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rangSutra

Worker-Owned • Social Enterprise • B2B2C

Transforming artisans into shareholders

CRAFTS
STARTED IN 2006

By Sumita Ghose, Ritu Suri & 1,000 artisans

LOCATION

Rajasthan, Delhi, Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Maharashtra

Appliqué, Desert & Kashmiri Embroidery, Handloom, Chikankari, Tie & Dye, Block Printing

PRODUCTS

Home Furnishings, Clothing, Accessories

ARTISANS 

3,000

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YOY GROWTH

19%

LIVES IMPACTED

20K

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DID YOU KNOW?

India boasts of many indigenous crafts like ralli, chikankari, bandhej and leheriya to name just a few.

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In 2006, Sumita Ghose decided to set up a company to help rural artisans, and needed capital. But no bank was willing to give her a loan because she had nothing to show by way of collateral.

​She didn’t lose hope. Instead, she invited weavers and artisans to become shareholders and offered them equity. 1,000 artisans invested ₹1,000 each, providing her with a seed fund of a modest ₹10 lakh. With her own money and contributions from her family, friends and well-wishers, Sumita began rangSutra on a small scale.

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दरिया की कसम मौजों की कसम
यह ताना बाना बदलेगा 
तू खुद को बदल तू खुद को बदल 
तब ही तो ज़माना बदलेगा  

‘I swear by the waves of the sea and the seashore; that I will change the warp and weft of society. You change yourself, you change yourself, only then will the world around you change.'

— LINES FROM A SONG BY KAMLA BHASIN OF JAGORI, SUNG BY THE ARTISAN COLLECTIVE
 
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Today, rangSutra is a community-owned business of 3,000 artisans from remote villages and regions across India. 500 artisans attend the Annual General Meeting to weigh in on the company’s progress and way forward.

2,000

ARTISANS ARE DIRECT SHAREHOLDERS

70%

OF SHAREHOLDERS ARE RURAL WOMEN

₹20 Cr

ANNUAL TURNOVER FOR THE COMPANY

At present, 1,700 skilled artisans working full-time earn ₹15,000 a month.

Gita Devi, one of the first shareholders of the company, is proud of how far the venture has come. Her share certificate is framed and prominently displayed on the wall of her home in a Bikaner village.

 

The value of Gita Devi’s share, which was ₹100 when she bought it, is now ₹1,500. By working 4 hours a day, she and other artisans receive a monthly income ranging between ₹4,000 - ₹10,000. Artisan earnings go up to ₹12,000 if they combine embroidery work with tailoring of outfits. Prior to rangSutra’s efforts to upgrade artisans’ skills, they earned just between ₹500 - ₹1,000 per month.

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“This is the only punji (financial asset) in my name. The land as well the house on which it stands is in the name of my husband.” 

— GITA DEVI, ARTISAN

The raw material to finished product pipeline is decentralised

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HOW IT WORKS

Pattern making, purchase of raw materials, and dyeing of yarns is done centrally whereas the fabric itself is woven in different villages.

50 Craft Managers

Lead groups of 20 artisans and are trained with leadership and management skills to manage craft production on the ground

100 Designers

Work with artisans regularly to innovate and create new product designs to bring to market

20 Quality Facilitators

Selected and trained to ensure that rangSutra’s products meet global standards of quality

 
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CHALLENGES

1

Government’s requirement of a mandatory Demat account in order to buy or sell shares
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“The new law makes it difficult for artisans to become shareholders because they need to have an AADHAAR card and a PAN number to open a Demat account. Most artisans do not fall into the tax bracket that will warrant their being issued a PAN card.”

— SUMITA GHOSE, FOUNDER, RANGSUTRA
 
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SOLUTIONS

1

Offer skills and leadership training to build artisans’ capacities

4

Ensure timely  delivery of quality orders to buyers

2

Facilitate good working environments by supplying machinery and equipment

3

Provide equal pay, health insurance to men and women

5

Promote sales of artisans’ products directly to a global audience

 

INFORMAL VS. FORMAL

rangSutra creates safe working environments for women by organising home-based rural artisans in small producer groups and offering common spaces for them to work.

