Ruma Devi: India’s award-winning rural fashion designer who has made 22,000 women self-dependent

  • Ruma Devi is not a representative of the elite and sophisticated class. In fact, she is a villager who has studied till standard eight. She sports no upmarket but traditional attire that even includes a headcover with a veil, something that India’s shy middle- and lower-class women still carries as part of their social dressing.
Ruma Devi: India’s award-winning rural fashion designer who has made 22,000 women self-dependent
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A woman who is successful and knows her rights is independent and modern. Ruma Devi

It is never easy for a woman entrepreneur to achieve success in the world of business — a male-dominated field. A woman venturist finds all sorts of challenges lined up before her once she decides to compete to make an identity for herself. From funding to public relations — a woman entrepreneur has to overcome more challenges compared to her male counterparts. Yet, there are businesswomen who refuse to get intimidated or bogged down by these challenges and go on to make a mark for themselves and inspire several others like them to make it big. One such woman is Ruma Devi, an award-winning designer from India. 

Ruma Devi is not a representative of the elite and sophisticated class. In fact, she is a villager who has studied till standard eight. She sports no upmarket but traditional attire that even includes a headcover with a veil, something that India’s shy middle- and lower-class women still carries as part of their social dressing. But these are not Ruma Devi’s real identities. What is important is that she has helped around 22,000 women in Rajasthan, one of India’s developing states, self-dependent economically. The 30-year-old woman is a rural fashion icon who has challenged and broken the traditional thinking to find as her client top designers from across the world. She has won a series of awards in recent times for her contribution towards bettering the lives of other women and in the country’s rural life and for her professional skills. Ruma has been honored with the Jankidevi Bajaj Puraskar Award 2019, ‘Designer of the year’ title at Textile Fair India 2019 and Nari Shakti National Award 2018.  
 
Life, however, was always challenging for Ruma Devi till she made it big. Born in a poor family, Ruma lost her mother at the age of four and after her education was over when she dropped out of the school, she got married when she was still a minor. She even lost her first child and then concentrated on embroidery, a work that she always loved, to give her life a new direction. “When I gave birth to my first child, I wanted to forget all my sadness and live a happy life. But this joy lasted only two days as I lost my child as well. I felt stifled and broken for a very long time after which I decided, I will not sit at home, I will work,” she was quoted as saying by Entrepreneur.  

Ruma’s first step as an entrepreneur: Forming a group to buy equipment together 

The entrepreneur in Ruma never gave up the battle even when she was going through the difficult times. Even when she wanted to do embroidery, she needed a stitching machine but did not have money to get one. Ruma then started making smart moves as a woman entrepreneur. She took 10 women in her neighborhood in confidence and together, they gathered funds to buy a second-hand machine.  

Ruma’s second step came in helping people and building network: 
Once Ruma started doing well for herself, she started inspiring others. In villages, it is not easy for women to pursue their own enterprising ambitions as their men want them to continue with daily household chores. Ruma even challenged that practice and asked men to allow their spouses to work for two to three hours daily. This worked wonders as with more women tasting success with Ruma, more turned out. It even worked as a magic for those women’s families that started appreciating their venture after they met success with Ruma’s help. Even Ruma’s own in-laws, who were initially not happy with her doing the job by stepping outside the house, embraced her success.  

 “Earlier, when I started working, there were strict restrictions in our family to go out and work. However, I had to fight with my family to come out, although in veil. Then, we females started working in big ”ghoonghat”. However, as and when the work spread, our family started accepting us without ”ghoonghat” but with our heads covered with our ”dupatta”. Many mistakes were happening when we were doing embroidery under ”ghoonghat”. So we decided to keep ”pallu” on our head. Now, we are working with a veil on our head,” she was quoted as saying by Indo-Asian News Service.  

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Organizing and expanding the business: 

When Ruma and her team of women started, the members were scattered across a vast arid land where the temperature can reach unbearable limits during the summer. They had to travel long distances in the sun to supply the raw material for their stitching products. The ambitious women have decided to make their own brand so that their own money and credit get the due recognition. According to Ruma, that will only motivate the local women to work harder and improve their own financial condition. For this purpose, Ruma and her team used their flexibility of being innovative and the mind to experiment. They started using different materials that nobody used earlier and this paid off big time. Their work earned so much reputation that soon acclaimed fashion designers from across the country and abroad started visiting her in Rajasthan’s Barmer, where she is based.  

 Ruma now has a world to conquer. She has been offered an opportunity to learn more about the world of fashion but the rustic hero is so busy with her local business schedule that she has no time as of now to go to France. But she will definitely go one day to better her skills and take her dream venture to the next level.  

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