Successful microfinance stories: Watch repairman struggles to save his forgotten profession
By Amira Nasser, Yemen Times
Abdullah Mohammed Salem, 55, a watch repairman, tells a story of the fierce battle he has waged against the tough economic conditions he has suffered as a Yemeni citizen in Aden governorate.
Salem, who is married with three daughters and one son, has been teaching his 14-year-old son how to repair watches.
Salem loves his profession. His father was a watch repairman, and taught Salem the business when he was a child. The same lessons he is teaching his son is what he was taught by his father.
“This profession is my passion and that’s why I struggle for it,” he said.
In 1980, his father supported him to work in a small watch repair shop and it was his first step to success. The situation was pretty good and as years passed, he bought a house, and in 1984 purchased the shop in which he now works.
Salem said that his income from the profession used to be much better than it is today. In the 1990s, he was a pioneer in the field of repairing valuable watches in Aden.
Before unification in 1990, he was earning one dinar (approximately YR 26 to 30), but once the Yemeni currency changed he earned from YR 300 to YR 500.
Salem indicated that his situation was very good up until the sudden eruption of war in Sa’ada governorate in 2004.
“People who worked in repairing valuable watches lost their interests,” he said, adding that the Yemeni markets started to fill with cheap Chinese watches. As more and more people started buying the Chinese watches, his profits decreased.
Salem decided to take out a loan from the Aden Microfinance Foundation (AMF) to rejuvenate his work as his business had become run down and he had many debts.
He obtained a YR500,000 (USD 2,500) loan from the AMF, and gave his home as the guarantee to pay back the loan.
He said that he was not afraid to start this adventure because he understood his profession well and was confident that he was not going to lose his home.
However, the situation did not work out as he planned. The shop stagnated and did not drawn new customers. He had a monthly installment of YR 58,000 to pay back, and it was becoming increasingly hard for him to meet his repayments.
“I spend at least YR 2,000 to YR 3,000 every day to buy the basic needs for me and my family. I suffered from a financial deficit,” he explained.
Salem’s work deteriorated and he struggled to provide even half of the amount of his loan requirements. The only solution to Salem’s financial problems was to borrow money from a merchant to pay off the rest of the amount owing to the AMF, thus saving his house.
Salem lived for years with the burden of his debt on his shoulders, but finally he was able to pay off his loan to the merchant. After this his brother Abdul-Karim asked him to be his guarantor for a loan from AMF, and again Salem could use his house as collateral.
Salem himself took a new loan of YR100,000 last year with monthly installments of YR 12,000. He said that he now pays each installment on time.
“I take my 14-year-old son with me to give him the lessons that my father gave,” said Salem.
From the profits he earned, Salem has opened a small real estate agency and brought two of his friends to work with him.
“The AMF is a model of efficiency which helps Yemenis to overcome tough conditions and build themselves up gradually.” he said.
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