Thursday, 29 May 2014

What is Tisser all about .....

Tisser aims to weave an exclusive rural boutique for products that are made from traditional techniques, skills and hand-based processes in rural India to support sustainable economic development of the artisans and weavers from the weaker sections and support human development by helping the girl child education. 

Tisser will weave a network of rural products across the globe whereby products from multiple countries would be explored and made available on wholesale rate to the retailers at one place. 

Readers .... pl suggest any products which need support for including in Tisser Network.

Tisser would link products from across the country and outside the country directly coming from the rural producers to modern urban markets, thereby creating a base for skilled, sustainable rural employment and preserving India's traditional handicrafts in the process. Tisser’s products are natural, handcrafted, contemporary, and affordable.

How does Tisser Work

Tisser has two broad categories of work. In the first category, we work with master artisans, who have a family tradition of the craft, and provide them with financial, quality and marketing assistance. In the second category, we provide services ranging from skill identification, training, design and development, quality control and marketing. As Tisser grows, we hope to invest more in the second category of work where we provide the gamut of services initially, and move the artisans to the first category where design inputs, along with quality and marketing assistance would suffice. We believe that quality handiwork, provided it is designed well for the current lifestyle, is capable of generating enough income to sustain economically self-sufficient groups of artisans.

Most of the artisans that we work with are not educated,  but they have a younger generation, which has a relatively better access to technology and training. A fair wage, appreciation of the craft and market reaching them at their homes, rather than them having to go out and look for jobs, would go a long way in convincing them to take up the craft as their vocation. Coupled with their education, they can reach the market directly and use Tisser’s inputs on a need basis.

Over the last few years, professionally I have gotten in touch with artisans at their homes, and sometimes in local exhibitions all across the country. The handicraft sector is the second largest employer in India after agriculture. Many of the traditional handicrafts have been awarded the geographical Identify, like the Mysore Silk. In most cases, Tisser start a project by visiting these places and arranging a first-hand meeting with the artisans. In some cases, inspired by the stories of a particular craft, Tisser have gone in search of them, sometimes successfully, and sometimes in vain. We have also ended up with a few unexpected finds. 

The respective government office of Panchayat Raj and the Rural development Department, through the livelihood mission have been a great source of help , as I have been working with them through the World Bank for almost five years now.

We design the products keeping in mind the art practiced by the artisan involved (be it embroidery or weaving or any other) and apply a good understanding of the process involved in the craft, and then give the artisans few samples to make. Once the samples are ready and approved, more pieces of the same type follow. 

The samples also help us in creating a quality sheet for the product, which specifies every single step that needs to be completed and checked before the product is declared as ready. So far we have been working with traditional designs and functionality, but lately we have been venturing into designing new stuff and imparting training to broaden the skills of the artisan.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Variety of Handcrafts in India and with Tisser

The craftsmen use different media to express their originality. The diversity of the handicrafts is expressed on textiles, metals – precious and semi-precious, wood, precious and semi-precious stones, ceramic and glass.

The overall categorization is as below :

Textile based handicrafts: Hand printed textiles including block and screen printing, Batik, Kalamkari (hand printing by pen) and Bandhani (tie and die) are used in products ranging from bed-covers to sheets, dress material to upholstery and tapestry. The famous embroidered articles of silk and cotton often embellished with mirrors, shells, beads, and metallic pieces are also found in India.  Embroidery is also done on leather, felt and velvet etc. This segment of the industry accounts for almost half a million strong employment in addition to a large number of designers, block makers, weavers and packers involved in the trade.

Clay, Metal and Jewelry: Tribal, terracotta, wood, brass, copper, bronze, bell metals etc. are used for a variety of wares and in a variety of finishes. Scintillating ornaments are available in a wide range of patterns, styles and compositions. They are made from precious metals, base metals, precious and semi-precious stones; these ornaments have traditional, as well as modern styles.

Woodwork: Wooden articles from the ornately carved to the absolutely simple. One can find toys, furniture, decorative articles, etc. bearing the art and individuality of the craftsman. India is known particularly for its lacquered wood articles.

Stone Craft: The intricately carved stoneware made of marble, alabaster or soapstone, etc., inlaid with semiprecious stones carry on the heritage of Indian stone crafts.

Glass and Ceramic:  Glass and ceramic products are a fast upcoming segment in the handicrafts from India. The age-old production process of mouth-blowing glass instills a nostalgic feeling. The varied shapes of ceramic and glass in a number of colours, would appeal to Western aesthetics while retaining the Indian touch.

As of now Tisser has inroad in : 

Women’s Clothing : Sari, Dupatta & Stole (Maheshwar, Chanderi, Tassar, Kalamkari and Ikat ), Crochet skirts and tops .

