Saturday, November 26, 2011

Allo fiber leads woman from rags to riches

Around 18 years ago, when Chitra Kali Budha Magar had to fold her retail store in Domti, Pyuthan district, she had a feeling she didn´t have the ´it´ factor to become a successful businesswoman.

The experience was pretty depressing for her at that time, as the shop was her first business venture in life and its fall had also crumbled her hopes of reaching new heights in life.

Yet she tried to console herself saying the opportunity to run a store was a windfall, which was blown away by another blast of wind.

Magar, who´s now 44, had entered into business not out of keen interest, but out of serendipity.

It took place around 19 years ago, when one of her husband´s best friends gave her rice worth Rs 50,000 for free. At that time she and her husband had just migrated to Domti from their native Seuli Bang village in Pyuthan district. Since both of them were jobless, she decided to sell the rice by opening a shop.

The shop was doing fine in the beginning. Then gradually many of her customers started purchasing goods in credit. "Later, these very people started defaulting on the payment," Magar said, explaining how the fall of her store began. "And I lost almost Rs 17,000."

After the store folded up, the Magar duo migrated to Bahane Bazar, where they rented a room and started doing odd jobs like selling paddy and wheat.
This went on for around four years and in 2000 due to peer pressure she decided to join a micro-enterprise group, run by UNDP´s Microenterprise Development Program.

"Under the program, I was given a collateral-free loan of Rs 10,000 via Agricultural Development Bank Limited for which I had to pay an interest of 8 percent per annum," Magar, a high school dropout, said.

She used the money to put up a roof of corrugated sheets on four anas of land, which was given to her by a local teacher, and started running a small restaurant.
This time, her business did exceptionally well and she started making around Rs 2,500 to Rs 3,000 every three-day by selling delicacies made of water buffalo.

"Although most of the money I used to earn used to go on household expenses and tuition fees of my two children, I managed to save Rs 10,000 in a year after clearing the debt," Magar said.

Then she took another collateral-free loan of Rs 10,000 under the same program. This time she decided to venture into another business: selling yarn made of allo (Himalayan Nettle).

Allo yarn was gradually gaining popularity at that time as it was one of the crucial raw materials used in the making of hand-knotted woolen carpets and allo textile.
To collect the yarn, Magar took help of her friends and fellow villagers of Magar community, who used to hold inventories of the material to manufacture traditional costume known as ´gara´.

"Initially, I started on a small scale, selling around 10 kg of yarn per year," she said. Each kilogram of allo yarn used to cost her Rs 300, which she used to sell for Rs 400.

Gradually she started widening her customer base and the following year her sales surged to one quintal.

"Business was getting better and I had started saving around Rs 35,000 per year," she said. "But the business environment was not that great because of insurgency."

According to her, she had to pay "a tax of Rs 5 on each kg of yarn to Maoists" in those days. "The process of transporting the goods was even more cumbersome, as I used to get harassed by security personnel who used to make a mess out of our cargo in the name of security check," Magar said.

Things went on like this and the security checks and Maoists taxations started becoming regular affair for her.

Then in 2005, she took a big leap and bought a machine for Rs 70,000 to manufacture allo textiles.

Although she had bought the unit after undergoing allo textile manufacturing training for a year, she wasn´t able to reap much benefit from it as "most of the textile that I was manufacturing didn´t meet the market standard".

"Initially, I thought I was duped into buying a low-grade machine, until one of the instructors - under whom I had undergone textile manufacturing training - visited me and said I had installed it the wrong way," she said. "By that time I had already suffered a loss of Rs 100,000."

But since that time her business has been growing. Now, she sells almost 3-5 quintals of allo yarn per month for Rs 800 per kg and produces six meters of allo textile per day which she sells for Rs 850 per meter. She has also started making caps, bags, mobile pouches, table mats and ladies belts.

Over the years, she has also built a house worth around Rs 4 million on the same 4 anas of land which was given to her by the local teacher. "The price of land was around Rs 40,000 at that time which I have already returned," Magar said.

Now, two of her sons have also grown up and are studying in Kathmandu. She spends almost Rs 30,000 per month on them. "And after deducting all the expenses, I can save around Rs 100,000 per year," Magar, who was recently elected as the president of National Allo Entrepreneurs Association, said.

For her, life has been good so far but she fears a weed known as ´banmara jhar´, which is growing in the forest, may destroy allo plants in the forest in her hometown. "If the plants are destroyed, it will have direct impact on our business as well as livelihood," she said.

Source: myrepublica.com

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