Travel writer based in UK. Liz Taylor wannabe and aspiring food critic with a penchant for sweet sherry, Romanian street dogs and fancy fridge magnets. Visited 35+ countries so far and counting.
We love what our friends over at the Jaipur Rugs Foundation are doing to help underprivileged women in Jaipur. So much so, that we’ve teamed up with them to offer you the opportunity to see this inspiring project for yourself on a special Urban Adventures In Focus tour; Rajasthan Artisan Village Tour. On the tour, you’ll meet the rug weavers who are being supported by the Foundation, learn about their weaving techniques and have a go yourself, you’ll also learn about this history of the village and enjoy a delicious, home-cooked Rajasthani lunch. You may even pick up a rug too… giving you a unique and sustainable souvenir to commemorate a memorable day out. Here we talk to the Foundation’s Sustainability Manager, Yash Ranga about how their work is making a difference to the lives of women in the Rajasthani community.
Tell us how the Foundation started
Our Founder NK Chaudhary while working in his father’s shoe shop as a young man, decided to combine his love of beautiful patterns and craftsmanship with his quest for social justice, and form his own enterprise. He studied India’s carpet industry, which lacked innovation, technology, connectivity to global design trends and efficient production processes. He saw that the carpet industry in India was infected with atrocious practices like child labour and infringement of money by multiple middlemen, and the weavers were treated as society outcasts and untouchables.
Mr. Chaudhary seethed with agitation and impatience towards these practices and he harboured within himself a deep desire to change the lives of the talented weavers. So, with his new-found knowledge of the trade he set up a social enterprise with a loan of $500, 2 looms, 9 artisans and a second hand bicycle, with the goal of nurturing the traditional art of hand-weaving rugs back from the brink of extinction. He started to work with the concept of ‘cultural sustainability’ way before academic literature highlighted its growing importance. He had the passion to get the Indian weavers recognised as artisans and started this journey on the principles of Equity, Empathy and Dignity.
How is the Foundation helping local communities in Jaipur right now?
We empower marginalized communities, especially women, living in under-developed areas by teaching and nurturing new skills, and providing them with a sustainable livelihood on their doorsteps. We do this through ‘entrepreneurship development’ and ‘social development’. The first focuses on the economic well-being of the artisan and their communities through skill development and livelihood support, the latter focuses on their social well-being through interventions, awareness generation and linkages.
Jaipur Rugs follows a disruptive supply chain model under which the raw materials for the carpets are delivered to the homes of the weavers so that they can work from home. Mr. Chaudhary had understood that to bring a change in the supply chain within the carpet industry he had to strengthen the weakest link, the weaver community. Thus, a system is set in place to oversee production via rigorous quality control processes, and collect, distribute and market the finished products all across the globe. Jaipur Rugs’ model brings this share of the profits directly to weavers, who receive more than US$100 per month (compared to $6 from seasonal work in agriculture). Mr. Chaudhary continued to expand the business, hiring a ‘supportive and nurturing, home based creatives’ instead of a machine driven emotionless production line.
Our inclusive socio-economic business model connects the artisans directly with the customer thus eliminating the middle men and democratising the entire value chain, addressing the UN Sustainable Development Goals in the process.
What have you learned while working for the Jaipur Rugs Foundation?
It’s a complete shift in perception from fear to love. I have seen many businesses and worked in the corporate sector for a long time, which is so dynamic. All these top managers, CEOs etc. have sleepless nights, always. No matter how good we are living. When I met Mr. Chaudhary, I asked him, “How do you define business?” He says, “Business is next to love, it is the creator and preserver of human civilization… The most important factors in this whole life of ours are nothing but love and compassion.” To have a strong conviction of both love and compassion in business too, is incredibly inspiring for me.
Why should travellers join your In Focus Rajasthan Artisan Village tour?
This experiential tour will provide guests with an opportunity to start a conversation with practitioners of centuries old craft and talk about the transformational journeys of their lives and develop a bond beyond borders. We welcome those who are searching for unconditional love to indulge in the rustic charm of villages from Rajasthan and get a wake- up call to all the positive energy residing inside you by meeting our global artisans. “Be a part of this unique experience of human healing, and find yourself by losing yourself in beauty of craftsmanship, emotions and belief”. You will learn the craft of hand knotting sitting in the mud filled veranda, explore the rustic charm of Rajasthan villages and experience the most authentic food made with homemade spices and we hope you will make a connection with one of the inspirational artisans that work for us. This tour is a fantastic way of getting off the beaten track and experiencing something different, while at the same time , giving something back to the local community.