I had a cosmetics shop in a market. Once I was walking around the market when I saw someone with a box of lingerie. I didn’t know everything that was in the box. But I bought the goods for Rs 500. I wondered what people might say but I put every item on sale for Rs 10 each. I made Rs 2,500. That is how I got into this business.
When I started, patterns were simpler. Now there are fancy items that come from China and Thailand. They are cheaper than Indian undergarments. Branded bras sell but the stuff from Thailand and China sells more.
Everyone wants fancy items. Low waist panties, panties with strings on the side, padded bras, bras with plastic bands and lace bras are popular. Earlier, the idea was to conceal. Now it is to reveal. Chest dikhaane ka mahaul hai (it is in to flaunt the chest).
To us, women are customers, nothing more. We have homely relations with our customers. My older brother’s daughter works with me. I was shy at first. Lekin dhanda dhandey ko sikhaata hai (the business teaches you business). I’m also an SEO (Special Executive Officer). The wives of people from my group come to shop and feel shy. They ask me to go outside. I tell them, you have to buy from someplace anyway, so buy from my shop. They do.
This business is good because it does not need much investment and brings good returns. It is shanti ka dhanda (it is a peaceful business). There are some problems but none that we cannot resolve. When I started, my wife said, “Couldn’t you find another business?” Now, she too is happy because we make money.
I can make out the size the minute a customer walks in. Bras of sizes 32, 34 and 36 sell the most. Size 42 is the largest. Anything larger is made-to-order. We have twelve colours of bras and panties.
Sometimes men come with their wives. I have kept chairs outside for them. If men shop on their own, it could be for the wife’s birthday or for a wedding. But women will never like what their men buy. I am 10,000 per cent sure.
My friends still tease me about my job. But I’m a free man. If I don’t speak freely with customers, I will be called a lalloo. I tell them jokes about bra-panties.
(He has been in the ladies’ undergarment business for 12 years in Mumbai).
As told to Alpana Lath