Nushaura’s earth-friendly aromatherapy candles light up spaces with their fragrance and warmth. Aromas of star anise, cinnamon, or fruits like pineapple and mango disperse fill the air with bliss, and their paraben-free quality cleanses it for a soothing atmosphere.
Even more awesome is that they are crafted by female artisans – the only source of livelihood for hundreds of rural women of Rajasthan.
The birth of a social entrepreneur
Nushaura, a brand of eco-friendly products, is a startup founded by Tanushree Jain of Jaipur, Rajasthan. She began working at the grassroots level five years ago while pursuing a Masters degree in Developmental Leadership at the Indian School of Development Management.
“In our society, girls are married off early and have no financial independence. This motivated me to work with women artisans since the early days, and I moved to Delhi to pursue experiential learning from a developmental sector’s end,” she shares with The Better India.
During this time, she gained experience under various non-profit ventures searching for the ideal way to change this scenario. As she puts it today, “An entrepreneur is born out of a lack, a necessity, and not just interest.”
In fact, this idea came to her thanks to her life in the big city. High levels of pollution and low quality of living afflicted breathing issues on the now 25-year-old. “I would use air-purifying candles to cut indoor pollution back then. But most of them consisted of high levels of parabens and harmful chemicals,” she says. So she learnt the art of making 100 per cent pure beeswax candles. These candles are claimed to release negative ions that cleanse the air by encapsulating the positive ions of dust and pollution.
While solving this problem, she found her vehicle for driving large-scale impact. Tanushree came up with a product that checked pollution without causing other additional side effects.
And having grown up interacting with the rural women of her hometown, she decided to employ their will and skill to set up the business.
Sharing how the facilitation came about, she reveals, “My mother is a teacher at a government school in Jaipur. The women I spoke to for this project were parents of her students, so building trust became fairly easy. I had seen their handiwork in apparel for a long time and knew this would prove to be a great medium to share their skill with a larger audience.”
Nushaura began with 10 women and umpteen efforts to build a stable social and economic structure in the community.
Learning candle making, Jain began dispersing its skill along with others via workshops, group sessions, and Self Help Group (SHG) meetings.
A Nushaura artisan involved in the candle-making process
An environmentally conscious approach delivered high quality, sustainable merchandise and packaging to a market saturated with harmful products. Running as a producers company, the venture ensured that all profits reached back to its rural craftswomen.
Saroj, a Nashaura artisan from Machwa village of Rajasthan, says, “I have three kids at home and have studied only till class 5. Through Tanushree, I have been able to find the ideal way to support myself and my family. I make candles from the comfort of my home, and with effort, my family has come to accept my work as well. Watching my life change, the women around me also got interested in joining a fruitful venture. I even got five to seven women to join in.”
How one woman’s courage empowered hundreds
Tanushree had herself struggled with deeply entrenched patriarchy throughout the process. Her family and friends had often questioned the need for spending resources to work at an age when marriage into another family was imminent.
Powering through such questioning judgments, she chose to become a first-generation entrepreneur in her family, bootstrapping her idea with personal savings and no other safety net.
She knew that her struggles or the mechanisms she employed would not shine – only the impact she generated through this venture. Today, her network of rural artisans has expanded to 250 women across 15 villages of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
Divided into three SHGs, they are employed in stitching, food processing and manufacturing of candles and soaps. These women make a range of products, like eco-friendly hampers, chocolates, sustainable crafts, masks, etc.
“This journey has made these women financially independent and has also gifted them with skills of decision making, feedback reception, and communication,” the young founder shares.
Her company records an annual turnover of 12 lakhs today. The products are available at various e-commerce platforms and online exhibitions.
“The artisans are shareholders in my startup. They manufacture the products and reap its benefits. Each woman employed by Nushaura earns herself a monthly income between Rs 2000 to Rs 2500. In a place where any livelihood was discouraged, and confidence was nil, this becomes a major source of security for them and a matter of pride for me,” she shares proudly.
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)