National Handloom Day

This National Handloom Day, we talk about our work in the field of handloom weaving as well as our partnerships with IKEA and FabIndia that have given a new lease of life to handloom weavers in India.

Partnership between RangSutra & IKEA

The Handloom Industry in India has had to compete unfairly with mills and power looms, making handloom products seemingly more expensive than their electric-powered counterparts and thus leading to a lower demand within the country. This has forced many weavers to abandon their traditional occupations and be forced to migrate to cities in search of work.
RangSutra has been working closely with IKEA to develop a range of handwoven throws, towels and cushion covers that has ensured regular employment to our weavers in Rajasthan. This has boosted their incomes and given them renewed faith in their traditional work. The fact that no electricity is required in operating the looms is an added benefit.
With careful utilization of raw materials, economies of scale due to the large quantum of orders, and close coordination throughout the supply chain, we have been able to create handwoven products for everyday use that have reached IKEA stores and customers all over the world.

The IKEA and RangSutra partnership ensures that artisans can work right in their villages – so they do not have to commute long distances. Weavers are able to spend time with their families, and live in spacious surroundings, a far cry from the poor, often inhuman living conditions that many migrant workers have to endure in cities. Many from the next generation have shown an interest to take up weaving. The chance to create new designs, learn new techniques, work in the company of friends and neighbours, and create world-class products right from their villages, and of course earn a good income, is appealing.

Partnership between RangSutra & FabIndia

We believe in the beauty of collaboration: celebrating shared victory and teamwork. Rangsutra was founded in 2006 with a vision to enable artisans across the country to achieve sustainable livelihoods through principles of fair trade and undying love for India’s rich craft heritage. Since our inception, FabIndia has continually been our partner and promoter of village handlooms work and traditional crafts and skills. We thank you for your support, and can only sing tunes of gratitude today while reminiscing this ‘Fab-ulous; journey. It is our hope that this beautiful relationship carries through, growing all the more, in the days to come.

A special feature of the handloom industry in Manipur, where the fabric for this earlier FabIndia collection was woven, is that all the weavers are women. They act as the second-largest economic opportunists in the state after farmers. Weaving was considered a woman’s strongest asset, and a loom was often presented as dowry during marriages. This is why the state has a higher concentration of weavers possessing looms, according to a 2010 Handloom Census. While traditional motifs have depicted spiritual and cultural local traditions, modern styles and colours have been inducted willingly by weavers. The Extra Weft technique has been used since the early days of the craft, wherein an extra coloured yarn is used in tune with a regular warp yarn during the weaving process.

Our work in Handloom Weaving

Rangsutra has worked with a network of artisans in Barmer, Rajasthan since 2010 and pushed innovation in the craft of Pattu weaving by training weavers to work with finer cotton counts while simultaneously retaining the traditional technique and motifs associated with Pattu.
Pattu is derived from the word ‘Patti’ which means thin strips of cloth. Pattu craft evolved in Western Rajasthan within the Meghwal community. It is a process of fine weaving with interesting geometric patterns inspired by regional flora and fauna. A Pattu shawl that is long enough to drape the entire body typically takes ten days to make and is a unisex garment traditionally worn by the local rural population. Camel and sheep wool in natural shades of brown and black act as the main raw material; however the introduction of dyes has led to a more eclectic colour palette.
A collection of breezy sarees woven with an extra weft has been the brand’s attempt to honour heritage in today’s globalised world. Multiple ranges of home accessories (in the form of cushions and rugs) have also been designed in association with weavers and artisans in Bikaner and Barmer. The fabrics are woven on a pit loom, and motifs carefully inserted with an extra weft insertion.

Join us as we celebrate the weavers, spinners and craftspeople of our country.

Working from home

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.” 

International Day of Rural Women- Celebrating our women artisans

International Day of Rural Women

Did you know?

More than 80% of our artisan owners are women from rural villages of India.

Our endeavour is to provide these women with the opportunity to improve their craft, supplement their income and work in equal and dignified conditions.
Currently, we are working with women artisans from villages in Rajasthan, Jammu & Kashmir, Manipur and Uttar Pradesh. The money they earn as shareholders of the organisation has given them the agency to have a say in their household decisions and to take ownership of their own lives.

On International Rural Women’s Day,  we celebrate the women artisans who have been a part of the Rangsutra family since the beginning.

The video below is a glimpse of our work with female artisans in Barmer, Rajasthan.


