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Women-led nonprofits breathing new life into artisanship across India

13 Jul 2022, 08:45 PM IST


SVATANYA is one of the organisations that are part of ‘Pragati’ by Meta and The/Nudge Centre for Social Innovation. Pragati is an initiative that incubates and accelerates early-stage women-led non-profits that are aiming to solve the livelihood crisis in India


In a world where resilient livelihoods are the need of the hour, an inspirational group of women entrepreneurs are pioneering a movement of impactful work. Among them are a few who’ve identified a unique opportunity to enable livelihoods through artisanship. One such organisation is SVATANYA, founded by Deepa Pant.


Deepa first met Seema, a migrant woman, at a volunteering event. Seema was an 8th grade pass out who wanted to study, work and earn but had to put her dreams on hold, first for her siblings and then for her family.

A few conversations later, Deepa realised that this was the story of many migrant women.

“Infact, a majority of migrant women aren’t educated, have no formal training, or work experience. Many aren’t allowed to venture out from their homes due to patriarchal norms." says Deepa.


This led her to start SVATANYA, a design solutions enterprise that empowers underprivileged women to become financially independent by training them to make handcrafted products by upcycling stock fabric and using sustainable material. Besides being socially committed, the organisation also minimises its carbon footprint by using sustainable fabrics, textile recycling and using cut to order technologies.

SVATANYA is one of the organisations that are part of ‘Pragati’ by Meta and The/Nudge Centre for Social Innovation. Pragati is an initiative that incubates and accelerates early-stage women-led non-profits that are aiming to solve the livelihood crisis in India. Under the programme, the organisations receive access to funds, dedicated mentoring and strategic advice from a collective of experts, and a larger ecosystem of support.


Explaining how the Pragati initiative stands apart from other similar initiatives, Deepa says, “Pragati has a very sharp focus on speed and scale. They have an emphasis on innovation which we believe is critical to solving the large and complex problems facing India today. The/Nudge has created an ecosystem to help organisations wanting to solve India’s challenges."

SVATANYA is now looking to grow and scale their solution. Realising that their next level of scale will require a technology intervention, they are looking forward to leveraging the mentors in the program who can guide them holistically.

Another organisation who sees value in the integration of technology with artisanship is Tisser. “The mentoring sessions with Pragati were really useful. It gave me an insight into creating seamless supply chains through craft tech." says Megha Phansalkar, founder of Tisser Artisan Trust.


Today, with a pan-India presence, Tisser functions as a tool of social upliftment for rural clusters in India. By skilling women and providing them with job opportunities, they restore the dignity of work for their artisans. Tisser works actively in empowering women by connecting them to bigger and inclusive value chains.


Tisser is now working on integrating technology innovations into their work to provide transparency and traceability. Their next stage of growth includes a tech-enabled supply chain and connecting to their customers through digital interfaces.


As India is home to a large talent pool and diverse artwork, Tisser aims to create handmade, slow fashion products from local artisans across India in an attempt to revive the rich arts and cultures of our nation and history.


With a similar aim to revive the folk arts and crafts of India, help generate sustainable livelihoods for artisans, and help the artisans grow the community craft clusters in their natural habitat, Ekibeki was founded.


“Artisans engaged in traditional crafts are struggling to survive. Many move to other occupations or migrate to cities where they lack dignity and are detached from their society." says Vishpala Hundekari, founder of Ekibeki.


Ekibeki is a design driven social enterprise working with rural artisanal clusters who create high quality contemporary products using traditional crafts. They are a hybrid organisation with the vision of livelihood generation for artisans with focus on women and rural youth by helping them to become creators of sustainable and largely handmade products.

Speaking about the support she received from the Pragati initiative, Vishpala says, “There is no other program which provides you with all the necessary resources to help a startup realise its vision and help it reach its true potential.


Meeting like minded people working for a cause is a great encouragement when you are in the initial stage of building a social enterprise."


Today, Ekibeki continues to work with artisans to create contemporary products using traditional crafts. They are also working on incorporating technology to better reach their customers and support online sales.


The work of these organisations prove that not only does beautiful artwork across our country deserve to be preserved and shared, but they can serve as a reliable source of livelihood to thousands of artisans. The integration of technology in this space offers more scope for these solutions to grow, and more opportunities for the artisans of India.


These organisations are a part of Pragati by Meta and The/Nudge Centre for Social Innovation, an initiative that incubates and accelerates early-stage women-led non-profits that are aiming to solve the livelihood crisis in India.


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