Pockets of Change
Tyre repairer’s ride to glory
Md Fazlur Rahman
Tajnahar Begum came to Dhaka more than 12 years ago to help out her husband, who worked at a rubber factory.
The couple thought the move would help better run the factory as his lone income was not enough to make ends meet.
Tajnahar set up a tyre repairing factory. The single-handed entrepreneur gave the workshop a strong foundation within three years.
On Saturday last, she went on to winning the ‘Best Microentrepreneur of the Year’ award.
Funded by Citi Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Citigroup, and jointly managed by Citibank NA and the Credit and Development Forum, the Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards are designed to recognise individuals and microfinance institutions.
Tajnahar also received prize money worth Tk 350,000 and a certificate to acknowledge her efforts.
The mother of three said the journey was not easy. She faced many hurdles to reach where she is standing today.
“At first, we used to manufacture rubber rollers at a factory from raw materials and sell the items. But the problem was that the factory did not do our job first, which made us uncompetitive.”
“So, we decided to set up a factory on our own. We got a machine at Tk 90,000. We borrowed some money from relatives and took loans from a microfinance institution as we did not have the money to make a start.”
“The machine helped us prepare our own products as well as do outside work. We were able to pay all our loan instalments.”
Tajnahar started with Tk 50,000 to set up the factory to produce rubber, whereas she required Tk 5 lakh.
People were not so enthusiastic about running a rubber roller business, as the raw materials needed to be sourced from local sources, who charged high prices. Besides, the prices of rubber were going up. “Prices would have been much lower if we could import the raw materials.”
Three years ago, the idea of repairing old tyres and giving them a new look struck her. “I had some money at that time. I also took a loan from a microfinance institution and set up a tyre repairing shop.”
Later on, when her business kicked off, she recruited a number of people to help meet orders.
Tajnahar, who comes from Feni, repairs about 30 tyres a day now. She employs 13 people in her rented factory in Shonir Akhra, Dhaka.
She learnt the tricks of the trade from her husband, who left his job at a rubber roll producing factory to give time to her business.
Tajnahar said she now requires Tk 12 lakh to buy a sophisticated machine that will help her produce good quality rubber rollers.
“Now I am repairing small tyres. I want to repair bigger tyres, which will be used in truck and buses. But it all requires money. So we need help.”
Tajnahar said she has to pay a lot of money in factory rent. “I pay Tk 18,500 a month in rent. I will also need more space if I want to set up a factory for bigger tyres.”
She plans to set up a factory where bigger tyres would be repaired in future.
She buys old tyres from hawkers. The repaired tyres are used in CNG-rickshaws, cars and microbuses.
Tajnahar said profits are limited in the small tyre repairing business. “The profit is higher in case of bigger tyres. It would have been good if I could undertake large tyre repairs.”
She said the prices of rubber roll have gone up. As a result, the profit margin has shrunk. “So we are not focusing much on selling the item outside.”
She said her factory mostly uses the rubber roll being produced. However she also sells the item to some outside buyers.
She does not have a showroom now. People collect the repaired tyres from the factory itself.
Tajnahar said she has faced a lot of trouble in giving the business a strong foothold. “Financial insecurity was the main problem. There were times when I had no money. Running the family was tough, let alone the factory. Extortionists also created problems.”
Now Tajnahar does not face such problems. She can manage the finances and her factory runs fairly smoothly.
Tajnahar said her husband was always on her side to help keep the business growing.
She said she did not try her luck in any factory because it would have been tough to look after the young children. “As I run the factory I can manage both the business and the family.”
The 33-year-old said the Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards has given her more encouragement.
“Now I am a more confident person. I will now focus more on the business.”
Tajnahar, who could not continue studies as she got married at a young age, said she would use the money to grow her business.