Su­mita Ghose is well set on her jour­ney to make RangSutra the ‘Amul’ for hand­loom and hand­i­craft prod­ucts. Af­ter all, she has founded the only In­dian pro­duc­erowned com­pany in the hand­i­craft space.

The in­spi­ra­tion was her work with Ur­mul Trust in western Ra­jasthan, where she saw how most hand­i­craft busi­nesses were not sus­tain­able and de­pended on grants for sus­te­nance. She did not have a lot of money of her own and turned to ar­ti­sans for help. A thou­sand ar­ti­sans pitched in ` 1,000 each from their sav­ings. Ghose put in

` 10 lakh and in­cor­po­rated RangSutra. In 2007, im­pact in­vestor Aav­ishkaar and eth­nic re­tailer Fabindia in­vested ` 23 lakh and

` 70 lakh for 17 per cent and 38 per cent stakes, re­spec­tively, and RangSutra was in­cor­po­rated as a pub­lic com­pany. Each en­tity in a pro­ducer-owned com­pany gets one vote ir­re­spec­tive of the shares they own. Ghose was clear that ar­ti­sans should have a say in the or­gan­i­sa­tion, a de­ci­sion which meant no pri­vate in­vestor would put in money. To­day, 2,500 ar­ti­sans own 32 per cent of the com­pany; and are on the board, too.

RangSutra – known for com­bin­ing tra­di­tional crafts like hand­loom, tie-dye, block print­ing, hand em­broi­dery, mir­ror work and ap­pliqué on con­tem­po­rary de­signs – sup­plied gar­ments and home prod­ucts to Fabindia for the first five years of its in­cep­tion. It broke even in 2008 with sales of ` 1 crore. There has been no look­ing back since then. It has been prof­itable since 2009.

In 2013, it hit an­other big mile­stone – the first ex­port project from Swedish home fur­nish­ings com­pany IKEA. That was a game-changer as it in­tro­duced in­ter­na­tional pro­to­cols of fair trade, qual­ity and com­pli­ance into the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

But RangSutra’s core is still about or­gan­is­ing women in dif­fer­ent ar­eas in clus­ters as self-help groups, giv­ing them the re­quired train­ing to main­tain qual­ity and en­sur­ing they get reg­u­lar work so the or­gan­i­sa­tion is sus­tain­able and ar­ti­sans get sta­ble in­come. Usu­ally, due to lack of mar­ket ac­cess and ir­reg­u­lar or­ders, ar­ti­sans earn any­where be­tween

` 500 and ` 1,000 per month. With RangSutra, full-timers earn any­where be­tween

` 15,000 and ` 20,000.

RangSutra has part­nered with the Jammu and Kash­mir gov­ern­ment to form a pro­ducer com­pany in Sri­na­gar to pro­vide ar­ti­sans with a means of liveli­hood as part of a re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion project for women af­fected by floods. Cur­rently, it is work­ing with 3,500 ar­ti­sans, 70 per cent of which are women, in Ra­jasthan, Ut­tar Pradesh, Jammu and Kash­mir and Ma­nipur. The or­gan­i­sa­tion has a turnover of ` 10 crore. “We have been giv­ing div­i­dends to our share­hold­ers and that has boosted the ar­ti­sans’ con­fi­dence,” says Ghose. Aav­ishkaar, too, has

WHY SHE MAT T E RS By set­ting up a com­pany where ar­ti­sans play an ac­tive role, Ghose has trans­formed hun­dreds of lives

got a good exit.

Af­ter get­ting ex­per­tise in work­ing with pro­duc­ers, RangSutra now wants to sell to con­sumers di­rectly. Its hand­crafted prod­ucts are avail­able on­line through ar­ti­sanal e- com­merce plat­form Jay­pore. It also has a re­tail pres­ence at the ex­hi­bi­tion space at Dastkar Na­ture Bazaar and Shah­pur Jat in South Delhi. An e-com­merce store is also in the works. More power to the wo­man be­hind the ini­tia­tive.

SU­MITA GHOSE F o u n d e r, R a n g S u t r a

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