When Rangsutra began, like most startups, we all worked from home. I worked from my home in Gurgaon, as did our co-founder, Ritu, who worked from Noida. Delhi Haat was our favourite place for meetings. The artisans we collaborated with also worked from their homes, coming together in small groups only for meetings or sampling workshops they were required to participate in. We sold our products at exhibitions and interacted one on one with our customers.
As we grew, work got more complex, we had to put in systems and mechanisms to ensure standardisation and quality as we ventured into b2b – a term which was new for me at that time. We learned how to make business plans, focus on achievement of targets we set for ourselves, and become more organised. We set up offices – one in Delhi and one in Bikaner. Initially in residential areas and basements and gradually to Lal Dora areas in Delhi and Industrial areas in Bikaner.
Our artisan members also had to move out of their homes and walk, or cycle or share auto-rickshaws to get to work. Initially hesitant, most of our women artisans now look forward to ‘going to work’. The Centres became places for learning, crafting, working, laughing and gradually turned into community.
And now comes the lockdown: For most of us at Rangsutra, it is a little respite from the hectic pace of work that we had set for ourselves. I do not have to drive myself to work and back every day, and am enjoying the time to myself… a time for reflection, for reading, and being able to practice yoga asanas every day, and sometimes twice a day, thanks to the community of fellow yogis at Sivananda Yoga Centre Gurgaon who stream live classes every day.
For us at Rangsutra Crafts, after a pretty hectic and fruitful year, it is a time to rewind, to reflect and take stock, and learn from our experiences. For our artisans, most of them being part-time farmers, some with small livestock, maybe this is a good time to take a break from craft, and focus on these occupations.
But for how long? Soon summer will set in, and at least in the deserts of Rajasthan there will be no rain-fed farming possible, till the rains come.
Hopefully, with everyone staying at home, the virus will not spread and we will be able to contain it, so that life can get back to normal again, and people go back to work, and society and economy can get back their vibrancy again.
Lesson Learned: We cannot go back to “business as usual”. As a country, we need to focus on creating / strengthening livelihoods in rural India so that fewer people need to migrate to cities to live and work in inhuman conditions. This way once the supply of workers to cities dwindles, the ones who choose to migrate to cities for work will be given more respect, valued for their contribution, and given a share of the income/ profits that business make.
As Mahatma Gandhi said, “ There is enough in this world for everyone’s need but not for a few men’s greed.”