How we craft collectives
Initial explorations to work with existing artisan collectives posed challenges in terms of their own sustainability and willingness to engage. This led to the development of a process that would initiate the craft-persons into a collective, build the business, build the capacity to manage and take risks.
The first step in Direct Implementation, mobilization starts with identifying the geographical area where there is a need to work with the artisans. We then conduct scoping studies, identifying potential pockets and fine-tuning the benefit offerings to the artisans for buy-in. The goal of this Mobilization is the legal registration of the Producer enterprises
- Concept of ‘collective gain’ presented to artisans through public meetings, pamphlets, exposure visits and films.
- Strategic and Business planning
- Immersion exercises to communicate best practices in the sector.
- Formation of management and advisory committees.
- Experimental production and marketing.
- Formulation of bylaws and business rules.
- Identification and training of human resources required for the producer company.
- Approaching financial institutions for capital investments.
Once the collective is formed, it is important to initiate production to keep the momentum and morale of artisans high. For this reason, Production services are initiated in the Mobilization stage – we undertake production and technology feasibility studies for new designs and equipment. The artisans’ skills, equipment type, production capacities and design inclination are studied to prepare a customized production plan that has clearly defined ownership. A State-of-the-art Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system has been developed from scratch, enabling the tracking of each unit of production from raw material to end user. This has also enabled the Producer Company staff to track production on the move.
- Member-based ‘Production & Design Planning’ for every quarter and preparation of yarn budget and indents.
- ‘Dyeing Plan’ based on color schemes including stringent checking of dyeing quality for fastness and color matching.
- Identifying reliable service providers, vendors and technologies that service the best quality at best rates.
- Develop designs based on existing techniques, that most artisans can adapt to easily.
- Design implementation with ‘design layouts’ in vernacular language, on-loom quality monitoring and penalties for defective weaving.
- Easy systems for dispersal of raw material and collection of woven stock from the weaver at the artisan’s doorstep.
- Centralizing certain production processes to offer better services to the artisans.
- Wages calculation systems based on existing wages and complexity.
Our marketing approach was developed through on-the-job experience – we were faced with unorganized marketing channels, and had little marketing experience ourselves. Our main goals at this stage was to balance how a trader works while keeping a keen eye on numbers, and ensuring that growth benefits reach the artisans directly. We have always advocated for a separate legal entity for the artisans enterprises to maintain integrity in management and in our own souls. From creating opportunities through mainstream marketing channels, like exhibitions and small orders from retailers, to establishing regular small wholesale orders and handling big retail buyers like Fab India and Jaypore, our marketing strategy aims at steady growth for collectives.
- Systems to facilitate and track orders to fulfill them in a timely manner.
- Transparent remittance of sales revenues to collectives through clear billing and accounting systems.
- Costing and appropriate pricing systems for different marketing channels.
- Channel-wise MIS analysis for clear decision-making.
- Target allocation and incentive systems.
It is necessary to broad base the instruments available in finance to give access to both the consumptive and productive financial needs of the artisans. Since financial needs are channeled through the collectives, with better performance, the collectives have made provision for consumptive credit. Since the production needs are taken care of through common working capital loans, the collective have made provisions for different consumptive financial needs – personal loans, housing loans, medical emergency loans & grants, grant for grocery & educational aids and health insurance etc. We work along with the collectives in developing all these financial instruments. Our most valued learning has been about compulsory savings set aside by the artisans as a percentage of the wage bill. The artisans protested, not being used to such deductions from wages. However, with time it has led to internal capital accumulation and in some cases, this amount services 30% of the working capital requirement. This also builds member allegiance to the collective as they have invested their savings. Additionally, it acts as an informal “provident fund” for artisans during their retirement as the savings can be withdrawn only upon the withdrawal of the membership.
- Mobilizing working capital and infrastructure loans.
- Developing finance guidelines to ensure proper utilization and repayment of loans according to the purpose.
- Member-level financial tracking – loans, wages, receivables and grants
- Developing legal instruments/contracts for compliance by the collectives.
- Monthly audits by Chitrika team.
- Robust repayment mechanisms of loans through compulsory cut from wages.
- ERP system for sales tracking ad orders implementation using latest platform and hardware.
We have always believed that the “maker” can “market” too. Hence, our skilling programme has always focused on skills that are required to run an enterprise, keeping in mind the collective gain.
