yavatmal district in Maharashtra. Our field partner SAGRAS based in Pusad, Maharashtra have informed us that women take up tailoring since it enables them to work from home.

In many communities, we have also noted that a working woman who steps out of the home is not accepted as they face opposition from society.

The need for affordable capital

Since most of these women come from poor families, they rarely have savings they can dip into in order to invest in their businesses. They usually depend on loans to purchase sewing machines and raw materials like needles, threads and cloth.

It doesn’t take much to start a tailoring business. All women require is the skill to stitch, a sewing machine, some needle and a thread. Once their initial investment problems are solved, they face the bigger problem of attracting customers.

A small board outside their house advertising their work is a distant dream to many rural tailors. Investing between Rs 5–10K to print a board is not feasible and so they stick to publicity through word of mouth.

The number of women taking up tailoring in rural areas also exceeds the demand for tailored garments so they have to provide excellent customer service and sometimes paradoxically take too few assignments so that they can complete them in time and keep their customers happy.

The income of these tailors depends extensively on customers and the number of garments they stitch in a month. With limited number of customers, such tailors only make between Rs 2,000–4,000 every month.

For tailors like Tara Khatun, spending hours in front of their sewing machine under dim light is an everyday task.

There is vast disparity in tailoring charges in rural and urban areas.

Tara Kahtun, a tailor in Banaspatti a village in Bihar charges Rs 20 for every blouse that she stitches. She could have earned thrice the amount in a city but the income of people in rural areas is low and it is necessary for tailors like Tara to keep that in mind.

With large families to feed, their income is insufficient after accounting for expenses and so they are left with no savings to re-invest in raw materials forcing them to take new loans.

Many such women often start looking for newer income generation opportunities and secondary businesses once they acquire sufficient experience.

Jayshree More, a borrower from Maharashtra had been tailoring for a while when she decided to start selling artificial jewellery from her house. Her initial customer base were the women customers living nearby who came to get clothes stitched.

With an increase in customers, she decided to spend money on a hoarding outside her house and started a third business venture selling readymade garments and saris.

Running three businesses is challenging and Jayshree puts in 16 hours every day apart from the time she spends doing housework.

But not all families are supportive like Jayashree’s and such successes are few and far between.

The investment on their machines provide an amazing return in the lives of these women but it is a monthly struggle for them to sustain their businesses

A Social Investment on a tailor could help them grow their businesses, increase their stock and even focus on marketing.

Do invest in the tailors of rural India so that they can stick to one source of income and not overburden themselves with more work.

Your contributions have helped us provide loans to 5,024 tailors, many of whom are now able to earn a decent income and give their children a proper education. Help us reach out to more tailors from across India.

Rang De is transitioning from a charitable trust to a Non Banking Financial Company. Check out our brand new peer-to-peer lending platform rangde.in