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The woman who led one of the most successful textile businesses in West Bengal

5 April, 2023 17:02:40
The woman who led one of the most successful textile businesses in West Bengal

The discernible past of the world portrays a long line of women who have broken out of the mould and have fought for their place, cementing their invaluable position in the annals of history. From Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Marie Curie to Ritu Karidhal to Lila Majumdar, there are countless instances where women’s zeal overcame all obstacles to achieve the unachievable.

Sometimes, the determination to accomplish one’s dreams is all it takes to bring out the extraordinary in oneself. This is most evident in Howrah’s own Raunaque Jahan Ansari, the woman who overcame incredible odds to become a successful entrepreneur in her own right . The 46-year-old created a leggings manufacturing unit in Bankra, Howrah, and is now fulfilling her long-standing dream of sending her children to an English-medium school.

Raunaque Jahan Ansari

Raunaque Jahan Ansari is someone who doesn’t back down from a scuffle with life. Married off at the tender age of 15, Raunaque was in Class IX when she had to shelve her education. However, intent on proving her worth, she was always eager to learn new skills. Despite a supportive husband who works as an insurance agent, she had to look after her three young children. But that never stopped her from trying hard to bring home the bread.

The residents of Bankra, Howrah, mainly earn a living by selling products at the haat (the weekly market. Raunaque decided to participate in this organic economy by offering readymade leggings. However, the downward cost-effectiveness of the venture led her to rethink her strategy. Purchasing the clothes from manufacturers and selling them at the haat would not leave much room for a sizable profit, if at all any. Raunaque discussed the issue with her family and came up with the idea to create her own manufacturing unit to produce leggings. 

Guided by Raunaque, the manufacturing unit officially opened in 2010. Christened Sumangala, Raunaque geared up to fulfil her dreams with three or four people and began production. She borrowed money to purchase the materials needed to create the clothes and outsourced the cutting and stitching process. However, the poor quality of the material caused rapid tears in the leggings and the lack of longevity began to affect the fledgling company. Once she chose to upgrade the quality of the material, even her surplus stock began to fly off the shelves as the number of buyers clamouring for Sumangala leggings began to grow exponentially.

Raunaque made the decision to bring in all operations under her manufacturing unit. It took years, but now the Bankra unit oversees all cutting, stitching, and distribution under one roof. With 10 workers under her supervision, Raunaque is undeniably the boss of her factory.

Perhaps what pushed the entrepreneur to establish and dominate the business was the drive to break through all patriarchal barriers. Despite the disapproval of the people around them, Raunaque’s family pushed her to achieve her dreams no matter what. Now, her two sons - one 29 and the other 24 years old - help her out while her daughter can pursue higher education. Raunaque has accomplished her wish to see her children study at an English-medium school and is proud that her daughter is able to attend college, something she never had the chance to experience.

The businesswoman intends to expand her business further. With a recent boost in the form of a bank loan to help her get the ball rolling, Raunaque aims to increase the number of sewing machines for her factory. They will help improve the quality of her materials more than ever. Quality and affordability are the two principles that drive the entrepreneur. Sumangala leggings cost between Rs 90 and Rs 350. They are available at local hosiery shops and markets.

Ahead of Women’s Day 2023, Raunaque received an award for her entrepreneurial spirit from VFS Capital, a Kolkata-based leading NBFC-MFI. Felicitated by Dinesh Kumar Khara, chairman of State Bank of India, Raunaque is just now receiving her due for her hard work. Perhaps what is remarkable is her tenacity to attain higher grounds and empower women by rooting for financial independence. After all, as Raunaque believes, respect can only be garnered by overcoming all odds and setting oneself free.

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