- Business and Strategic planning
- Legal aspects in and for collectives
- Marketing Management
- Product Management
- Computer skills
- Design Management
- Financial Management
- Theory and practice of cooperation
We aim to increase the efficiency of production operations and ease the work-load of the producer company employees. To achieve this, we have developed an end-to-end, custom Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) tracking system for collectives, based on the latest technology. Some of its primary features include accurate raw material projection & procurement, order planning, automatic tracking of production & sales and elimination of errors in calculations. The system can plan, implement, track and provide tools for effective production implementation, financial and inventory management.
- Channel-wise tracking
- Order implementation system
- Exhibition module
- Production planning and projection
- Production implementation
- Quality systems
Human Resource Module
- Monthly Log-sheet
- Salary computation
- Performance assessment
- Member finances tracking
- Penalties, loans, share-capital and other receivables form members tracking
- Integration with Shopify platform
- Sales and inventory analytics
Mobile Hardware integration
- Integrated device, scanner and mobile printing provisions
Direct Implementation Portfolio
1. Vamshadhara Weavers’ Producer Company
Hand-spun khadi through integrated production systems where farmers, spinners and weavers reside within the same place and produce the world famous Khadi – this idea led Vijaya Switha to the famous Ponduru in Srikakulam district of AP to work on Khadi. The field reality changed the course of the journey to Devaravalasa, now the home to one of the well-performing weaver collectives.
There is a joke among weavers that Devaravalasa village is not even on the map of India, when compared to the world renowned Ponduru, hardly 9 kms away. This non-descript village has become a testing ground for the model that we want to evolve.
In 2005, when Ponduru village had many master weavers (private traders) and two government promoted societies, it was difficult for us to mobilize weavers who already had access to work within the village. After many months of exploration, we chanced upon Devaravalasa village where weavers were looking for opportunities within the village. Most of them were weaving for traders in Ponduru and hence had to lose half a day in travel, collection of raw material/wages and depositing the finished product. Lack of local opportunities, a complete dependence on weaving and the availability of multi-skilled weavers became the starting point for our initiative. We organized 10 weaver youths into the Uma Chandra Sekhara Mutually Aided Cooperative Society (SUCCS) in November 2006.
Since 2012, the trajectory of growth has been supported by changes in the process of dyeing, and design strategy, and a revival of native techniques from Srikakulam. In 2014, SUCCS changed its form into Vamshadhara Weavers’ Producer Company with 110 weavers currently, increasing its reach and stature.
When we started work, very few weavers were weaving 100% khadi with just a handful weaving the famed ‘hand-spun’ Ponduru khadi. Since the aim was to service as many weavers as possible, we chose to start work with the large number of cotton weavers and slowly started introducing khadi in the weft and then in the warp. Currently, most of the products are ‘Semi-Khadi’ (Cotton warp, Khadi weft) in Jamdani, Kuppadam and Ballakammi techniques along with Checks/Stripes.
Today, Vamshadhara has grown into one of the largest employers in Srikakulam district. Apart from providing the best comparative wages and regular bonuses for weavers, it has changed the way business is organized in handlooms. With quality systems at every level, formal contracts with vendors, transparent financial management and effective use of capital, Vamshadhara improved its performance as well as its reserves. With an active Board and staff of four people from the weaving community, it is able to service currently over 110 weavers in Srikakulam and Vizianagaram districts.
2. Godavari Women Weavers’ Services Producer Company
With a wiser mind and more confidence, we started our work in East Godavari in September of 2013. The East Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh is known for its cotton/silk products, famously known as ‘Uppada Jamdani’. Weavers mostly weave 80s count with a few skilled enough to weave 100s as well.
Along with ALC India, we zeroed in on East Godavari for the density and diversity of looms. With ALC India’s strategic and fund support, we touched almost 1000 households to mobilize the initial 50 women weavers. Fewer men in weaving due to low income and weak pre-loom support had made weaving a supplementary livelihood for the households in East Godavari. This also meant women were going to be the main weavers. Chit-fund scams, weaver youth shifting to other occupations to nearby prosperous towns and an influx of silk weaving posed major challenges in the work. Many visits to weaver households, developing exclusive designs and changing the way pre-loom is organized, enabled us to organize the first group of 50 women. Godavari Women Weavers’ Services Producer Company (GWWSPC) is the first women weavers’ producer company in Andhra Pradesh.
