When an individual is motivated, there is no stopping them. So is the story of Sabita Maharjan of Kirtipur Hosiery Industry. Taking her future in her hands, she started early by learning, training, and teaching. Her ultimate goal is to women empowerment. Let us explore her story.
1. What is the social problem you are trying to solve?
Women’s empowerment is my main motive. In our country, many people are still prejudiced against women and tend to conceive them as household materials. Hence, the need to support women and empower them is a must. I want the woman to be like free birds, neither strangled by the family or society nor confined within the four walls, surrounded by pots and pans.
I try my best to make women independent and strong enough to stand up for their rights. Ninety-nine percent of the employees at Kirtipur Hosiery Industry are women and I hope to see many women entrepreneurs in the future.
2. Can you share with us your venture with Kirtipur Hosiery Industry? When was Kirtipur Hosiery Industry established?
We got registered in 2008. Families with nominal incomes have had a hard time satisfying their basic needs. Children end up being deprived of education and health facilities. However, if women start contributing to the home income, the family can provide for their children with necessities. Women too can look after their own needs without being dependent on their husbands.
I have loved hand knitting and have been making hosiery since the age of thirteen, I started making hand knitted products. The earnings I made from knitting helped me continue my education as it was hard for my family with a single working parent to provide for this luxury.
Knowing that many women in Nepal needed help and support to live a better life, I started Kirtipur Hosiery Industry, employing and training as many women as possible. We have a sewing department, which has been able to meet the standards for brands like John Players and Springwood we happen to be our clients as well.
3. How did you raise funds to start your business?
Before Kirtipur Hosiery Industry, I opened a co-operative from the funds raised by the women, whom I had educated and trained. Each month a sum of Rs. 100 was collected from them for the next 3 years.
The amount at the end of the period was used to open the co-operative. We provided a maximum loan of Rs.50,000 to the women in need. I had borrowed a loan of Rs.50,000 from the co-operative to start Kirtipur Hosiery.
4. When you first started, how many employees did you start with and what is your current employee strength?
Initially, we had 8 women working with us, who are from this village itself. After helping them learn the necessary skills, they became my support system. That’s how we started out. Depending on the project, we work with around 500-600 women for six months, as hand knitting is a seasonal occupation. To sustain the business during the off-season, we continue with the garment project.
5. Can you give us an estimate of your investment until the date? What stage do you think the company is in right now?
It is somewhere around 1.2 crore. Counting the years, we are still tiny. The journey till present has not been easy and I hope to keep on growing.
6. Were there any challenges that you faced while starting the business?
Registration was the bottleneck for us as we knew nothing about the legal requirements and processes. Thus, I worked as an agent for fourteen years. Later on, I got affiliated with BSC and was finally able to register the company with a budget of 3 lakhs borrowed from the Clean Energy Development Bank. We faced many complications due to the absence of collateral for the loan.
Since we were new in this field and did not know much about the policies, we had to pay lump sum fines too. If the basic knowledge regarding the firm’s registration and the policies had been given to us, we would not have faced these problems.
7. Are there still any challenges that you are facing?
Honestly, the challenges have increased with the size of the business. The problem is related to funds and having to repay loans with a higher interest. Due to investment issues, we cannot enter the big market. Moreover, the competition is already high considering the current position.
8. What do you think is the market potential for your business? What are the key needs of your company now?
I think the market potential is good, both locally and internationally. Garments usually go to the local market to brands like John Players and Springwood while hand knitted products are more suitable for the international market.
Currently, our main requirement is the market for our products.
9. Who are your target customers? How many customers do you have monthly?
We classify our target customers into two groups- domestic and international. Hand knitted products are a little expensive and local markets fail to understand that. So we focus on exports of those products. As for garments, we target the local market.
We have about 24 regular customers who buy our products in bulk on an annual basis.
10. How is the company performing currently? Do you have any plans with Kirtipur Hosiery Industry?
We are not yet done paying the loans off and the interest is high as well. To make sound earnings while doing that is not possible for us. The company sometimes has a hard time sustaining as well. If not for the high-interest loans, the company would have been doing good by now.
We have thought of directly exporting our products to the international markets but the barriers to entry are high. Thus, we are hoping to enter that market pretty soon.
11. Do you consider yourself a social entrepreneur? Is there any other information you would like to share with people?
Yes, definitely! Kirtipur Hosiery Industry is a social business and that, I think, is the main reason we have not been able to sustain easily, as there seems to be little or no support to social entrepreneurs.
We always have to remember that life is difficult but we are tougher. So, even if it does not appear like it is your day, do not ever surrender because one day, it is going to be ‘Your Day’!
For more information about this company, connect with Sabita Maharjan at email@example.com.
Interviewed and article by Ashmita Rai