Building Eco Tasar Silk with head and heart

Woven around the aspirations of tens of thousands of tribal silkworm rearers, rural women yarn makers and handloom weavers in the hinterlands of India, the Weave A Hope initiative from Women on Wings’ partner Eco Tasar Silk Private Limited, primarily aims at providing them sustainable livelihoods, while ensuring commercial viability for the company.

From project to enterprise
Eco Tasar Silk Private Limited (Eco Tasar) was initially a livelihood promotion project by PRADAN, an Indian NGO. Based and located in Jharkhand, one of the most economically challenging states in India, Eco Tasar now provides for natural commercial aggregation of Tasar silk yarn. The yarn is used to weave high end and exquisite stoles and scarves, throws, sarees and fabric, which in turn are marketed and sold through partners in India and across the globe.

Inclusive economic opportunities
At the helm of Eco Tasar is Khitish Pandya who has been involved with the textile wing of PRADAN since 2000. He was brought in to build Eco Tasar and grow the enterprise so as to impact more poor rural families. As a social entrepreneur, Khitish Pandya strongly believes that providing right economic opportunities to the less fortunate in their own locale and also by helping enhance their capacity to avail such opportunities is a more inclusive and sustainable way of poverty alleviation.

Impacting millions sustainably
Says Khitish: “We did not start this venture to earn millions for ourselves. We started this to impact the lives of millions of people in rural India. We wish to build and run a sustainable business which shall create wage opportunities for a large number of small, artisanal, rural and home based producers, particularly women, on a sustained basis so that they are able to leverage the constant flow of wages to lift themselves out of poverty.”

Tasar; natural and fair made
Tasar is a natural silk and its silkworms are reared on live trees, as they do not feed on plucked leaves. Its exposure to nature results in its truly multi-tonal look, which can never be duplicated by manmade fabric. This makes it a truly wild silk, much sought after by connoisseurs around the world. Each item’s creation is a source of livelihood and hope for a better future for thousands of rural and tribal women who otherwise have no wage opportunity in their remote villages. The principles of Fair Trade are adhered to studiously, in the manufacturing process. No child labor is involved and utmost care is taken to make a truly green product. Natural vegetable dyes and /or Azo-free dyes are used in the manufacture of these silks, which are then being sold worldwide through both regular and fair trade channels.

Women on Wings and Eco Tasar
The collaboration between the two social enterprises started in 2013. Since then various Women on Wings has facilitated workshops with Eco Tasar’s management on topics such as growth strategy, business planning, sales & marketing and organizational development. Women on Wings supports in implementing the defined roadmap and Khitish Pandya participates to all Women on Wings’ 2 days’ summits. Also Eco Tasar and Khitish Pandya are key in a new access to markets initiative from Women on Wings that will be launched in The Netherlands early 2020.

Picture: Khitish Pandya, right, with Women on Wings’ Ronald van het Hof and Rosalie Ruler Thaker