A homemaker who dreamt of sending her children to an English medium-school is now the boss lady who dreams of expanding her business. Meet Raunaque Jahan Ansari, 46, who set up a leggings manufacturing unit in Bankra, Howrah, overcoming all odds.
Zeal to do something
Raunaque was in Class IX when she was married off at the age of 15 and forced to quit studies. But her eagerness to do something remained. “My husband was always supportive but given that my three children were really small, I didn’t know what to do so that I could manage both house and work,” Raunaque recalled. Her husband is an insurance agent.
Raunaque’s family lived in Bankra, Howrah, where most people earn their livelihood from selling wares at the haat (weekly market). She first thought of selling readymade leggings at the haat but realised that there wasn’t much profit in it. “I had thought of buying leggings from other manufacturers and selling them at the haat. But that would not yield much profit. After talking to my family members, I realised a manufacturing unit would be a better option.”
Journey to become an entrepreneur
In 2010, Raunaque started the journey towards her dream. She named her brand Sumangala Leggings and started the unit with three to four people.
“I had to start somewhere. I borrowed some money to buy raw materials and outsourced the cutting and stitching for the leggings. Initially, the quality of the material was not very good. The cloth used was cheap,” she said.
But soon Raunaque realised that the leggings were tearing after a few washes and she was not getting repeat customers. “It was not working. We had stocks but no buyers. We decided to spend a little more and invest in better quality cloth. That’s when the sales picked up again.”
Over the years, she brought all operations under her unit. Now cutting, stitching and distribution is done at her factory in Bankra. She has about 10 people working under her now. Asked about her role in the business now, she said, “I am more into supervising things in the factory. I am the boss (laughs).”
Sumangala leggings are priced between Rs 90 and Rs 350 and sold at local hosiery shops and markets.
Fighting an orthodox system
Coming from an orthodox background, Raunaque’s achievements have not been easy. “I can’t deny that where I come from, women are not given much freedom. Even though my family was supportive, people around were ready to provoke them. They would say things like ‘women should be at home, look after the children and cook’. But my simple logic was why can’t I do all of it and still do this? I wasn’t neglecting anything for my work,” said Raunaque, who is now helped in her business by her two sons — one 29 and the other 24 years old.
The feisty entrepreneur is also mother to a 19-year-old daughter, whom she is happy to be able to send to college. “My first dream for my children had been to give them an English-medium education. Once my business took off, I put my three of my children into the nearby English-medium school,” she smiled.
Raunaque Jahan receiving award from Dinesh Kumar Khara, chairman of State Bank of India
The boss lady is full of ambition and has recently taken a bank loan to scale up her business. “I want to buy more sewing machines for my unit. The amount will also help improve the quality of products. My biggest takeaway from this business is that quality matters. So I am focusing on quality at affordable pricing for now.”
Ahead of Women’s Day, Raunaque was awarded for her entrepreneurship spirit by VFS Capital, a Kolkata-based leading NBFC-MFI. Dinesh Kumar Khara, chairman of State Bank of India, felicitated her at an event in Kolkata.
Raunaq feels it is important for every woman to become independent. “Times have changed and now every woman, married or not, should be able to earn for themselves and be independent. Financial independence also evokes self-respect which is very important. Don’t wait for respect from someone else, respect yourself first.”