Asma's Handicrafts Initiative
Asma Mahbub Moni, an educated young lady, through hard work and determination, has become a successful small entrepreneur and has even managed to export her produce abroad.
Now she has become something of a role model for other young women interested in enterprise. Asma started her venture with a small amount of money in 2002 after renting a house in the district town.
Born on December 10, 1978 at Hemdah Shikarpur under the Sadar upazilla of Jhenaidah district, the twenty-eight year old Asma graduated from Jessore Mohila College in 1999. Subsequently, she got married to Mahbub Hossain Shiru who at the time was unemployed. For some time, neither of them could find work, but eventually Mahbub who had a strong interest in painting had the idea of starting a handicrafts business.
Once Asma was in an Aarong show room in Dhaka and the Aarong employees were impressed by the designs of the clothes she and her husband were wearing. They happened to have been designed by her husband. Hearing this, the employees suggested that they contact Swadeshi Aarong, another handicraft firm in Dhaka. Swadeshi Aarong was impressed by their work and placed an order of order Tk. 20,000 right away. The couple worked for the firm over the next several months.
Later, the two decided to start their business in Mymensingh, after considering doing it in a few other districts. They finally started the firm “Shuchili” in 2002 with an initial investment of Tk. 30,000.
On Pahela Baishakh in 2002, they attended a Baishakh fair in Mymensingh at the campus of Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU). The former Vice-Chancellor of BAU Professor Md. Mustafizur Rahman appreciated their handicrafts and later got her a job at the BAU Extension Center. Asma has since held three solo exhibitions of her handicraft products at BAU. She also attends fairs held in the district town marking different occasions including Pahela Baishakh and Eid. Her husband helps to make various designs of the handicraft items.
Now different kinds of products like saris, punjabis and fatuas for both men and women, t-shirts, ladies shawls, bed covers, cushion covers, nakshi kantha etc are made by the firm. The bed covers and nakshi kantha in particular have found demand in the United States and Canada.
Asma now needs more funding and has managed to get some from the Association of Social Advancement (ASA), an NGO last year. “I took Tk.1,50,000 from ASA Mymensingh district office under its Small Entrepreneurs loan program. Mira Ghosh of ASA, helped me out a lot”, said Asma.
Now on average, Asma sells handicraft products of Tk. three lakh per month and sales usually double during the holidays.
Some 350 female workers from Sadar and Trishal upazilas of Mymensingh are now involved with Asma's firm. Asma trains all her workers on handicrafts and pays her workers at least Tk. 2500 to 3000 monthly, she said.
Rahima and Ruma, two students from poor families in Balashpur in Sadar upazilla now cover their expenses by making handicrafts for Shuchili. Kulsum, another young girl from a poor family of Beltali village in Sadar upazilla also supports her family with her income at Shuchili.
“If the firm can be expanded, surely it will create more employment for the poor rural women, but right now it needs more funding.
We cannot afford the loans from NGOs so we really need the government to help us out with low-interest loans, and only then can we secure the firm's future”, said Asma.
(R) thedailystar.net 2007