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“The informality has actually helped many of the women because this is, for many of them, the first time they are earning an income from work outside the home. The kind of informal atmosphere at our craft centres provides a safe place for them to gather. They often come there to talk to others, to meet with others, and it opens up their world. The informality of the centres is an advantage precisely because it's not like a structured factory or an office where they have to follow very strict rules.”

— SUMITA GHOSE, CO-FOUNDER, RANGSUTRA

Setting up bank accounts for artisans

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“Now that I am earning good money and it’s going into my bank account, I was able to get a loan from the bank to build another room in my house, which wouldn’t have been possible before.” 

— SITA, ARTISAN

Providing health insurance

While artisans are not yet eligible for a Provident Fund as they work on a per piece rate basis, rangSutra does offer health insurance for all their artisans.

Flexibility of working from home

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“As we saw during the early days of COVID-19 and the lockdown, artisans can work from home. Unlike other industries where they are dependent on the factories being open and employees coming in, our artisans don’t need much infrastructure in the sense of equipment and a common facility. 80% are women and they just need a needle, thread, and fabric to get the job done.”

— SUMITA GHOSE, CO-FOUNDER, RANGSUTRA
 

IMPACT

rangSutra offers equal pay, fair wages, safe working environment, and skills training to 3,000 artisans, impacting 20,000 lives. 

 
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ECONOMIC IMPACT

1
2
3

5x rise in incomes

 

₹5,000 a month average wage compared to ₹1,000 for irregular work

 

92.5% of artisans have bank accounts

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“30 years ago, we used to do embroidery primarily for dowry and household needs. Today, we have transformed our craft from a hobby to a real profession.”

— DHINYA BAI, ARTISAN
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SOCIAL IMPACT

70% of artisans are women

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“What the boys can do, the girls can too.”

— SAROJ, ARTISAN
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Women are major household contributors

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“It started with 10 or 20 women and soon there were 25 women. Today in my village, there are two groups of women numbering 110, all working in embroidery. These women are earning well working from home. Some women cover all of their household expenses this way.”

— BADILI BAI, ARTISAN

Added financial independence contributes to improved social status

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“We’ve built our houses, educated our kids, live with dignity, and command respect.”

— DHINYA BAI, ARTISAN
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Greater participation of women in village forum

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“Girls should live a life of freedom. They should fulfil their dreams.”

— SAROJ, ARTISAN
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Marked increase in women educating their daughters

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“In earlier times, women were discouraged from going out. Since they’re educated now, I encourage my children to go out, to learn, to travel. Whatever you do, progress in life.”

— BADILI BAI, ARTISAN
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ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT

Committed to recycling, reusing, and upcycling of yarn

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Use of solar looms is boosting productivity

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LEARNINGS

Collective collaborative ownership and management

The move from home-based work to center-based work facilitated a new kind of learning and a change in mindset. Artisans were exposed to new ways of working, sharing responsibilities and taking ownership for their work. This increased their confidence, their ability to take decisions, and their incomes. 

Lack of active participation by women

The women artisans or their representatives are reluctant to  participate or take on active leadership roles.

Prioritising cluster development and collaboration with local communities

Artisan training programs on product development and operations management level the playing field for rural artisan communities, most of whom lack access to formal education or vocational training.

Establishing quality control improves efficiency

Artisans are given access to superior materials, equipment, and working capital. This helps producer collectives maintain a standardised approach while working on orders from buyers.

 

“Practising this craft is more dignified than being a migrant worker in a city."

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“I worked in a metro city. I was paid little more than what I made here. But if I add the living expenses, travelling back home once in a while and other costs, it didn’t make any sense. Also, here I can work and spend time with my family and kids. I can fulfil my responsibility as a father and watch them grow up as well. I can continue to weave until I’m 70.”

— MISHRIMAL, ARTISAN

SDGs

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PHOTOS & VIDEOS COURTESY RANGSUTRA
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