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Entrepreneurship is not always about making it big through ideas, innovation or sheer luck. Meet an entrepreneur who paved her way to dignity and empowerment through entrepreneurship.
Belonging to a remote hamlet of Nanoor, a village in Bhirbhum District of West Bengal, 33 year old Lovely Bibi is an entrepreneur with a difference. Her journey from abject poverty and distress to empowerment and economic independence is a saga fraught with courage and determination. Till few years back Lovely was a house wife trying to make both ends meet with her husband’s paltry income. Belonging to a social group where child marriage is extensive, Lovely also had an early marriage.
Life was difficult for Lovely but not impossible as the husband had a small government job. However, he was diagnosed with mental illness and was eventually laid off. His pension stopped after few years and the family went into utter peril. "Uncertainty of food for her two school going daughters pained Lovely the most as meals started becoming irregular in the family. Kind relatives provided help but that was not enough. The responsibility of feeding the family was suddenly on me,” recounts Lovely.
Art for Livelihood
It was in this hour of crisis that Lovely first took her steps towards entrepreneurship. Birbhum of West Bengal is a hub of Kantha weaving. Simple run stitches at the hands of skilled artists create the magical artwork called, Kantha embroidery. Being a part of the weaving community, Lovely knew the nuances of Kantha weaving since the age of 15.
“Kantha for the Bengali folk means embroidered quilt. The origin of this craft traces its history to a period not less than a thousand years. Since then the tradition has come a long way today when the artistic brilliance of the women artists have found expressions in lifestyle products like saree, dress materials, bed and cushion covers etc. There is a large concentration of the women doing Kantha embroidery in Nanoor block of Birbhum. It has been passed on for generations, from mother to daughter. Evolving from being a subsistence activity done for personal satisfaction it has now metamorphosed into a viable economic opportunity,” shares Lovely, now an established entrepreneur making art her livelihood.
Lovely shares her initial days as an entrepreneur
"My elementary knowledge of weaving learnt in childhood from my sisters was insufficient to make an artist out of me. To further polish and systematize the skills, I joined and completed the Rural Craft Hub (RCH) training and capacity building program run by Banglanatak dot com, a not-for-profit organization in Kolkata. Afterwards I participated in the Diageo-British Council Young Women Social Entrepreneurship Development Programme in Kolkata. This enhanced my knowledge and ability and I was in a position to launch my initiative in 2014."
Lovely is an established business woman today. Her products include saree, dress materials, lifestyle products, jewellery, home decor items and furnishing. She has clients from overseas who come to the exhibitions in Kolkata showcasing her products. She is a role model in her village and has started training the young girls of her village in Kantha weaving. The latest and up to date design techniques and also with the knowledge of market enabled Lovely to sustain her venture for last three years.
Lovely today is bursting with enthusiasm and is imbibed with confidence, vision and pathway for the future. The nondescript housewife from Nanoor has proved that anything is possible if one has the belief in oneself. "Things started changing albeit slowly at first. From second year business gathered momentum and today I have market linkage with a number of shops in my area as well in Kolkata. I have travelled to Goa, Delhi and Bangalore to showcase my products. My daughters are presently being trained in the techniques of the art as well as in marketing and have already started making designer jewellery with Kantha motifs," informs the artist turned entrepreneur.
“I have ensured the next meal for my family, reintroduced the daughters to school and am paying for the treatment of my ailing husband," says Lovely with great fervour. “I want my daughters to be highly educated and will not let them succumb to the pressures of child-marriage like I did. That is what will give me ultimate happiness,” says Lovely as the face radiates with a beautiful smile.
Wind beneath your wings!