Marium runs an electronics servicing centre. She buys electronic components, makes sound systems and LED lights and sells them
Marium Akter, hailing from Narayanganj, is an entrepreneur. Her venture is not a conventional one that is specially designated for women - stitching, block and batik. Her business is something that is dominated by male.
Marium runs an electronics servicing centre. She buys electronic components, makes sound systems and LED lights and sells them. And the business is growing fast with rising demand.
Started off with the capital of only Tk20,000 as a loan from her brother-in-law 10 years ago, now her revenue stands at around Tk50 lakhs.
The 30-year old entrepreneur's beginning of entrepreneurship was not an easy one. She had to struggle a lot in the last ten years.
Marium has been fascinated towards servicing electronics since her childhood. At the age of eight, she got a chance to get admitted into a technical school run by the Underprivileged Children's Educational Programs (UCEP).
"Almost every household had a radio set or a television set in our childhood. When the electronics would turn malfunctioning, I tried to fix those. This job was very fascinating for me," recollects Marium.
After completing eighth grade, Marium got enrolled to learn electronics servicing in UCEP's Mirpur Technical School. She mastered the skills there in two years.
On the back of her two years' course, she found a job at a television servicing company in the capital's Shamoly. First, she did jobs solely designated for women - inserting parts into circuits boards and so on.
"But I wanted to do the television servicing which was designated for woman. Driven by curiosity, I learned to fix television sets within a few months," said Marium.
Besides facing discrimination, Marium also became a victim of wage gap on the ground of her gender. She got paid less compared to her male counterpart for the same task.
"I used to get Tk1,700 while the starting salary for a male worker was Tk2,000. Suffering discrimination, I decided to leave the job."
"I don't feel women are burden, women are strength. There will be barriers but we have to overcome those barriers," Marium said with confidence.
On a visit to her factory at Narayanganj, this correspondent saw nine female workers inserting electronic components into different circuit boards and fitting LED lights.
Beginning of the journey
In 2000, Marium Akter married Mohammad Mohiuddin, her former colleague from the television servicing company. In 2003, they were blessed with a son but the family began to face financial crisis as their income had already shrunk.
"I could not provide the daily basic needs for my family. I could not buy even milk for my son. I provided khichuri to my son instead of milk," said Marium while tears were rolling down her cheeks.
Meanwhile, her husband Mohiuddin set up a television servicing shop in Old Dhaka but their income was still low to contribute to the family expenses. So, Marium took Tk20,000 loan from her brother-in-law.
One morning, they both went to Nawabpur electronics market in Old Dhaka to buy raw materials, circuit boards and charger of light circuits. They made 20 channel boxes and light chargers. They showed the samples to his familiar shop owners in the market.
All of their manufactured items were sold in a month and the demand for the goods increased.
However, their landlord objected to their manufacturing at their rented house at Rayerbag. He said they would not allow them to produce electronic products as it increases the electricity bills.
"For many days, I had to work behind the curtain in the backside of my husband's shop, even my son accompanied me at work," Marium recalled.
Time has changed. Now 11 women are working in her factory on a regular basis. They get a monthly salary ranging from Tk4,000 to Tk 7,000. Every day, Marium's factory produces 500 pieces of LED bulbs and 100 pieces of sound systems. Now her capital stands at around Tk50 lakhs.
Marium has bought a land in Narayanganj. She built a one-storied building on it and now generating employment for women in the village.
Marium also wants to see her son carrying out the legacy of the business.
"Our only son Ismail Chowdhury has recently completed his SSC exam. He always says that he will not seek a job. He will do the same business," laughs Marium.