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Sumita Ghose: Merging Social Work with Business

  • JWB Post
  •  June 30, 2015

Empowering one’s own self is an important deed, something that everyone should do. But, empowering 1000 other people along with you, most of which come from rural backgrounds, now that is what I call a grand feat!

One such person is the 55-year old Sumita Ghose, Founder and Managing Director of Rangsutra, a social enterprise which brings together artisans majorly from Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

Most attempts to work with artisans and farmers have largely been associated with charity, but Sumita Ghosle thinks differently. She is one fine example of turning social work into an all-benefitting profitable business venture.

Our goal is to ensure sustainable livelihoods for artisans and farmers, by creating top quality hand made products based on the principles of fair trade and a celebration of India’s rich craft heritage,” quotes the Rangsutra website.

What started in the year 2006 as an artisans’ cooperative has today turned into a multi-crore business enterprise, with producers still being the shareholders, most of which are rural women. Today, these women have become economically stronger and confident, and have earned the respect of their families and communities.

 The main challenge was to balance profitability with fair wages in a competitive environment. Also, a change in the mindset of the artisans was crucial, to create such an enterprise out of their work,” says Sumita, the entrepreneur behind Rangsutra, in an interview.

She began by approaching 1000 rural artisans and weavers to invest an amount of rupees 1000 each and conjoined these funds with those of her own to create Rangsutra Crafts India. In the first year of functioning itself, the company did an impressive business of Rs. 30 lakhs, which brought in other investors such as social venture capital firm Aavishkar, and the renowned women’s ethnic wear retailer, FabIndia. With FabIndia coming on board as a captive customer, the company gained access to strong design and market linkages.

All these years, she has strived to replace the perception of an artisan of being a mere worker with that of being an entrepreneur. She wishes to induce in her producers-cum-shareholders a sense of ownership, as well as confidence in their skills.

Currently, with the increasing demand for products, her company is reaching out to an ever increasing number of artisans. It is empowering certain NGOs, self-help groups and various small-scale individual entrepreneurs. Also, it is trying to delve into new product lines such as leather and khadi products, apart from its usual apparel, home furnishings and accessories offerings.

One small stone is capable of creating an expanding ripple effect. Likewise, one determined individual is potent enough to bring about a dramatic change in the world. We believe Sumita Ghose is an example of such a being. What do you think?

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