Anjali Singh, founder and director at Women on Wings’ partner Jute Artisans Guild Association, is one of those people who did not let the corona virus deter her. In June, despite COVID-19, the social entrepreneur opened a new retail outlet in Lucknow which showcases a wide range of jute products, all hand-made by women in rural India.
Support from State Government
The beautiful retail outlet is in the Khadi and Village Industries Board (UPKVIB) premises in Lucknow, the capital of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Since Jute Artisans Guild Association (Jute Artisans) is a UPKVIB member and had successfully participated in its Scheme of Fund for Regeneration of Traditional Industries (SFURTI), Anjali Singh was given the space on rent. After redecorating the space into an inspiring retail outlet, it was officially inaugurated by Mr. Udaybhan Singh, Minister of State for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises. The occasion was also graced by Mr. Siddhartha Nath Singh, Cabinet Minister in the Government of Uttar Pradesh and Mr. Navneet Sehgal, Principal Secretary of the Department of Khadi and Village Industries and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.
Jute Artisans sells its products under its brand name Jute for Life. Products made from jute, like bags, office stationary, furniture, curtains, and other home decoration, hand-made by women from villages around Lucknow. Jute Artisans’ sales director Shailendra Singh aims to provide customers with tailor made products. Therefore two artisans are available with sewing machines in the Jute for Life store to do the sampling. Due to COVID-19, sales are obviously sub optimal but since the store opened, Jute for Life’s team is being able to meet their expenses. Efforts are being made to invite people to the store, both offline and online, and those pay off. Orders are coming in, which means continuation of work for the women artisans.
Growing the social enterprise
Women on Wings and Jute Artisans started collaborating in 2018 on their joint effort to grow employment opportunities for women in rural India. At the start of the partnership over 250 women were engaged with Jute Artisans. Since then, the teams have worked together on improving the social enterprise’s business through interactive workshops on topics like production, record keeping, finance, branding, and marketing, and mentoring of the management. This has enabled the social enterprise to become a more professionally managed venture which is now well-known in the jute sector. Anjali Singh started her social organization in 2010 with just 30 women employees. Today almost 1,000 women are working at Jute Artisans. Each of these women artisans is trained and skilled under Jute Integrated Development Scheme program of the National Jute Board.
Image: Anjali and Shailendra Singh in their new store