Monday, July 16, 2007


One should not stand back and do nothing in life because one was unable to complete his or her studies, is Ashok Kumar's philosophy.
Ashok, 30, runs a shoe and bag repair shop from Nina House, on Robertson Road, in Suva.
"I learnt sewing from the owner of Shammi's Footwear in 1990," he said.
"The shop is closed now but the knowledge and skills remain in me," he said.
"Practice makes perfect and that is exactly what I have been doing to earn a living."
Ashok, who lives at Six Miles, Nasinu, only went up to Class Six.
He started working at age 16 to support his family.
He started off as a sales assistant in a shoe-shop on Cumming Street, Suva.
"I come from a poor family. My parents could not afford to send me to school."
A corner-turned-room under the stairs in Nina House has been used by Ashok for the past 10 years as a shop.
"The idea of opening up a shop was my own as I had keen interest in this trade as this was something I was good at," he said.
He pays $120 monthly to the owners as rent.
Having opened up the shop in partnership with a colleague, Ashok today is the sole owner and reaping the benefits of his hard work.
His charges $2 to $15 for repairs but repairs can cost more, depending on the wear and tear of the item he has to repair.
"I vary my repair prices according to the customer's needs and requirements and give discounts if people are in real need of it," he said.
Mr Kumar said he normally serviced 10 to 15 customers daily but added times were harder now since because "there is so much competition around". "I sell the shoes and bags and at times belts, brought in for repair if customers do not pick them up after 21 days. I have to do that in order to recover costs or else I will be on the losing end."
Ashok is the sole bread-winner looking after his elderly parents, a responsibility he has shouldered for some time.
"I am the youngest, with two elder brothers and three elder sisters who are all married and live separately."
His dedication to support his parents is evident.
As the owner of Ashok's Professional Shoe and Bag Repairs, he wants to expand his business.
"I have given expanding my business a lot of thought but there is always the money factor," he said.
He finds saving money on such a tight budget is difficult, saying it would be a dream come true if he was ever able to expand his business.
Ashok's advice to students is that if someone has to leave school because of financial constraints or any other problem, he or she should never sit down and accept defeat.
"People should learn to earn their own living and not be dependent on anyone," he said.
He said as children, young people should give back to their parents what they had not been able to provide for them.
Ashok believes the failure to attain education simply means one has to look for an alternative trade or skill that is in demand.
It was how he found himself working as a cobbler and supporting his parents.
"This means making good use of one's undiscovered skills," he said.