Weaving ideas, naturally
VANITHALAKSHMI AND Balanagajayasree are two young women entrepreneurs of Chennai who have played a pivotal role in developing and diversifying jute. They have been training Tamil Nadu's village clusters started by the National Council for Jute Development (NCJD), Kolkata, and marketing the jute products crafted by the rural women.
Vanitha is the proprietrix of `Manoeuvring Mankind', which is a collaborating agency for the NJCD. Both Vanitha and Jayasree are partners in WANFED, an NGO working in the area of marketing of jute-diversified products.
They talk about their work and future plans...
Why this passion for jute?
Vanitha: My late husband was passionate about jute, an eco-friendly, biodegradable product. He developed many new blends and weaves in jute such as the Sambhalpuri and Ikkat weaves, which won him the Best Award at the Bombay Giftex 2001. He worked ceaselessly with the NJCD and the National Jute Centre, Chennai, to develop and diversify jute. His sudden passing away a few months ago has left me without support but a vision that I now intend to carry forward.
Jayasree: I wanted to do something meaningful for society. And when I actually witnessed rural poverty, I decided to help Vanitha in her work in giving training to rural clusters under the aegis of the Jute Training Centre and helping in the marketing of the finished products. Besides, plastic also needs to be replaced!
What does WANFED actually do?
Jayasree: When we were exposed to training rural clusters, we thought the best thing to do was to give them continuous work and market the finished products for them. WANFED is the pivotal link doing this.
What kind of employment is given to the clusters?
Vanitha: They make tambool bags, handbags, satchels and a variety of artefacts. We pay them a piece rate and the products are sold under the brand name `Grama'. Once `Grama' gains popularity, we will involve the rural women in profit sharing as well.
Is there any particular emphasis on R & D in your firm, Mankind Manoeuvres?
Vanitha: Research and Development goes on apace. My husband was a pioneer in creating new weaves and blends. I am working on jute canvas with coloured checks. We constantly try blending jute with other natural fibres such as total jacquard weaving in jute-cotton that resembles a sari pallav!
Jayasree: Our made-ups show constant innovation. We've worked with sisal, cane, bamboo, banana fibre and bark in creating blinds. Our `Grama' products such as handbags, bags and backpacks have striking innovative touches such as embroidery, embellishment with cloth, touches of korai and jacquard weave and a touch of jute, lace, and ribbons. The rural women do both the stitching and value additions.
Any future goals?
Vanitha and Jayasree: With this exhibition (on at Vimonisha Gallery, Khader Nawaz Khan Road, till March 31), we hope to achieve some of our goals ensuring self-reliance and sustenance to the rural clusters. We hope to add more `natural' fibres and fabric to jute.
Send this article to Friends by