The first time a customer ordered tea from Bainabai Sagar’s roadside shop, she was paralyzed by fear. “I was so nervous I forgot to put in the sugar,” she explains. “Everyone was watching me. I had to throw out the chai and make it again.” Since that first day, Bainabai has built a steady customer base and a network of local supporters for her chai business, from which she earns 100 rupees (U.S. $2.22) daily. She sells the thick sweet brew from a beat-up steel table, upon which rests a giant steel teapot, a kerosene stovetop, six small glasses and a small metal box for her earnings.
Forced to leave school and marry at eight years old, Bainabai has overcome many challenges throughout her life, including the daily struggle to support three children on her own. She took whatever work she could find, decorating sandals and purses and earning 5 rupees ($.11) a day and working as a wage laborer earning little more for performing backbreaking labor. When a family illness in 2005 forced her to seek out her first loan of 10,000 rupees ($222), she seized the opportunity to finally establish her own stand selling chai. Her business has flourished, helped in part by the financial literacy training she received through Accion’s Financial Literacy Toolkit and Accion‘Dialogue on Business’ program, which helped her to develop her communication and leadership skills. “Now women come to me for advice about interest and installments.”
In addition to being able to provide for her children, the ability to interact with mainstream society and be treated with respect is one of the best things to have come of her involvement with microfinance.