Artifacts : Goat Leather Craft : Lamps, Wall clocks, Wall hangings, Plasti - Clay flowers & Pots, Dokra & Metal Utility Items.

Accessories : Jwellery ,  handbags , pouches ,  Linen : Crochet and Lace.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Supporting the Handicrafts ....

We like and we purchase these products, however we never think what is the price the poor weaver sells this to middle man and what price we are paying for this. Why don't we directly purchase from the one who makes it? How? I want to solve this how by creating a network for urban community to buy rural products and directly support the social cause. Tisser aims to create this product network. It works with the original artists, artisans, handicraft makers on designs, product development and brings these products directly to the consumer through online network. The proceeds from sale are used to support girl child education of the artisans/weavers. The Self Help Group movement will be most benefited by this.

Weaving on Tisser leads to beautiful ethnic designs in Chanderi Maheswari and Tussar (Kosa) Fabric. This exclusive collection of hand weaved Dupattas , Sarees and Scarfs come directly from the weavers loom. Dupattas and Sarees can also be customized as per the requirement in terms of colour scheme and pattern. The products are lower priced since they come from the weavers. However if you go and see the situation of these weavers, they look like a bonded labor, totally exploited by the middle man. The weaver community is so poor that even after having the skill they can’t purchase raw material, neither can they market the product. I am creating stakeholders. The weavers weave for themselves. The products are marketed by Tisser and all proceeds go to the girl child education of the weavers’ daughters in Chanderi. A paid up capital of two lacs has been supported for this cause. Products have been purchased. 

The innovation piloting has started. Bulk and retail orders have started pouring. It’s like helping them respectfully.
I have been working with SHGs through the National Rural Livelihood Mission. I visit the rural areas regularly and have witnessed how rich is Indian rural community in traditional art. I live in urban Mumbai and see my friends wearing the hand woven saris and using the products to decorate the households. However they purchase through the available shops and on a very high price. The real art and the people attached to the same are dying in extreme poverty hence want to create this unique network to support the art in a respectable way. “You purchase the product and through proceeds we support the art and the artist” is the slogan. It has started with two products from handwoven fabric duppatta & sarees from Chanderi and Maheshwar. The new products to be added include tribal jewelry from jhabua, terracotta jewelry made by Self help group members from wardha, Tusar sarees weaved by the weavers from bhandara. 

There is a tremendous amount of enterprise in the rural world. What is lacking is the market connect and also identification of the value additions needed by the consumer i.e. market research. From my limited experience in the Livelihood program, interaction from field practitioners and also the various analysis in the innovation forum which was recently held, this is the kind of partnership and support rural India needs.  

This is definitely the way ahead.
It's a great idea to encourage the idea of "teach by showing and learn by doing".

Many of my friends are interested to support but don’t know how to do. Further I can’t ask people to just support anybody for girl child education and so on. Hence I have decided to work on products, which urban people like to purchase. Since I am working with the Livelihood Mission , I have access to SHG groups and products. I have started with three famous products which are popular and sell like hot cakes. Tisser has 100 Plus products now.

The idea is that you purchase the product and I use the proceed for the respective weavers’ girl child, hence it’s a win-win. Consumer gets the product, weavers can get money for product and I get the margin for the social cause

Plight of Rural Artisans in India

The craft sector contains many paradoxes. Artisanal contribution to the economy and the export market increases every year and more and more new crafts-people are being introduced into the sector - especially women - as a solution to rural and urban unemployment. At the same time mass-produced goods are steadily replacing utility items of daily use made by craftspeople, destroying the livelihood of many, without the concomitant capacity to absorb them into industry, However, with ever-increasing competition from mill-made products and decreasing buying power of village communities due to prevailing economic conditions, artisans have lost their traditional rural markets and their position within the community.

There is a swing against small scale village industries and indigenous technologies in favour of macro industries and hi-tech mechanised production. There are number of reasons for the craft people's current state: from the lack of capital to invest in raw materials to a scarcity of raw materials and their availability at reasonable rates; from the absence of direct marketing outlets to difficulty of access to urban areas that are now the main markets for craft products, from production problems to a lack of guidance in product design and development based on an understanding of the craft, the producer and the market - the constraints are many and varied

·   Disappearing markets: Craft is basically a commercial activity. In order to make a living from craft production, the artisan needs to sell his/her products regularly, realise a viable income from each sale and be assured of regular sales in the future. Production for home consumption is radically different from production for a commercial market. Given changing and competitive markets, the traditional craft skill, however beautiful, needs sensitive adaptation, proper quality control, correct sizing and accurate costing, if it is going to win and keep a place in the market. In other words the right combination of human, financial, physical and social capital is essential. There has been a dramatic shift in consumer choice from artisanal goods to factory made ones. For example, hand woven cotton fabrics have lost out to mill-made synthetic ones; plastic, china and glassware have wiped out the market for earthenware.

