The New Fashion Initiative

Journey to a Prosperous India: One Village at a Time

by Anurag Jain & Karishma Doshi

“India’s place in the sun would come from the partnership between the wisdom of its rural people and the skill of its professionals” -Varghese Kurian, the architect of India’s “White Revolution,” which made Indian villages the largest producers of milk in the world.

Almost one-tenth of humanity lives in Indian villages and rural communities. These unacknowledged stakeholders are the ones facing significant challenges due to industrialization and its externalities. It has impacted its effect on population growth on natural resources, lack of hygiene and sanitation, lack of education, soil erosion and deforestation, and many such factors have adversely affected the fabric of village life in India. Communities that once showcased the most harmonious ways of living have squeezed down to the brink of survival. The Indian rural population is substantially poorer than the rest of the country: with a per capita annual income below Rs 40,925 ($558.45), compared to the national average of approximately Rs. 98,435 ($1343.21). It is a national and global concern for rural communities to share their wisdom in designing a world that can thrive .

After graduating from Parsons School of Design, we decided to come back to India and get involved in uplifting the craftsmanship that India has to provide. We both have experience working on the manufacturing side of the supply chain, and that has pushed us to take our knowledge to build solutions that are beneficial to all stakeholders of the global supply chain.

Our initial plan was to work with farmers in the cotton belt of India, namely the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. The idea was to facilitate capacity building within cotton farming communities. Rather than selling raw cotton in the commercial market, we wanted to empower farmers to produce their own cotton end-products. That includes conducting workshops for cotton spinning and weaving, and connecting them with potential buyers once they have the market-ready products.

However, with the onset of COVID, we realized that certain activities would have to be halted due to the nationwide lockdown. However, we used this time to look inward and understand how to create resilient solutions that can pass the test of such a crisis. Hence, we pivoted from facilitating capacity building to utilizing the knowledge that the communities already hold. With that idea, we can catalyze change in various craft clusters of India without investing on building new skills. So our new challenge in the light COVID shifts to:

How might India’s rural economy adapt to modern times when it is seen by many as a repository of ancient skills?

We at Gramastha provide a two-way channel: supporting village artisans and farmers in reviving their age-old indigenous knowledge and allowing them to utilize consumer feedback and sales analytics. These tools allow local farmers to help focus their skills to make products that are viable, desirable, and feasible for the market.

Our Current Clusters:

Chhindwara —

This small village community in Madhya Pradesh has come up with a solution to promote indigenous seeds. They have started various initiatives to express the dire need of indigenous crop preservation through organic farming, land arts, seed bands, seed papers, and more. We at Gramastha are working on creating a market for this practice among gardening enthusiasts in urban parts of India through campaigns and activism.

Gujarat —

This state is known for upholding various ancient crafts of India. One of the most common among them is pottery. From terracotta planters to lamps, the art of pottery is highly versatile and has a negligible carbon footprint as compared to their plastic counterparts. Gramastha aims to expand its market through strategic partnerships with community-members, working on improving their product range with a lens of social impact.

To learn more, visit gramastha.com or follow us on Instagram at @gramastha! If you are in India, help support us by exploring our product page!