Rolling out the magic carpet for rural artisans


Akanksha Sharma

From a simple home-based artisan to a qualified entrepreneur in five years, the story of Shanti Devi from the hinterlands of Rajasthan is a fitting example of how a little enterprise and lots of hard work can create jobs for those involved in traditional crafts and make those on the margins of jobscape self reliant. Shanti’s determination to excel in weaving, and her will to fight exploitation and demand fairness is what makes her unique. One might even say Shanti is an archetype of Tara Shinde from Mission Mangal.

How it started?

  • Founded in 1978 by Nand Kishore Chaudhary (NKC), Jaipur Rugs, began with just 2 looms and 9 artisans.
  • The company uses the age-old art form of handmade carpets and hence created an entirely new business model working directly with artisans and empowering them and their communities with a sustainable livelihood.
  • The aim is to uplift rural India.
  • Today, not only does the company have 7,000 looms and over 40,000 artisans spread across 600 villages in five states, 80 per cent of whom are female, but it also has stores in Italy, China and Russia.
  • Jaipur Rugs exports to over 65 countries besides having its branch office in the US under the name ‘Jaipur Living’.

From being one among the four weavers at a contractor’s loom, to becoming the trainer and center in-charge of two centers of Jaipur Rugs, today Shanti provides a sustainable employment opportunity to almost 30 women of her village.

Shanti is one of thousands of women from rural belt in Rajasthan who have tasted success through their association with Jaipur Rugs, a company that was started with just two looms in 1978 and now has a revenue of over Rs 600 crore.

As far as the women employment is concerned, founder of this venture Nand Kishore Chaudhary created a unique business model, which provides livelihood to the women artisans at their doorstep.

Women weavers receive raw material and work from the comfort of their homes while taking care of their household chores. This kind of model provides the women weavers an opportunity to monetise their spare time while balancing family life.

The branch managers go from door-to-door identifying women who are willing to be part of the network.

Inches of carpet completed decide the wages

The remuneration is credited directly to their bank accounts. It is fairly calculated on the inches of carpet completed.

The quality supervisor (also called, bunker sakhi, is a woman from their own village) analyzes and updates on the amount of work competed and the payment is made on the basis of that. While the industry-wide practice is to pay per carpet on contractual basis where money is deducted for any errors in the design, Jaipur Rugs pays on a monthly basis for the amount of work completed with no deductions of any kind.

The initiative of ‘training and upskilling choices’ first began in 2010, to provide functional literacy to artisans and the rural community that did not have the opportunity to complete their education. It is a 6-month program consisting of a 2-hour class teaching basic literacy and life skills that help women gain self-confidence. As many women drop out of school early or do not have the opportunity to have an education, they are given a chance to learn the fundamental skills.

Hunarshala

The ‘Hunarshala’ initiative develops a culture of self-designed learning, where children work on innovative projects based on their interests. A facilitator is there to guide them. The activities include sports, arts & craft, computer technology, robotics, music, dance and so much more. Currently, there are 40 children in the village of Aaspura, Rajasthan, who attend this programme.

Social Innovation Lab

A Social Innovation and Design Lab has been developed as an experimentation and knowledge hub for women artisans and designers in the rural clusters to generate ideas and insights that will sustain the livelihoods in the villages.

The lab brings the finest professionals of designing to the doorstep of the artisans and provides them with diverse experience. Through this initiative 25 artisans are trained for seven months.

Safe work environment

Women in the rural areas are forced to move to big cities to make a living. In order to give them better opportunities, the company has partnered with Corporate Rebel Foundation and SIDBI to support women who live in villages to develop skills so that they can earn money with craftsmanship for the rest of their lives.

Providing financial literacy help, the Jaipur Rugs Foundation educates rural communities on the services available, their rights and monitors the programs to avoid any foul play.

Training program for sustainable livelihood

The pandemic affected the rural communities leaving them with no option to earn. In order to solve this instability, the company partnered with SIDBI and carved an exclusive path for women to train them for a period of six months in hand-knotted rug weaving.

Artisan engagement programme

A key focus is to bring back the dignity of rug artisans. Artisan communities who felt disconnected from the business are now connected to the larger ecosystem, where they are able to understand the intricacies of the work they are involved in. There’s also a grassroot leadership development programme. Due to lack of exposure, rural women spend most of their time doing household chores, so building confidence is a primary challenge. Artisans who have the desire to reach new heights, are given a chance to lead through this training programme.

With the growing efforts to empower women globally and to help accelerate the endeavor to achieve gender equality, it is of utmost importance to give women of rural communities a platform where their voice is heard. Being able to make a living and support oneself is a critical piece of the potential puzzle that job creators like NKC have put in the right spot with ventures like Jaipur Rugs.



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