By Daïaphira Kharsati
Taïabor Tynsong did not want to stay idle during the lockdown. For ten years, he was a schoolteacher, and the pandemic had taken that routine away from him. At his home in Umkor, Pynursla, Tynsong decided to take a chance on himself and started researching how to make an LED light bulb. That was 2020.
In his room, Tynsong, only 36 years, has punching, tikki-fitting and screw-fitting machines, along with drivers, heat sink compounds and bulb housing for making LEDs. The packaging is the last process of his domestic assembly line.
Whereas most people are pulled back from pursuing their vision for myriad reasons – among them a lack of financial and emotional support – Tynsong, who continues to be an upper-primary school teacher at Myllat, created Baniar, the name given to the locally made LED.
We made our way to meet the man whose smile beamed as bright as the bulbs he makes. Tynsong took us to his “cottage factory”, where bulbs and electrical works crowded his desk and the floor of the house. The LED bulbs on the ground with their pressers scattered showed that he had been working earlier in the morning.
What is a business without risk? There are people who wait for a windfall, but Tynsong says, “I took the risk”. With little support, his desire was “powered” by his own will and the need to try his hand at something new – something he could be more passionate about.
Tynsong’s earlier experimentations were presented to his friends, who tested his prototypes. Their positive response charged a faint light of entrepreneurship within him, motivating him to procure materials for bulb-making from a far-away Delhi.
“I was just encouraged to get things started”, he says. Once the prototype was a success, two-to-three others joined him to ease the process of manufacturing bulbs at a cottage scale. “My missus has also been helping me. Now, my relatives and a friend of mine [he points to the friend] also help me. My current labour force is enough to sustain me because the stock is low. Once it is higher, I might need more people, but the problem is training, which isn’t easy”. He admits that, in his short experience as an entrepreneur and manufacturer, he found women to be more hard-working, while good, strong men were being led astray by moral decadence. “But women take time to learn”, he adds. Despite only training his wife, Banrikordor Khongsni, last year, she was only able to perfect her skills this year.
“I have taught my sisters also. Women work even harder once they see profitable earnings, whereas the men only return once they have exhausted their incomes”.
So how does one learn to make a bulb? With Tynsong, it was the experience of tinkering with wiring works when friends, family and other folks called him to fix faults. At home, he found innumerable YouTube tutorials on how to test, replace and detect defective and non-defective bulbs. “All my work is from YouTube. I subscribe to 10–12 channels that have been very beneficial for me”, he says.
Like all working-class families in Meghalaya, the lockdown has been a punishing pause in his life, and Baniar has helped him stay afloat and make a name for himself in Pynursla. “In one month, I can earn Rs 6,000 in profits from selling these”.
When Tynsong began bulb-making in January 2021, his business captured the attention of friends from other parts of Pynursla. “But I am only focussing here in Pynursla, Lapalang and Nongtynur”, he says, given the low stocks and difficulty in expanding manufacturing. By April, Baniar was selling at KB Electrical and SD Electrical, two major shops in the area, but also offering repair services for anyone who wanted them.
So far, he has been able to sell 2,000 units of Baniar, manufacturing easily 70 to 80 bulbs provided he works all day. Each 9-watt bulb (Tynsong makes 5- and 7-watt bulbs as well) is priced at Rs 130 with a difference of Rs 10 to 15.
Yet this work did not come easy – perfecting a working product ready for the market took months of trial and error: “I had to test them routinely, and this took four to five months. During the transportation of [raw] materials from outside the state, the drivers used for making the LEDs would get damaged. Out of 1,000 drivers, some 50 to 60 would be damaged. Because the materials are sharp and owing to collisions during transportation, many components are destroyed, which requires me to do thorough checks before taking the final product to the market”.
The cost of all this material, even defective ones, however, comes from his pocket. Incompetence is also a problem – deliveries come short of the original order. Sometimes as high as 20 per cent of a shipment of units is missing. At his home-cum-factory, Tynsong showed us the defective pieces, and how they have been a cause of complaints from customers. “All these need to be thrown away. I want to lodge a complaint, but I have no idea how to go about it”, he says. “I want to register my product as well. Let’s see…”
It has been a long journey from Tynsong – one that only now has culminated into Baniar. After finishing his schooling, he chose to stay with his family. Being only the second child, he raised his younger siblings as he began his own family.
“We are nine siblings. There is not much we have ever been able to afford”, he says, but his entrepreneurial spirit has allowed him to support his brother’s further education, besides his own two children.
A day in Tynsong’s life looks like this: In the morning, he fulfils his duty as a schoolteacher till 3.00 pm.
But the school is far and he reaches home only by 4.00 pm. Until 8.00 pm, he works on his bulbs, making one in under 15 minutes.
People in Pynursla know about his product, but when will his LED bulbs hit the Shillong market? It depends: “I want my business to expand beyond Pynursla, but for that I need more financial support”, he says. A month’s expenditure – in just raw materials – costs Tynsong around Rs 30,000. He has no government scheme supporting him, but is eager to make his small business a generator of employment.
“If we have the mission to aim high in life, we should focus on our passion. Stand on your own feet and do not wait for government jobs. Most of us, end up saying – ‘we don’t have a job’. But opportunities are galore when we want to succeed in life. There is too much competition for government jobs. How many vacancies are even there compared to the growing population?”
Tynsong’s spirit is unbreakable despite the struggle with which he keeps his business alive. His sales are just enough to cover his costs but would be higher if there were better courier services outside Shillong. “I have to reserve a vehicle; and during lockdowns, when the cost of transportation is high and permissions are required, it is more difficult” – another check against the state’s neglect of rural businesspeople for the sake of advancing Shillong. Irregular power supply cuts deeper into the business. “The light went out twice this morning alone. Once monsoon sets in, the light goes out more often and we just cannot work. The LED bulbs cannot even be tested”.
Baniar is truly a labour of love for Tynsong and his family. The name itself is a portmanteau of his and his wife’s given names – Taïarbor and Banrikordor. “As the name suggests, I intend to expand my product to other parts of the state”, he says with a laugh.
The days are hard, and so are the nights, but the orders keep coming and his desire to do wonderful things continues even with meagre profits. One day, Tynsong says he will start his own electrical works company. “I hope the market is good to me”, he says. For now, it is the people who have been kind to him.