By Rohit Upendra Arya, Ujjivan Financial Services
Few years ago, Devi Sharan, a resident of Chandpur- Nayagaon in Bulandshahr district of Western Uttar Pradesh was forced out of business due to irregular weaving orders of chairs and cots, a task which he had mastered in the last several years. Together with his wife Krishna Devi, they were barely able to meet family requirements through a petty shop serving around 20 households due to locational disadvantage and occasional support of the weaving orders received periodically.
Krishna was unable to work, as she had a new born baby to look after and this made their life more miserable coupled with their physical disability. Due to congenital defects, thirty two years old Devi Sharan is unable to see from left eye and can see blurred images from his right eye upto one feet distance only. Twenty seven years old, Krishna is also visually impaired with one eye and she could see with right eye only.
According to one of their neighbour Gyanwati Devi, “Generally, we have seen such physically disable people begging on the streets, and they make easy money by making wretched faces. But Devi & Krishna took a bold step to open a petty shop from his house without assistance from his family. Devi Sharan has two elders brothers- Surender & Sukhbeer. Surender is a daily wage labourer and Sukhbeer is a mason worker. All three brothers are staying in the same compound but have different kitchens and have one room each for their family. ”
The inadequate working capital led them to purchase goods every morning resulting in lesser return on investment. They had to walk long distances for fetching goods daily and it was tedious task bringing goods and moving on the road was risky as well for them.
About two years ago, when they were passing through a difficult period of life, they came to know that few women from her street has taken a loan from Ujjivan, a leading urban microfinance company in India, working for betterment of urban poors. This prompted Krishna and Devi Sharan to join a group alongwith their neighbours in the vicinity for a loan of Rs 8,000 from Ujjivan,
Devi Sharan used this loan for expanding their petty shop business which is a major source of earning from them. After taking this loan, they were able to buy in bulk and enhance their product ranges and hence customers from neighbourhood also started pouring in resulting to coverage of around 100 households currently.
According to Devi Sharan, “Earlier, I used to bring goods from the market daily, which has now converted into fortnightly, which means enhanced earning on wholesale rate and reduced stress of daily purchase. We were able to meet our working capital requirement for this business.”
On asking the benefit of the loan from Ujjivan, the couple replied, “Loan from Ujjivan has helped us a lot. We were able to expand our business and hence the earning as well. Earlier, we used to sell goods worth Rs 250/- and save 10% of this amount. Now it has gone up by three times and hence the earning has also multiplied.”
“Devi Sharan was born in this house only and he got married to Krishna with the help of his brothers and a neighbour in the village about four years ago. Krishna is a resident of a small village in Varanasi district of eastern Uttar Pradesh. Mother tongue of Krishna is Bhojpuri and hence sometimes we fail to understand. But when it comes to repayment and attending the centre meetings, she is always on time without fail,” said Laxmi Devi another Ujjivan’s customer, who is also member in her group.
“After first cycle loan, Krishna took a top-up and thereafter she could have taken a loan of Rs 12,000/- but she and her husband refused for this and instead opted for a second loan of Rs 10,000/- only, citing their capacity to repay the loan,” added Laxmi Devi.
Devi Sharan is a very dutiful husband who is doing his best to make a happy family. Recently Krishna was suffering from Typhoid and Devi Sharan had to shell out about Rs 4500 for her treatment. Due to this, she has become very weak and skinny also. But despite this, like every year, they go to her native village in the Varanasi district to see Krishna’s parents. This year also, Krishna is determined to visit her parents’ house on the occasion of Raksha Bandhan (a festival of north India, in which sister ties holy strings on brother’s hand and brother promises to do his bit for his sisters well beings).
They complement each other at work, if husband fails to serve customers properly then wife helps and very often customers are also considerate and cooperate them as per requirement. Now they often go to the market together and come back by rickshaw with goods for their shop. During emergency, they buy from Bhood Chauraha else they go to Bhura market for the same.
Though you may ponder that Devi can be fooled by giving him a fake note, but this is simply not possible. Perhaps he has developed very good understanding of currency note and hence he identifies them all by touching and blurred images of right eye.
Even though, Devi Sharan and Krishna are illiterate but have become astute business persons as they display only those goods which are in demand. They keep the rest in the safe place away from others sight. According to them, this is necessary to avoid people asking for credit. Though they credit but to only those who keep promises to payback on time.
Intervention of microfinance has helped a large number of needy people, Krishna Devi and Devi Sharan has also been benefitted immensely through this and they are very proud of this achievement. After lots of struggle, they have been able to earn and make a decent and respectable lifestyle for them, which is hard to imagine in case of such physical disability. They are now determined to make their daughter self-sufficient and lead a better life, no matter how hard they have to work for this.