Meet Sukumar Pal
Client of Accion partner Swadhaar FinServe
There are entrepreneurs, and then there are, well, entrepreneurs. Sukumar Pal, Mumbai fishmonger, falls squarely into the second category.
One could easily miss Pal altogether. He reaches maybe 5’4” in his bare feet, which glisten with the silvery, coin-sized fish scales lying scattered across his workspace. That space is a plastic-tarp-covered, open-air stall on a crowded market street that reverberates with the whines and beeps of motorbikes and ‘auto-ricks’. If the noise doesn’t distract, the 95 degree heat will, or the malodorous smells, or the mud underfoot. And to miss Pal would be a shame, because he stands as an exemplar of self-improvement.
Every morning at 4:00am, Pal makes a 25-minute trip by taxi or auto-rick to the city’s central fish market, where he purchases more than 400 lbs of fish, in as many as 10 to 12 varieties. Then he returns here to sell it –not in one, but in no less than three, separate stalls. Two of the stalls sit just across the street from his home – one open in the morning, the other in the afternoon. The third is 10 minutes away in yet another market. He employs no fewer than six men to help him. And he has done this every day, seven days a week, for the last 18 years.
Not long ago, the fish seller heard from a friend about small loans offered by Accion partner Swadhaar FinServe. For the first time in his life, he borrowed some working capital – 13,000 rupees, or about $285. He wanted it for what he calls ‘rolling the inventory’ – buying in bulk. He pulls out a small red notebook and shows it to us, his index finger dancing over the figures on each page. He explains in Hindi how he plans to pay off this first loan two months early, so that next time he can borrow even more, on better terms.
Sukumar's business today provides enough income not only to employ half a dozen men, but, more immediately, also to pay the 25,000 rupees per month in school fees required to send his three children, currently in 4th, 5th and 6th grades, to an English-speaking school. And that, as everyone in modern India knows, is a key to many doors.
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