Providing Livelihoods in Rural India

 Visiting artisans in their village outside Mizrapur

Visiting artisans in their village outside Mizrapur

Often, after returning from a lengthy due diligence trip I feel overwhelmed.  Returning to my own culture, re-acclimating and reckoning with what I just experienced is a challenge.  Assimilating the good, understanding the unexplainable and just trying to figure out what that experience does to me as an individual is never an easy process.  This is even more challenging when the primary purpose of the trip is to evaluate the potential fit with the organization I am there to visit.  It takes time to get level set and then complete the assessment with a more clinical mindset.  Yet, eventually, everything comes into focus.  The unique nature of the experience never completely dissipates, but it does fade into the background with time and allows me to focus more acutely on the business match with GIF.  RangSutra is a perfect example.

Rangsutra is a community owned company of artisans from remote villages of India.   Its goal is to ensure sustainable livelihoods for rural artisans, based on ethical practices and a celebration of India’s rich cultural heritage.  

 The beauty of the scene belies the backbreaking labor under the unrelenting sun required to harvest rice. 

The beauty of the scene belies the backbreaking labor under the unrelenting sun required to harvest rice. 

Socially, artisans come from some of the most disadvantaged communities, with very little opportunities for self-development and growth. The fact that artisans and craftspeople still retain their skills is a miracle, given the competition from machine made products and fast changing trends in the urban market, which is today the main market of many a rural artisan. 

Rangsutra acts a bridge between rural Indian artisans and global customers.  Concurrently, it has the unique ability to balance tradition and contemporary cultural realities, essentially providing continuity amidst a world constantly changing.

Rangsutra’s core guiding principle is respect for both the producer and customer, ensuring a fair price to the artisan producer as well as quality products to the customer. Profits earned from sales go back to artisans ensuring a better life for the communities.

The social enterprise origins are in Bikaner, Western Rajasthan.  Gradually they have increased their support to artisans in and around Varanasi in Eastern Uttar Pradesh, and Manipur in North East India.  Over the last nine years they have gained the trust of IKEA and Fabindia two of the world’s largest retailers and are profitable which ensures regular and sustainable work to the artisans. Today they provide regular work to 3,000 artisans across India.

 Artisans at work share their stories about the empowerment their work engenders.

Artisans at work share their stories about the empowerment their work engenders.

Perhaps, most important, besides providing well-earned incomes to highly marginalized women in incredibly poor rural villages where they often are viewed as second class citizens, is the sense of empowerment that is easy to see when you spend time with these women at work and in their homes.  That empowerment is being transferred slowly but surely to the next generation and overtime it will change the village forever for the better.  GIF is proud to have the opportunity to help.