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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


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