This village had only one source of income – agriculture. Till an entrepreneur came along and trained 22 women to become self-sustainable with a handy skill. This is the story of LifeCraft.
Like many other youngsters from the city of Jamshedpur in Jharkhand, Sourabh Mahato decided to leave his hometown after school to study and work in a more developed city and state. After spending time in Pune, Mumbai and Goa, he returned home in 2012. This 33-year-old was not quite prepared for what he saw.
“I decided to take a tour of some nearby villages and found that the condition of life there was the same as it had been during my childhood. There was poverty, illiteracy, lack of electricity, and many other problems – mostly because the only source of income for villagers was rain dependent agriculture. That tour brought an emotional change in me. And I thought that something had to be done to make things better,” he says.
After brainstorming with some of his friends, Sourabh started LifeCraft – an NGO meant to improve the lives of people in rural India by creating sustainable livelihoods in villages that do not have alternate sources of employment.
“I figured out that to provide the villagers with any sustainable source of income would mean bringing in something that sells and can be made in those villages. That’s when the idea of designing cloth came to mind because it can be done without electricity and is a handy skill,” explains Sourabh.
“I got in touch with Mr. Chandran Kani who helped me get a place in the Kerala Institute of Handloom Technology, which is meant to upgrade the skills of weavers in Kerala. There, I learnt handloom weaving for about seven months. For information on dyeing clothes, I got in touch with Mr. Mahalingam. He was then the Technical Superintendent in the Karnataka Weavers Service Centre, Bangalore. He trained me for four months in eco-friendly hand dyeing techniques. After that I was confident about myself,” he says.
Trained and ready with about a year and a half’s worth of learning, Sourabh finally returned to Jamshedpur and started searching for a suitable village to kick-start his project.
It was in Kuiani village, located in East Singhbhum district of Jharkhand, that he came across a farmer who wanted to be an entrepreneur.
Manohar Mahato wished to do something else in life but did not have the resources or knowhow to get started. Sourabh made a deal with him. He would take Manohar’s land on lease. But instead of paying rent he would build on the property, creating a full-fledged cloth designing and dyeing centre. Additionally, he would teach him everything he knew about making clothes.
As for Manohar, he would get a business and the required knowledge to sustain the enterprise.
It took two years to convert Manohar’s land into a business centre.
Sourabh got a water tank, a dye house, a pre-processing and post-processing shed, and a designing shed set up in the area. Then, they looked for women in and around the village who wanted work.
It took Sourabh about two months to train the women and Manohar has a workforce of 22 women now.
Sourabh makes all the raw material available at Manohar’s doorstep. Most of the raw material comes from the weavers in Tamil Nadu and the dye comes from Gujarat. With these, Manohar has to make stoles with designs inspired by rural people.
“We are trying to develop rural motifs. The idea is to sell the stoles and give them the returns so that they have enough for themselves and also enough to buy raw materials for the next month. I am trying to make a sustainable place of employment in the village,” says Sourabh. This is the first project of LifeCraft and it is called Kuiani Hand Dyers.
It was not very simple for Sourabh to convince the villagers about his intentions. But once they understood he was there to help them, they were eager to learn what he had to teach.
Kuiani Hand Dyers by LifeCraftDo spare a few moments to watch how these women are learning a new craft in quest of financial independence. A short film on “Kuiani Hand Dyers”, the first project of LifeCraft, aiming to provide an alternate source of sustainable income to the women of Kuiani Village and nearby, who want to work and need the employment to improve their lives. This project is a sincere attempt to provide training and know how in all processes in pre- processing, designing, design executing, eco-friendly hand dyeing of pure cotton fabric to the women who wish to learn and work and provide them with a happy workplace with proper infrastructure and equipments and provide them with a chance to have a 9 to 5 job at their doorsteps and make contentment and happiness a part of their daily lives.Help us to make this effort to provide these women with chance to have a job they love at their doorsteps a reality…help them in their first steps in financial independence. do make a small donation if u feel we are doing a good job at teaching them.. it helps in a huge way…share our effort and contribute at our ongoing campaign at – http://lifecraft.ketto.org/lifecraft
Posted by Lifecraftorg on Friday, October 23, 2015
For now, the products are at the manufacturing stage and not ready for the market. “I am trying to make a successful business model for Manohar because I want more people like him to become entrepreneurs. So there is a 10-20% profit margin for him. The rest will go towards the salaries of the women and for buying raw materials,” explains Sourabh.
As for the funding for the project so far, Sourabh used his savings from his previous jobs.
He is also collecting money through a crowd funding platform. Prior to this, Sourabh was working in Goa on a project related to acquisition of rural land for tourism development. He quit his job and is now settled in Jamshedpur, about 40 km away from the village.
He leaves at about 7:30 every morning and stays in the village till 6 in the evening.
“Many of these women hardly get to express themselves because of the patriarchal structure in their homes. So when they come here, they are so happy. Some of them get up at 4 in the morning to complete housework so they can come. That is the kind of enthusiasm I am getting to witness here,” he concludes.
You can contact Sourabh by writing to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.