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Weaving a New Dream

Weaving a New Dream

Author: Shalini S. Sharma
Publication: India Today
Date: February 12, 2007

Introduction: How Paris became the fashion destination for a thousand weavers from villages in different parts of India

Weavers from remote villages of Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Assam recently got a chance to showcase their talent at no less a place than the very mecca of fashion-Paris. This, thanks to Rangsutra, a company which has brought 1,000 weavers from these regions together as shareholders in the organisation. Each, with a capital of Rs 1,000, embarked on a journey of weaving their dreams into reality in 2004. Today they supply garments and furnishings to tony stores like Fabindia and Spaces.

The Paris order was secured through the Net. The artisans were given the design and the raw material as per the client's specification. The result was a product comparable to the best on the ramp.

The idea behind Rangsutra, says Sumita Ghose, director, is to bridge the gap between artisans and customers, traditional and contemporary and between change and continuity. The efforts are already showing results. The living standards of artisans have improved. From Rs 500 to Rs 1,500 per month that they used to earn earlier, today they are able to make up to Rs 5,000 every month. Work flow is steady and there is no fear of exploitation by unscrupulous middlemen.

Today Mathri, from village Dandkala on the India-Pakistan border in Rajasthan; Kusum from village Bajju and Luna Ram from village Borodi all exude a new confidence as they get ready to face a new world of upmarket customers and high-end designers.

According to Ghose, a Mumbai-based venture capitalist is looking at providing funds to the company which it hopes to utilise in developing new designs and exploring newer avenues in the export market. The company put up its first exhibition in Delhi recently where a range of garments, home furnishings and accessories were on display.

Most of the work done in the area of handicraft and handloom in India, adopting a social development model, is unsustainable. Projects are grant-based and this dependence makes then unviable after a point. Also, most of the organisations in this sector start off from the existing product and skills, build on this and then try to sell the resultant product in the market. While craftspeople continue to remain "beneficiaries" in most other cases, Rangsutra, by making them "shareholders" in this venture is hoping to weave it differently.

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