The fate of 100 women from Mehedinagar village has transformed for good after fellow villager Shahidul Islam Rana came up with the idea of making plastic cane baskets six years ago.
Rana, from Mehedinagar village under Mirsarai upazila in Chattogram, worked at the Bariarhat Bazar fish market in the upazila for a daily wage of 50 taka from the age of 14. After working for 10 years, he decided to launch his own plastic cane basket business.
In 2014, he started his own business with his savings of Tk20,000, and with the assistance of his fellow villagers Shefali and Parul. Six years on, 100 women from 43 families of the village are engaged with Rana's plastic cane basket business. After completing their household chores, a family produces baskets during their leisure hours to earn Tk10-12,000 a month. 100 women earn Tk5,16,000 in this way.
Rana's business has now scaled up nationwide from his humble beginnings in Bariaharat Bazaar. At present., his capital is Tk5 lakh with a monthly income of Tk35,000 to Tk40,000. With the government's support, he wishes to spread this initiative to different villages of the upazila.
The plastic cane baskets are used to transport fish, vegetables, and other raw materials all over the country, with most frequent use in fish markets. Given the durability of the product, demand is constantly on the rise.
Shahidul Islam Rana told The Business Standard, "I developed the idea of a plastic cane basket while working on a fish farm. In the beginning, I made baskets with some women and sold them at Bariarhat Bazar. Now, these baskets produced in Mehedinagar village are being supplied nationwide. The women of Mehedinagar village have become self-sufficient by making baskets after finishing their household chores."
He said the demand for baskets increases during the monsoon and hilsa seasons. We can't fulfill total demand during those periods. If the government assisted me with low-interest loans, I could expand my venture to other parts of Mirsarai.
Ayesha Begum of Mehedi Nagar village told The Business Standard that she earns Tk10,000 to Tk12,000 a month, making 120 to 150 baskets. My husband is unable to earn a living due to problems with his eyes. I make baskets to meet my household expenses.
Rasheda Akhter, a housewife of the same village, said, "My husband became unemployed after coronavirus hit. Making baskets is now my only source of income. I now earn about Tk6,000 per month."
She said that two-thirds of the women in this village are engaged in making baskets. In between their household chores, Fatema, Asma, Monowara, Nazma, Jahanara, and Aleya, all from the same household, make baskets in groups.
According to these women, each family can make up to 10 baskets a day, selling at Tk100 to Tk700, which varies according to size.
Munashir Ahmed, a union council member from Hinguli Union, said thanks to Rana's endeavour, many women in Mehdinagar village have made baskets to become self-reliant.
Mirsarai Upazila Youth Development Officer Kazi Abdul Alim said, "If Rana is an entrepreneur, we will assist him with the Upazila Youth Development fund."