Friendship, relations and genuine support in Guwahati

Early October: the rain season normally has come to an end in Guwahati. Not this time, when I worked a couple of days for Fabric Plus, a client of Women on Wings. Nahata invited me for an early walk towards the Guwahati main river with the promise to see an amazing sunrise. He starts walking at 5:30, like many other citizens and with his friend we started on a hilly road to reach the river banks. It became a great experience of friendship, as within half an hour the rain was pouring as if the Monsoon just started. We managed to reach a small tea-café and after some calls back and forth a friend reached out to us with his car to bring us home. You might wonder what this story has to do with my work for Women on Wings? For me it once more underlines that friendship, relations, genuine support when one is in need (big or small), these rich values are deeply embedded in the Indian people I know and surely the people leading and surrounding Fabric Plus. It was great to experience that once again. I felt I became part of that friendship circle, a strong base to grow personally and for Fabric Plus as a business.

Growing the business; that’s the ambition of Dilip, Nahata, Roy and all people involved in the value chain of Fabric Plus. They produce great products: from the Mogu silk cocoon they spin the golden tread which is used and highly valued by Indian brides for their wedding dress. Furthermore, the Eri silk is base for the majority of silk tread and woven products. Beautiful shawls with rich patterns are produced in the weaving department.

Great growth of employment was seen in the last years as more and more women could contribute to the cocoon harvesting and start earning additional money for a better living. While sales and export grew, and supply of cocoons was sufficiently growing, the key for my visit was to analyze the bottlenecks in the organization and the operations of the plant. Together with Ronald van het Hof we started of our journey to explore improvement opportunities. I had to familiarize myself with silk production, with the organization, with the key equipment. Quickly we found out that – before even going into operational details – it was necessary to deeply discuss some things first with the top management. Some misalignment from the past, some unspoken worries and frustrations were addressed. Trust comes by foot and goes by horse, the team found each other at a great dinner after this alignment session.

And with this basic trust, the next detailed steps became much more easy. We had great training and discussion sessions on ‘lean & 6sigma’, a methodology to improve efficiency in an organization by addressing key questions like: “how can we reduce waste in the process”, waste meaning for instance: too much raw material inventory, misalignment in demand & supply leading to over production, waiting time in the plant, defects and quality issues, etc. Every session was closed with a “white board speaks”. Dilip reviewed in these sessions the major learnings and we jointly made a list of follow-up action points. Currently, the team is working on those top 3 winning points with potential to enhance production with more than 50%.

Early next year we get together to celebrate the first results, for sure they will come. And I look forward to another chance to see the sunrise with friends at the river banks of Guwahati! Jan Anne Schelling