Business model

An economic model based on sustainable financial inclusion: in conversation with the artisans of Rangsutra

Although the handicraft industry is the anchor of India’s rural economy, it is in a vulnerable position. It offers an employment opportunity, especially for women and people from Dalit, OBC and minority communities. The industry, characterized by its self-sufficiency model, has also taken a hard hit during the pandemicas the lack of regular work has been further exacerbated by the pandemic.

Several organizations and the government have attempted to fill funding and scale gaps that are proving detrimental to craft growth. My sister mentioned quite sadly that on her first visit to the Banjara market in Gurugram, a vast handicraft market, she was deeply disappointed to find employees of established interior design companies buying the products of artisans at a much lower price and selling them for almost ten times the price (if not more) on their websites.

Ransutra, a sustainable fashion brand, recognizes this. The brand took a step forward and made artisans shareholders, through which, a community-owned craft business was born. The approximately 3,000 artisans spread across the country are able to upgrade their crafts to meet global standards (thanks to their newfound access to global markets), supplement their incomes and create dignified living conditions for themselves. Ransutra thus recognizes that the practice of sustainability lies not only in the act of production, but in the provision of sustainable employment opportunities to its producers.

Ransutra employs a record 70% of female artisans. I interviewed four craftsmen – Tagu, a handicraft manager at Barmer handicraft center, Ugam, an applique craftsman at Indranagar handicraft center, Indra, an embroidery craftsman at handicraft center of Nehru Nagar, and Dhani, the first female weaver from Rajasthan to be associated with Ransutra.

Achal, the cluster coordinator provided additional information on the operation of the craft centers and translated my questions for the artisans. At first I was curious how they learned their skills, perhaps because of my failed attempts at fabric manipulation. Most of them had learned it by watching their family members. All of Dhani’s male family members practiced weaving, an industry historically dominated by men.

Shrimayee, the E-commerce and marketing manager, added that Rangsutra sees itself as a social enterprise that recognizes that people and the planet are the boards upon which sustainable profit must be mounted. A proactive effort to include women in the economic structure could perhaps help eliminate inherent gender biases

Dhani was the first woman in her family to try it. When I asked him, irrelevant, ‘why weave?without wasting a second, she said, ‘Mujhe accha lagta hai’, I like doing it. Indra’s case was different: she had learned embroidery at the training center of Ransutra. Ugam added that since many artisans are semi-skilled or unskilled, they first undergo a rough cloth skills assessment test to judge their skill level and training needs.

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Training programs take training as the first step in sustainable production and then progress to perfection. Skilled artisans are further trained in quality control, improvement of production processes, record keeping and passing on their skills to fellow artisans as the production pipeline is decentralized. Control of the production process rests primarily with artisans who also exercise considerable control over the design process. Fascinating, Tagu’s mother, also an artisan in Ransutrahas been practicing his profession for 20 years and even worked with several NGOs before joining Ransutra.

The artisans then revealed that the most defining characteristic of Ransutra was the job guarantee. Before working with Ransutra, they confessed that they didn’t really have a choice: either they did irregular work from home (which brought in only a tenth of their current income), or they worked intermittently with NGOs. Now things are only getting better, they say. They are paid fairly and their payment is deposited in their bank accounts at the beginning of the month. ‘Parivaar ke samaan’— like a family‘, was an expression used by Achal to describe their working atmosphere, meaning that they occupy a safe and fair space as shareholders. They finally have something – the stock certificates that belong to them.

Tagu adds that her shares (for which she receives dividends) have appreciated to almost one and a half times their original value. Craftsmen are thus the pivot around which the organization is structured, and rightly so. Women must be at the heart of sustainable production so that we can achieve the Sustainable Development Goals proposed by the UN.

Shrimayee, the E-commerce and marketing manageradded to add that Ransutra sees itself as a social enterprise that recognizes that people and the planet are the boards upon which sustainable profit must be mounted. A proactive effort to include women in the economic structure could perhaps help eliminate inherent gender biases.

This seems an accurate estimate. Indra was beaming when she remembered how proud she was of her work, which paved the way for a sense of independence. Ugam also hinted at improved social status, when she said ‘bheekh maangne ​​ki zaroorat nahi hai’meaning she no longer needs to beg, perhaps for dignity as well as financial stability (which saves them money). Part of Tagu’s salary was spent on building her own space, i.e. building her own house, which could not happen when her husband was the only earning family member. his life.

Finally, I couldn’t resist asking Shrimayee the question I’ve been asked most often lately. ‘Projects for the future?‘, I asked. She replied that Rangsutra, which has largely focused on its B2B vertical (and has forged important partnerships with companies like IKEA and Fabindia), would like to strengthen the operations of its B2C vertical. They would also work cohesively to ensure the production process is made more sustainable.

Read also : The Art and the Artist: The Situation of Weavers in Santipur, West Bengal

Ugam added that artisans are also covered by insurance schemes. I also wondered how the pandemic and political unrest affected their work. The craftsmen reported that these circumstances did not prevent their work since the crafting center was fully functional and Achal could be found there. Since the craft industry does not impose any specific infrastructure demands, artisans even had the option of working temporarily from home.

He added that although the orders have been cancelled, Ransutra makes a concerted effort to ensure that its effects do not trickle down to artisans. The company tried to make sure the craftsmen weren’t ‘idle‘ lest it affect their morale since their typical working day lasts around eight hours with an income between ₹250 and ₹400.

There ‘parivaarThe comparison made me wonder how their real families reacted to their choice to work with Rangsutra. The responses were quite varied. Tagu recalled that she had worked for a year to convince her family and gain their support. Indra’s family did not pose a threat, however, the crafting center was not located in his area of ​​residence.

Like a Pied Piper, she brought together 35 artisans from her area, which led to the construction of a craft center and collaboration within her local community. Achal also mentioned that the families of their artisan women in Rajasthan were unwilling to allow them to leave home to work, when Rangsutra initially changed its work model to a center-based one instead of the previous model based on the House. The centre, which was frequented by five or six artisans, is now populated by 80 of them.

Finally, I couldn’t resist asking Shrimayee the question I’ve been asked most often lately. ‘Projects for the future?‘, I asked. She replied that Ransutra, which has largely focused on its B2B vertical (and has forged major partnerships with companies like IKEA and Fabindia), wants to bolster operations in its B2C vertical. They would also work cohesively to ensure that the production process is made more sustainable.

To change the warp and weft of society, Ransutra aims to establish more artisanal clusters in the states of Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Kashmir.

Read also : The impact of Covid-19 on the W of AssamOmen weavers


Editor’s Note: This is part of a collaboration with Rangstura. To learn more about the brand, you can visit their website, LinkedIn page or Instagram handle

Featured image source: Rangsutra