“WE NEED TO REVIVE THE FINE ARTS”
An IT evangelist, he made a small but definitive start towards transforming the lives of women copper artisans by encouraging them to adopt new designs and identifying new markets for them.
The idea of doing something for the artisan community came to my wife Uma and me when we were engaged in a year-long intervention in Srinagar on the Talent Valley project of our company Global Talent Track. To our horror, we discovered that most children of Kashmiri carpetmakers were choosing other vocations and the fine art or ‘taleem’ of carpet-making could possibly not survive two generations. Further research showed that this was true of many artistic endeavours in India. After supporting a few individual artisans for a couple of years, we got an opportunity to invest in Studio Coppre and help four highly energetic and passionate young women grow their enterprise and not only keep the work of copper artisans alive but also substantially enhance the quality of their work and increase their earnings. The initial challenges were many— how to get the artisans to accept new, and in some cases, non-traditional designs that would have appeal for a larger audience, how to get them to automate part of their work to ensure consistency, and most importantly, how to respond to an agency that promised to help them sell more but would impose certain design and manufacturing standards on them.
Investment in a truly high quality team for design, operations and marketing ensured that the confidence in the artisan community was slowly built. By working with them in a spirit of collaboration and true partnership of equals, the artisans started to rally around the enterprise and even participated enthusiastically in design thinking and looking at innovative new ideas for the use of copper, both for decorative and utility purposes. The 5F World Consortium consists of us and some friends and we have invested Rs 50 lakh in this venture.
The road ahead will be difficult as we attempt to widen the artisan community base, deepen their understanding of process standardisation and design quality, embrace automation where possible and keep the core enterprise profitable so that it can grow. The plan is to continue to add designs, introduce low cost automation and spread the copper community across and beyond Maharashtra. We will then start looking at other metals and other home improvement products as well.” GANESH NATARAJAN, Chairman, 5F World Consortium PUNE