We have transitioned from a single enterprise approach to an ecosystem approach. An ecosystem of
- a non-profit that addresses mobilisation, upskilling and capacity building (Indian Yards Foundation).
- a for-profit that focuses on market linkages (The Good Gift).
- a network of producer owned groups (SHGs) that enable producers onto an entrepreneurial path. This network will eventually roll-up into a producer owned company (NFPO).
The NFPO will eventually also have stakes in the market linking company (The Good Gift) to ensure profit sharing with the community.
Indian Yards Foundation has been incorporated as a section 8 company in the name of Agai IY Foundation (we didn’t get “Indian Yards” because of the word “Indian”). We are going through the steps of amending the charter documents to ensure language supports the ecosystem vision and mission. The updated website is live www.indianyards.org.
The Good Gift brand has been articulated for the existing Pvt Ltd entity (Macramedecor Craft Pvt Ltd) with a “making gifting conscious” value prop. The charter documents for this entity too is being re-looked at to ensure language supports the ecosystem vision and mission.
Under this brand, we have put together a conscious gifting range meant to target a purpose driven consumer. The gifting range spreads across the home & living, children and lifestyle applications. A new e-commerce website to showcase this range to the market is live www.thegoodgift.shop.
We also have a physical store front open in Ooty to make the most out of the tourists coming our way. We used a room in our resource centre premises to do this physical showcasing. We already have started seeing folks coming in to meet us and subsequently shopping at the store.
The Good Gift range meant that we move away from a single craft approach to a multi-craft portfolio. So from having expertise in macrame, we have moved on to building expertise in 5 additional crafts - crochet, quilting, doll making, hand sewing and hand embroidery. We have also included a traditional art form, Kurumba painting, that dates back 4000 years. This painting is done using natural colours derived from tree barks and plant leaves.
Upskilling model :
With this expansion in craft portfolio came questions around our upskilling framework. We went back to the drawing board and overhauled the upskilling model. We stream-lined the training effort into a standard 4 weeks program which includes 1 week of orientation and 3 weeks of deep dive. At the end of the 4 weeks, women are handed out certificates for the respective craft and a stipend for the training period. There are deliverables that they need to adhere to complete the training program. They then move into production.
This stipend is to negate the entry barrier which is the opportunity cost. Most women go for daily wage hence, if they are to turn up for upskilling then that loss needs to be compensated.
The training programs are currently happening in our hub centre in Ooty but soon the spoke centres will be enabled with this capacity so the trainings are also localised.
Cluster model :
While we already had established a decentralised model to enable producers to handcraft products from their respective homes, we had to organise this further to make the value chain more efficient and to enable the entrepreneurial spirit among the women from the communities. We have established the hub centre in the heart of Ooty so it caters to the communities in and around Ooty region. We have further opened up 2 spoke centres in 2 different villages in the Coonoor region - Hubbathalai and Kurumbadi - so as to cater to communities in the Coonoor region.
These centres will enable localisation of craft clusters and enable leadership from within the community. The Hubbathalai centre is meant to build the embroidery & crochet clusters while the Kurumbadi centre is meant to build the quilting, macrame & doll making clusters. We have identified local leaders and capacity building for them is underway.
We are also helping these clusters with process efficiencies to increase their income generation potential. For example, some crafts are best done individually while some crafts are best as a group effort.
In this journey map, we have gone past the ‘trainee’ and the ‘artisan’ stage. We are now going through the ‘capacity building’ and the ‘entrepreneur’ stages.
While, earlier, the senior members were making decisions on per piece making charges, the larger community is now part of this process. We have implemented the time & motion study method to arrive at the making charges. The larger community members, along with the senior members, are part of this study. The outcome is discussed within the community and then the prices are arrived at.
This is being done as part of the capacity building exercise as eventually, the community will need to arrive at pricing themselves under the NFPO banner.
We have signed an MOU with Adivasi innovation hub (a unit of ACCORD) to enable communities that they are working with in the Gudulur region.
We were already SEWF verified social enterprise. We are now Craftmark certified and a provisional member of the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO). We are due to become a guaranteed member of WFTO which is when we will be allowed to use the Fair Trade label on our products.
While we have built out the tactical team to manages different parts of the operations, building the leadership team beyond Sunita and myself has been a bottleneck. The problem is a mix of talent availability and our capability to attract.
- Taking The Good Gift range to market
- Building local leadership at cluster level
- Establishing the SHG network
- Craft workshops for tourists to generate footfall for The Good Gift storefront in Ooty
- Regularising the intern / volunteer program
Road ahead for the next 6 months :
- Creating b2b partnership for The Good Gift range. While we will be present and push through in the d2c space, it would be for discovery. Our focus will be b2b relationships.
- Building out the craft clusters and strengthening local leadership at cluster level.
- Establishing The Good Gift store & craft workshop centre as a go-to craft destination in The Nilgiris.
- Incorporate forest produce into The Good Gift product range.
- Tapping into the intern / volunteer talent pool to bridge the HR gap and allow for cross pollination. We have a room within our premises allocated for intern / volunteer stay and we have a kitchen to take care of their food. We need to build an efficient system to leverage this opportunity effectively.
- Explore product development for local market using local material.
Help from Rainmatter :
- Shout-outs for The Good Gift range on socials