·  Wages and capital: Wages for the craft people are meagre. Even the highest wages are low relative to the earnings of many others in the agriculture or other non- farm activities. Irregularities in the supply of work mean that there is forced underemployment. Quality of work can only be sustained if the craft people can obtain a living through working for the market. The combination of low wages and insufficient work tends to exacerbate poverty among craft people. The demand for a consistent market needs to be complimented by an availability of social networks and accessibility to financial and physical capital. Creating employment is not a matter of creating 'jobs', but of strengthening these workers and producers to overcome structural constraints and enter markets where they would be competitive.

· Working capital is another most pressing need of artisans. Capital investment is the key not only to the development, but also to the continuing survival, of artisans and their craft. Lack of finance and cash flow is almost always the crux of craft people's problems.
·  Technological obsolescence: Modern technology has enabled machines to imitate even the most intricate designs that were once the exclusive domain of the artisans, developed and perfected over centuries and passed down from generation to generation. Any form of innovation implies an element of risk and investment of capital. Given that most Indian artisans live on the margin of subsistence, they have virtually no reserves to invest in technological innovation (physical capital).
While India possesses a tremendous tradition of handicrafts, many artisans struggle to keep their skills alive but also to satisfy an ever-increasing demand of high-quality products and designs. The sector is highly unorganised and the artisans lack access to key resources, such as information on market trends, raw material, adequate credit and technology.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Fail Safe -- Some Lessons for a budding social entrepreneur like me ..

Entrepreneurs are sharing goof-up stories at failure conferences so you can learn from their mistakes.

Article in Mumbai Mirror , Page 29 , 17th May 2014

According to a report in financial market news source Bloomberg, eight out of 10 entrepreneurs fail within the first 18 months. If you do the math, that's 80 per cent that crash and burn. 

In June, entrepreneurs from around the country, including Mumbai, have signed up to meet in Bangalore to discuss their failures in an attempt to learn from each other's experiences. FailCon is a one-day meet-up that'll see top businessmen discuss their set-backs, and how they rose to success. 

Mahesh Murthy, managing partner at venture capital company Seedfund, says India suffers lower rates of failure because "we aren't risk takers". Unlike, the Silicon Valley start-up community that is looking to go big or go home, Murthy measures a 15 per cent failure rate in the portfolio of companies that he has guided. 

In the US, every business wants to see a humongous success or it folds up. In India, success and failure is small because as a people, we make cautious moves. Businesses prefer to scale down losses by moving to backend dealers with a lower chance of failure. 

"In cricket terms, US start-ups are a Virender Sehwag equivalent. He hits a six or gets out. India is a Rahul Dravid, works slow and steady," says Murthy. 

The key problem he sees in Indian entrepreneurs is the unwillingness to accept failure. Top reasons include not dreaming big, lack of self confidence and sticking to traditional marketing strategies. 

"My advice is to fail fast and move on. No college can teach you how to be an entrepreneur, so it's best to learn from experience." 

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Why we need promote fair price in handicraft

Dear Friends 

We like and we purchase Handicrafts products, however we never think at what price the  artisans sells this to middle man and what price we are paying for this.
  •      In a country of a billion people, traditional macro-economic models will not suffice. We need to create economic solutions that cater to individuals, yet scale to a larger population. Everyone deserves the right to be able to earn enough to have a secure future, and provide educational opportunities for their children.
  •          Handicrafts provide a unique opportunity to create a large scale, market-based solution to help millions of artisans.
  •       In this era of mass-produced replicas, where a few people control profits, handicrafts provide a rare micro-economic opportunity for even distribution of income.
  •      If craftspeople receive a fair wage for their products, they will be saved from the hardship of migrating to urban centers in search of menial jobs. They can enjoy a better quality of life in their home towns and villages.
  •          Since the handicraft industry largely involves women working from home, a fair wage to them would give them economic independence—and ensure a better livelihood for their families.
  •          Handicraft traditions need to be nurtured and preserved, as they are living, breathing examples of a country’s tradition and history.
  •      Any sort of handicraft, by its very nature, should bring focus to the people who create it; not the people who sell it.   
  •         Handcrafted products are aesthetically superior to their machine made counterparts.
  •          Well designed quality handcrafted products can compete with the best the world has to offer.

