We at ABFRL present stories excerpted from our internal newsletter ‘In Touch’, where we celebrate our people and their contributions.
In a quaint town in the culturally rich district of Kutch, known for its wondrous landscape and wonderful crafts, lives Dulari, an artisan well-regarded for her skilfully handcrafted accessories and apparel. She works distinctly with mirrors, a craft iconic in its own right and one that is representative of Gujarat’s craft and culture across the world. Like many others, she is a self-taught artist and has acquired her craftsmanship by spending hours over delicate masterpieces created at her workshop. Her skill is one that is often passed down generations and shared across the community.
For most in the community, this is the only means of livelihood – their time and talent woven into the fabric and crafted to create the most extraordinary products. Buyers from around the world frequent this town in search of exquisite finds and to hand-pick remarkable pieces. An artisan toils to create an exquisite collection featuring latest designs and innovative artwork; crafting every single piece by hand. Dulari travels for exhibitions to urban towns, where people love her products and treat them as piece of their roots. She also sells her wares to some global buyers.
But out of nowhere COVID arrived; leaving her and many other artisans with surplus stock that they were preparing to sell. Travel was curbed, tourist inflow stopped and global buyers cancelled orders in wake of the global pandemic.
“We were caught in a corner by the lockdown, with a huge stock waiting to be sold. There were six of us, my daughter, my husband, me, and three kaarigars who work with us. It was difficult to afford everyday essentials for us. We tried to make do with whatever savings we had, but that also was getting over and soon it was going to be a question of our survival. School fees and other discretionary expenses were already curtailed,” Dulari Haresh Machhar said, when describing here situation at the thick of the lockdown – stuck at home, with no source of income and fewer possibilities.
Reaching out to the community with a large heart
The artisan community was left in dire straits and had no other means to support their livelihood. With the support of Creative Dignity (CD), a voluntary artisan care group, the artisans reached out to Jaypore for exploring new possibilities. Jaypore, as a pioneer e-commerce portal plays a key role in nurturing Indian Craft and Heritage, and hence takes guardianship of the Indian artisan community seriously and passionately.
Looking at the situation at hand, Jaypore chose to let go off the business margins that it normally charges and offered these artists the portal, the platform and the reach of its entire consumer base to showcase their products and reach the consumer directly. A lot of these grassroots artists had never sold on an online portal. Jaypore, along with CD, mentored the artists to enhance their technical capabilities for product shoots, content, packaging and supply chain logistics. Jaypore, eventually helped these artisans go live with their products on its e-commerce portal with the launch of the Artisan Direct programme.
Designing a Success Formula
Jaypore extended every possible help to the artisan community. This included providing the artisans with access to its e-commerce portal, training first time sellers to become digitally savvy, and conducting training programs. Additionally, FICCI FLO promoted these sales campaigns at a national level. Volunteers from premier Design Institutes in India, Designers and NGOs came forward to conduct training programs for these artisans.
The game changer: The Artisan Direct Program
The Artisan Direct programme that started as a ‘do-good programme’ with the Gujarat region took a life of its own and became a Pan-India initiative. Since every state of the country has its own unique craft and a network of artists, the Artisan Direct programme has undergone a transformation since then. It culminated into a month-on-month campaign, which focuses on one state, its artisans and associated crafts for 2-3 weeks. The crux of this initiative is to enable artisans reach customers digitally, and in most cases for the very first time.
Jaypore offered its wide-reach and a Pan-India customer base through its e-commerce platform to artisans from each state, giving them access to new markets and sustained livelihood opportunities. The collaboration aims to feature products from over 50 artisans across Gujarat, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and many others on their website. From Zardosi to Tarkaashi, from leather craft to handwoven Chanderi, the objective of the campaign is to bring this wealth of Indian handicraft culture to its customers, educating them with the finer details of the effort and skill that goes behind each of these art forms.
As a part of this initiative, Jaypore plans to build a strong connect with these artisans on a continued basis, post the campaign. This includes reaching out to smaller enterprises who lack their own supply chain, women-led enterprises and artisans with excess inventory, and most importantly, those who are vulnerable due to financial constraints.
“Jaypore and Creative Dignity reached out to help us sell the entire stock of handcrafted saris and dupattas, and now we’re in better shape. My daughter spent the lockdown creating new designs for necklaces, chokers and blouses. We are excited to start work on that now and hope to continue employing more and more kaarigars so that a wider community is able to benefit from this endeavour.” Dulari said, at the end of the Gujarat edition of the Artisan Direct campaign.
Sangeeta Pendurkar, CEO, Pantaloons and Jaypore
When it comes to handicrafts and handlooms, India undoubtedly has a rich and boastful inheritance that has withstood the test of time. Each state of India has so much to offer, there are many artisans who live in India’s numerous little towns and villages, and conjure masterpieces with their hands, but fail to find the visibility they deserve. We are proud to present such masterpieces of creation which expresses the patience and effort these artisans put in handcrafting, showcases painstaking details and represents beauty, heritage, and the timeless wisdom of India. Artisans have been a continuous part of Jaypore’s journey, and it is heartening to see that Jaypore is crafting a creative campaign like this to aid them in their time of need, and help in a sustainable manner.
Rashmi Shukla, Business Head, Jaypore
Jaypore as a brand has always been vocal about local since inception. India’s rich Craft and Craftsmen are at the heart and soul of the brand. We have always taken pride in providing a platform to the Craft and Artisan community to showcase India’s exquisite craft heritage. The ongoing pandemic has posed a severe challenge of sustenance to craftsmen across nation, endangering our craft and talent. We have partnered with Creative Dignity to support the craft community, by doing a non-profit engagement so that these artisans get the maximum benefits. This collaboration will help us stimulate the handicraft environment in the country and ultimately strengthen our collective national motto of ‘Make in India’.
Radhika Chhabra, Head – Apparel, Jaypore
What sets Jaypore apart is that it believes in storytelling, and takes the craft-artisan-product connect to its customers, rather than simply offering an online marketplace to sell and buy products. With the Artisan Direct programme, we have tried to channelize our expansive digital reach to assist these artisans from remote places, directly reach customers with their craft stories and products.