Some people just refuse to give up. They are born winners, always rebounding to greater heights. One of them is Mustafa Paramban. A resident of Pulikkal near Malappuram district’s Kondotty, Mustafa has been bound to a wheelchair for the last 15 years. His world came tumbling down when he fell from an areca tree in 2005.
The fall left him paralysed below the waist despite all medical treatment given to him. He was the sole breadwinner of his family. Though he was shocked by the abrupt change to his life, he soon recovered to think about what he can do.
He wanted to earn at least as much to cover his medical expenses. That thought was the genesis of the entrepreneur in him. He found ample support and guidance from the Pulikkal Palliative Care Centre. After an umbrella-making workshop organised by the centre, Mustafa found his calling.
Mustafa was worried about making both ends meet when he heard about the umbrella-making workshop organised by the palliative centre. It was not easy to learn the craft while confined to a wheel-chair. He persisted. He started out by making umbrellas for a day care centre with the raw materials supplied by the centre. He was assured of a fixed price per umbrella. That was in 2007. He later started making umbrellas and branding them. That is how he started his own business.
He had to spend Rs 16,000 as initial investment. He bought raw materials to make 100 umbrellas. He was encouraged to think big thanks to the friends he met on Facebook. They nudged him to start out by making 100 umbrellas. He would send the umbrellas to whoever ordered it on social media.
After dispatching the first batch of his produce, Mustafa was confident that he could think of it as a way of livelihood. He started securing a steady flow of orders thanks to his social media connections. He was helped by Handicrops, a group working to benefit differently abled persons.
Mustafa makes different types of umbrellas, with prices ranging from Rs 220 to Rs 1,700. He makes all of them either sitting in his wheel chair or lying on his bed. That does not compromise on the quality. His customers certify that his umbrellas match any product available in the market when it comes to perfection. He also makes umbrellas with logos printed on them.
Mustafa’s venture is supported by companies and organisations which give him bulk orders. He has fulfilled a bulk order of 700 umbrellas during a Hajj season. The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting disruptions have affected his business but he still manages to make about Rs 8,000 per month.
Mustafa procures his raw materials through courier services. He was relying on courier services to get the raw materials even before the spread of COVID-19. After manufacturing, he sends his products through courier to the customers. Social media is the main market.
Mustafa had diversified into pen making and pickle making. However, he decided to stick to umbrellas because pickles sold on a lower margin. He is able to continue his pen business because he has some benefactors, including government offices, which demand pens in bulk. Mustafa’s pens cost Rs 8 per piece.