Necessity is the mother of invention. Many of us have heard this proverb, and this suits well for Moirangthem Muktamani Devi.
Sixty-two years old woman, who is a well-known artist and owns a business manufacturing woollen knitted shoes in Kakching in Manipur’s Thoubal district.
Mukta Shoes Industry was established in the year 1990 with an innovative way of shoemaking skill and now exporting handmade shoes to various foreign countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Mexico, and even some African countries too. But it is not easy for her to reach this milestone.
Muktamani has trained over 1,000 people. Her Mukta Industry produces handcraft shoes and sandals for men, women, and kids. The price ranges from Rs. 200 to Rs. 800.
Her journey is full of inspiration and learnings, there was a time when she had no money to buy shoes for her child, but now her manufactured shoes are exported overseas.
“Muktamani Devi was born in December 1958, brought up by her widow mother as her father passed away then she was six months old. She was married to Kshetrimayum Naran Singh when she was only 17 and reading in Class X. As she was married at a young age, she did face many hardships at the early age of her life.”
She used to go to the paddy field and worked there during day time and sold eatables when she was free. She knitted carry bags and hair bands at night and sold them to earn two meals a day. She was fortunate that she knew knitting from her parental home, especially from her sister-in-law, and it became a lifeline to her family at that time.
In between, she continues her education. As per Muktamani Devi, she continued her studies after her marriage as well. She passed X standard in 1984 from Kakching Girls’ High School after giving birth to her second daughter. She passed Pre. University College (PUC) from Kha Manipur College in 1986. Unfortunately, she could not complete her BA due to her family problems.
An incident took place in 1989, “As she couldn’t afford to buy new school shoes for her daughter, she knitted on the sole of a torn Lee-shoe with woollen thread in the shape of a shoe. Her daughter wore it on and went to school.”
However, she was afraid of getting punishment as the shoe was not a part of the school uniform. During the school assembly, she started crying as one of the teachers noticed it, and the teacher asked her, “Who made your shoes”? And she wanted the same for his daughter too.
This incident changed the life of Muktamani Devi, she got inspired by this compliment, and slowly her creativity got enriched and thus getting requests from many people to knit shoes for them.
In 1991 she set-up Mukta Shoes Industry and became famous and was registered in the DIC Thoubal underwool and knitting embroidery section. Since then, she never looked back. She was also encouraged by the chairman of the venture, Kh Binoy, and even asked her to apply for a loan to AMIDCO to expand her business.
She has won many awards and recognitions in her journey:
- 2006: Citigroup Micro Entrepreneurship Award (National Award)
- 2008: National Award (2008) Micro Small & Medium Enterprises
- 2008: State Award to Master Craftsperson
- 2015: Vasundhara NE Woman Entrepreneur of the Year (2013-14)
And in 2018, National Insurance collaborated with The Telegraph and hosted a ceremony called True Legend Award 2018. The ceremony was accounted to honour 11 individuals who have changed society positively and their lives too. Muktamani is one of the awardees and said, “That she would dedicate this honour to the women who’ve been working with her through this journey.”
Muktadevi always wishes to write a book on her art of making shoes and wants to pass the knowledge to the future generation. The art has served as a way of living to many people as there are six units in Kakching, two in Wabagai, and a unit in Imphal with 5 to 10 workers in each unit.