GWWSPC focuses on fine count ‘singles’ cotton yarn weaving with street sizing – a category that is becoming a rarity in the handloom scenario of the country. Numerous design and technical trainings have helped in developing many local women leaders who are silently creating a revolution. The well-coordinated pre-loom groups support the production of all members spread across 100 kms. Fine count cottons in Kuppadam, Jamdani, Buta, Dobby, Jacquard and Checks/Stripes are woven by the Godavari women weavers.k
Since beginning its operations in May 2014, GWWSPC doubled its growth every year. Our experienced team, advisors, Board and staff of GWWSPC, who are all weavers, supported us in re-organizing the production system to suit the requirement of women weavers. Quarterly production planning, design-based pre-loom, raw material at the doorstep of the weavers and localized design support helped in expanding the product range and reach of the company.
For Chitrika Foundation, consulting has always been a core instrument of learning. Since 2005, we have been involved in assignments with other organizations involved with crafts, collectives or aspects related to economic well-being of the marginalized. Based on the services in our “Direct Implementation” programmes, we offer consulting support in specific areas or as a whole.
A Sub-sector study of Deccani Wool in Andhra Pradesh.
The study involved analyzing the current context of deccani wool to pinpoint its future scope.
Crafts Council of Andhra Pradesh
Capacity building of Banjara Needle Craft among Lambada tribal women.
This was one of our initial assignments, involving training women on collective action, registering a mutually aided cooperative society and laying down the legal processes.
International Institute of Sustainable Development
A study on “Price volatility in cotton yarn industry”.
This was the first international study co-authored with IISD, analyzing the reasons for price volatility in yarn, which has a telling influence on the value-chains dependent on cotton including handlooms.
All India FAO- IDRC through ALC India
Study on Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture.
In this study, Chitrika Foundation was part of the team that studied the peri-urban agriculture around Hyderabad.
Action Aid - ALC India
NREGS Social Audit Documentation.
Chitrika Foundation was part of a team that documented the social audit process in Anantapur District in Andhra Pradesh.
Training Manual on Livelihoods.
The training manual covered key aspects related to livelihoods, from promotion to finance and capacity building.
Centre for Handlooms Information and Policy Advocacy (CHIP)
Study on Wage status of Weavers in Srikakulam district.
The study was part of the larger assignment related to study of wages in handlooms in Andhra Pradesh. The study analyzed how wages are lower than minimum wages of unskilled workers.
ALC India and GERES
Valuation of Wool Transformation Project, Ladakh.
This study evaluated the current program and suggested strategies for next steps. It also involved training of women in key aspects in livelihoods.
Strengthening Kondapalli Artisan Cooperative Society.
The project involved training artisans in enterprise management and developing business rules for the same.
Business Planning Support to communities under Endogenous Tourism Programme.
The assignment involved working with NGO partners of UNDP in strengthening the tourism committee and training in the sustainability of the project.
Sir Dorabji Tata Trust
Pan Andhra Pradesh Cotton Handloom Market Study.
The study covered key aspects in marketing, current scenario, emerging trends and key corrective action.
ALC India- Care India
CARE Strategy Paper for Andhra Pradesh.
This study involved a desk study of the existing scenario in different district through desk-based research.
Economic & Social Contribution of Women in Handloom Sector – Field-based analysis.
This study was undertaken to bring out the economic contribution of the “hidden-half” in handlooms sector.
Evaluation study of the project “Sustainable livelihoods for young people and women in Tamil Nadu”.
This was an evaluation to study the impact of a livelihood project in Tsunami affected areas of Tamil Nadu.
Resurgence of vibrant self-reliant cooperatives in India.
Chitrika Foundation covered Jammu & Kashmir and Uttaranchal states in India to understand how new generation cooperatives are performing.
Management support to development of “Godavari Women Weavers’ Services Producer Company”, East Godavari.
A turnkey project, it is ongoing as a core project of Chitrika Foundation. We took over the project from ALC India.
Co-drafting “Chattisgarh State Self-Help Associations Development Act, 2017".
This law will help in the promotion and development of legal eco-system for nurturing self-help groups
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