From physically challenged student to successful entrepreneur: The tale of Mohua

Zannatul Ferdous Mohua. Photo: Mostafa Shabuj/Star

Zannatul Ferdous Mohua (24), a physically challenged student of Bogura Government Azizul Haque College, has become a successful e-commerce entrepreneur, by exporting several hand-made embroidery products to foreign countries.

Mohua, who is unable to walk, move her hands, or speak clearly, and can only move her fingers, is now selling her products online in over 18 countries and employs 35 women in Bogura's Sherpur upazila.

Her family suffered greatly as a result of her disability at birth, as society opined that Mohua would be a burden to her family.

Despite all odds, Mohua, managed to complete her graduation from the Azizul Haque College's English Department in 2019 and is currently pursuing her master's degree at the same institution.

"We never thought Mohua could study," said Mohua's mother Sahera Bewa (65). "Every day, I used to take her to school and then to college in a wheelchair. People would ask me what Mohua will do after completing her studies, as she is unable to walk."

"When I was an HSC student in 2012, I learned some hand embroidery from my aunty, who lived in the house where we used to live. I was thinking about some financial freedom at the time. Since I made the decision to start a business, it has not been an easy task," said Mohua.

"I taught some students in 2014 and saved Tk 7,000. With that money, I purchased a smartphone in order to launch an online business. I created a Facebook account and began posting my products (bed sheets and salwar kameez) on my wall, but I received little feedback," she said.

"In 2018, I started a Facebook page called Dream Girl Fashion House, which I later changed to Rainbow, and it now has over 5,000 followers," she added.

"Later, I came across an online entrepreneur's group called 'Women and e-commerce trust – We', and they introduced me to their 1.2 million followers. Later, many people from both home and abroad learned about me and I began receiving orders from both domestic and international buyers," said Mohua. "Through We, I also received e-commerce business training from national and international trainers."

Mohua further said, "I now have orders from 18 countries, including the United States of America, Canada, Germany, Australia, England, Japan, Switzerland, and Kuwait. I use courier services to sell hand-embroidered Rajshahi silk, Khadi, and cotton products (saree, panjabi, t-shirts for ladies, Nakshi Kantha, and bed sheets) to foreign customers (mostly Bangladeshis)."

"My domestic and international sales are now over Tk 50,000 to 60,000 and I have employed over 35 women and girl workers," she said.

Jemi Akter, Mohua's employee, earns Tk 10,000 per month. Jemi is a political science 2nd-year student at Azizul Haque College.

Jemi said, "I learned embroidery from my mother, who also works for Mohua. Mohua also teaches me how to sew clothes. In addition to their household duties, five to six women who work at my house with my mother earn Tk 5,000 to Tk 10,000 per month."

Tamanna Tazrin Luba, divisional coordinator of "We" in Rajshahi, said Women and E-Commerce Trust is a Facebook platform that is used all over the world. "We have over 13 lakh entrepreneurs (90 percent of whom are women) in our Facebook group who run domestic and international online businesses."

"We have 250 entrepreneurs in Bogura who sell their products online to domestic and international buyers for more than Tk 10 lakhs per month. Mohua is one of them," said Luba.

"When we realised Mohua was physically challenged, we decided to give her more attention so that when she is older, she won't be able to accuse us of neglecting her," Mohua's mother said.

"My father worked for Uttara Bank Limited in Bogura as a bank manager. My father died when I was an honours student. We never had an economic crisis, but I wanted to do something because my family members have always been told that I am a burden," Mohua said.

"In future, my dream is to open a showroom in Dhaka and another workshop for disabled people like myself. They'll do whatever work they can. I've received a lot of praise from all walks of life, but I have yet to receive any government assistance," she said.

"If I get government assistance (financial), I can employ a lot of women," added Mohua.


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