India Interior

When tailoring becomes the stitch in time

Tina Edwin | Updated on February 08, 2019

Suman Singh at her tailoring unit

Skilling helps women in Rajasthan and Haryana become financially independent

It is not every day that a woman from the conservative Jat community in rural Rajasthan manages to shatter the glass ceiling — and become a successful businesswoman with a tailoring unit that gets orders from the likes of fashion retail brands such as FabIndia and Biba and hypermarket chains such as Big Bazaar and More.

But Suman Singh, 42, has managed to do that and more. Her enterprise, Kirti Crafts, named after her 17-year-old daughter, had a turnover of about ₹16 lakh last year, with a profit of about ₹4 lakh. She has got the business registered as a proprietary enterprise, and under the Udyog Aadhaar scheme of the Ministry of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME) since 2018, about two years after it was set up.

Suman Singh’s success story is something that many voluntary organisations hope to replicate through skill and entrepreneurial development efforts. She hasn’t had many years’ education but had the drive to do something to provide for her two children after she walked out of an unhappy marriage and returned to her parents’ home. It also helped that she had a keen interest in stitching, embroidery and designing outfits and very supportive parents. Suman was able to give wings to her dreams thanks to her association with Lupin Human Welfare and Research Foundation and their support.

Currently her unit, housed on the first floor of her parents’ home in Konrer, a village in Bharatpur, employs about 40 people, including five men. She is set to expand the unit by constructing more rooms and investing in more sewing machines with the profits she is making and a bank loan. Once that is done, the unit will have about 100 employees. “I am also planning my own label of readymade garments to gain from the high margins to be earned from selling directly to customers,” Suman told this writer.

Mewat’s turning point

Across the State border, in Taoru tehsil of Haryana’s Mewat district, women are being trained to stitch, embroider and make handicrafts, all of which can help them earn and become relatively financially independent. They learn to stitch shirts and pants, especially for uniform for school children and security guards, as well as create products such as bags of various kinds from waste fabric.

The project is run by Udaipur-based NGO Vishvas Sansthan, with the active support of UNDP under its Disha Project and public sector RITES Ltd’s corporate social responsibility programme.

Vishvas Sansthan is running three such training and production centres in the area.

A view of Mewat skill training centres and the products the women produce Tina Edwin


The centre at Rathiwas village, set up less than three months ago, is proposed to be converted into a village organisation (grameen sangathan) in the coming months to encourage women to take ownership and responsibility for running it. “Vishvas will continue to support it with orders and marketing even after the transfer of ownership,” its director for projects, Shekhar Kumar, said. It is a model that was tested earlier in Udaipur.

If the plans succeed, it will be a ground-breaking achievement in Mewat, considered India’s most backward district and one that continues to hold on to gender stereotypes where women are expected to restrict themselves to traditional roles of keeping house and collecting firewood for cooking. Working outside the homes is forbidden. They are also expected to keep their heads always covered.

Earn as you learn

Tailoring is a craft that is taught to women at most skill development centres across the country and studies show that it is also a skill that most girls hope to acquire – not necessarily to earn a living but to be able to stitch basic garments for the family.

In Taoru tehsil of Haryana’s Mewat district, women are trained to stitch, embroider and make handicrafts, to help them earn a livelihood


Organisations such as Lupin Foundation and Vishvas Sansthan and others have thus designed their programmes to not just teach the skill but also give the women a chance to use the skill to earn even as they are perfecting the craft. And, the money — even as little as ₹50-100 a day — is changing attitudes and marking a turning point in the lives of the women and their families.

Lupin, for instance, has two levels of skill training. Under a three-month basic-level programme, women are taught to stitch items such as cushion covers, petticoats and blouses as also maintenance of their sewing machines. At the advanced level, conducted at a training-cum-production centre, women create more complex garments and designs.

Helping hand from trainer

The trainer is usually someone who is attached to a factory and therefore brings in orders as well, which mostly comprise uniforms for students and security guards. Women here are paid on a per piece basis.

Lupin Foundation also encourages the trainer to turn entrepreneur, set up his or her own unit and hire some of the women, explained Puneet Verma of Lupin Foundation, who oversees the project. Suman Singh is a product of this process.

The Vishvas Sansthan-UNDP- RITES projects too put women through various levels of training. The beginner’s training involves making basic shopping bags, which are sold in Rajasthan where use of plastic bags is prohibited. A woman can earn about 40 paise stitching a bag.

As the women go through training ranging from 40 to 90 days, as well as earning along the way, their skills are graded.

Those found particularly neat are given more complex tasks like stitching the back pockets of trousers. Those found incapable of stitching neat straight lines are taught handicrafts, including making embroidered key rings that are sold internationally for as much as $1.50. The women earn ₹10-20 per piece. The profits from sales are used to pay for training and fabric, making the unit self-sustaining.

Skill training has been a liberating process for most women, the earnings are used variously — to refill a gas cylinder, pay school fees, buy essentials and even save. It has also shown women various possibilities.

The writer was in Bharatpur at the invitation of Lupin Human Welfare and Research Foundation and in Mewat at the invitation of UNDP

Published on February 08, 2019

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