Our children should see and appreciate the beauty of traditional handmade materials – the things that we have grown up with.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Handicrafts in India

The craft or handicraft sector is the largest decentralized and unorganized sector of the Indian economy. Craftspeople are the second largest employment sector in India, second only to agriculture. Handicrafts are rightly described as the craft of the people: there are twenty-three million craftspeople in India today. In India, craft is not merely an industry but a creation symbolizing the inner desire and fulfillment of the community. While handicrafts, be it metal ware, pottery, mats, wood-work or weaving, fulfill a positive need in the daily life of people, they also act as a vehicle of self-expression, and of a conscious aesthetic approach to life.

The artisan is an important factor in the equation of Indian society and culture. By performing valid and fruitful social functions for the community, they earn for themselves a certain status and position in society. S/he is the heir to the people's traditions and weaves them into his/her craft. Most craft people have learned their skills from their fathers or mothers since caste and family affiliations, rather than training or market demand, have primacy in the Indian situation.

The handicrafts sector is a home-based industry which requires minimum expenditure, infrastructure or training to set up. It uses existing skills and locally available materials. Income generation through craft does not (and this is important in a rural society) disturb the cultural and social balance of either the home or the community. Many agricultural and pastoral communities depend on their traditional craft skills as a secondary source of income in times of drought, lean harvests, floods or famine. Their skills in embroidery, weaving, basket-making are a natural means to social and financial independence.

India is one of the important suppliers of handicrafts to the world market. The Indian handicrafts industry is highly labour intensive cottage based industry and decentralized, being spread all over the country in rural and urban areas. Numerous artisans are engaged in crafts work on part-time basis. The industry provides employment to million artisans, which include a large number of women and people belonging to the poor section of the society.

Tisser on Face Book


The Social Media , specially the face book has helped Tisser connect to the clients , it started with 50 likes to 5308 likes. It is in exciting task to get new products , click them , post them over FB . The comments from friends and followers has strengthen the initiative. The page exists at :

Happy Browsing !

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Starting Tisser

Dear Friends 

From my basic profession as an urban and regional planner , where recently am working on the national livelihood project , I have decide to walk the talk . I realized its easy to talk on rural products made by artisans and weavers regarding marketing , product development , forward linkages , etc etc. However it is necessary at some point of life to do what we preach . I have started a social initiative named " Tisser " . This is french word for weave. The idea is to weave a network for array of rural products , mainly done by artisans and weavers from India / abroad and bring them to the consumer market. The next step is to use the proceeds from this to support girl child education of the respective rural artisans and weavers. This ensure that the movement support the artisans and weavers in a respectable way . Presently three products have been introduced by Tisser , Namely Scarf , Indian Dupatta and Indian Saree from the weavers from Maheshwar , Chanderi and Tussar from SHG groups from Bhandara (Maharashtra). Within a month the response for bulk enquirers have been tremendous and beyond expectation.  The products being developed are Tercotta Jewelry , Bamboo Lamps from Chandrapur SHGs etc. 

The criteria is simple , First should directly come from weaver or artisans . Second it should belong to SHG group or any rural poor family who is struggling to keep the art alive and is being used by middleman. As per the principle the respective proceeds of the products will go back to support the daughters education. 

The idea is to adopt at least 50 girls from the three places whose products are with Tisser in 2014 and many more in the coming year . Please inform me on new products from India and Abroad. 
Please give ideas on how to take this forward.

Tisser moving ahead

Dear Friends

Wanted to post an update on Tisser, it is growing beyond expectation. Started with two products on hand with minimal investment, now it has above 75 products from multiple states. Last five months have been exciting, I have managed it with minimal support. Right from exploring , ordering , designing ,packaging, cataloging and marketing. It has also been an extraordinary learning experience for me.The orders continue to pour from all over the country and also internationally.

Tisser has got some exclusive distributors for local and exports which will reduce the risk of direct marketing and thus focus can be shifted on the products and their development only.I have been exploring most of the ideas suggested by the group members : Consultation with Africa Ignite is on ; Tisser has struck a partnership with Om Creations,the agency where differently abled make wonderful products; New products from other states have started coming in through the livelihood missions; training of SHG members near Mumbai and through the differently abled @ Anand niketan. On order from clients Tisser has started investing on it own products like -- weaving scarfs for men, which the weavers have not done earlier.

The initial investment has started rolling over for scaling up. Now Tisser has three catalogs - Clothing ; Artifacts ; Accessories. Interested members can like the facebook page of Tisser @ ; In between Tisser shall be ready with its website by this month end with a new logo , Looking forward to share with the group. Tisser will launch its page this month: (company page) & (online wholesale).

The task of donating to the girl child cause will be done at the year end when the balance sheets are done and profit is determined. Until then all money goes in reinvesting for business promotions. One more by product can be mentioned , personally Tisser took me into a creative space , within my drab professional commitments in rural livelihood, it generated lot of enthusiasm and happiness in life.

Looking forward for inputs from the members as always on new products