Rangsutra by the Numbers


Our journey began when 1,000 artisans put in 1,000 rupees each to form Rangsutra with a starting capital of Rs. 10 Lakhs. Today, more than 2,000 artisans are shareholders in our company and have shown utmost faith and commitment to our venture! As shareholders, they have a strong sense of ownership and pride in our work and are dedicated investors wanting to see Rangsutra thrive.
To us, inclusive growth means opening up opportunities for women to work and also building their confidence and capacity at home and in their communities. 
With Rangsutra, women in these communities earn more than Rs. 5000 per month. Before joining Rangsutra, these women earned Rs. 500-1,000 for irregular work. The work and income have empowered our women artisans at home; a majority of our artisans’ daughters are first-generation students!
We don’t see our artisans simply as suppliers. We see them as individuals with enormous potential to not only execute their craft but also to take leadership and manage the production process.
We train artisans in management, finances, and quality assurance to make sure each one has the opportunity to learn and grow.
Our artisans actively participate in decision-making processes at Rangsutra, and we encourage each of them to become a core part of our journey. Half of our board members are artisans, and around 500 artisans from all over the country show up to participate in our Annual General Meetings!

Sister From Bikaner- Taggu Devi

There is a strong communal link between artisans of Bikaner and Barmer. Due to inter marriage amongst families of both the places, there is a continuity of crafts and culture. Taggu ji is a product of this custom. Daughter of one of Rangsutra’s first shareholder Badli Bai and sister of Craft Manager
Chima Ram ji, Taggu started working as an artisan from an early age and was determined to open her own center in Barmer.

Overcoming pressures from local traders, she made her own group, mobilised the women to join her center. Being a master artisan, she is adept at sampling, grasps the quality and design requirements fast. In just 6 months, she graduated from handling only 1 craft centre of 24 women to training a batch of 50 women at a time helping Rangsutra in our skill development program in Barmer. She has trained 80 women till now. This has improved not only her earning, but also boosted her confidence.

Despite being illiterate, she managed to train over 80 women and maintain attendance, stock and payment records herself. She is now the breadwinner of her house and takes care of all household expenses and pays the education fee for her children

Taggu Devi defines the true meaning of freedom, courage and independence for us and has been a source of inspiration and empowerment for many.

Patch Work: Building it Slowly

An applique artisan with one of our oldest NGO supplier Roshni Sansthan, Barmer, Tulsi ji’s craft centre is a place which fills your heart with joy. She ensures that the women artisan’s at her center always enjoy the work and have a smile on their faces.

Tulsi Ji started her journey twenty years ago as a carpet weaver along with her husband. Due to the decline in the carpet weaving industry, she and her husband lost their jobs and were forced to look for other means of livelihood. Her husband became a construction worker while she took up small weaving jobs from local traders and middlemen.

In the process, she met women from her region and formed a group with them to take up more work. They worked for hours in a day but received very meagre wages from the traders and middlemen.

In 2011,Tulsi Ji, along with 30 other the women from her region, formed a centre that was supported by Roshni Sansthan and Rangsutra and has been a significant part of the RCIL journey for the last 8 years. The centre continues to grow and prosper and is now managed by Mamta, Tulsi Ji’s daughter. Together they earn more than INR 80,000 ($ 1,121.81) in 3 months in 2018.

“Whatever I earned in this duration, I have used in renovating our house (and center), and arrange for my daughter Mamta’s wedding.” says a beaming Tulsi Ji, on announcing the news of her daughter’s marriage.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Aap badi hokar kya bhanaa chaahti ho?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

This is a question that I have been asked countless times. It is a question that has evoked a range of emotions over the years, ranging from excitement about a vision for the future, to anxiety from having too many options, to the disinterest that comes from being asked the same question over and over again. My responses, too, have shifted as I learned about potential career paths and opportunities that awaited me. I was raised to believe that I could do anything. I could be an artist. I could be a professor. I could be an entrepreneur. Anything was possible if I worked hard enough.

It was not until later that I truly came to understand that this question is one that many girls just like me, with ambitions and capabilities, are not afforded the opportunity – the right – to answer. Many girls have their life’s path deeply etched into the walls of their homes, where rigid gender roles threaten to confine them. RangSutra Crafts works to change this narrative while honouring rich cultural traditions. RangSutra empowers artisans in remote villages across India by providing them with a steady income, a social network, and the chance to become leaders.

As an Aga Khan Foundation Canada International Development Management Fellow with RangSutra, I have seen first-hand how this social enterprise connects women to the global economy through craft. I have watched designers create beautiful embroideries, meticulously analyzing each stitch. I have heard stories from artisans about how working with RangSutra has enriched their world. RangSutra has humbled me and enlightened me about the powerful ways in which what we wear can influence our lives, the lives of others, and our environment. I have seen how all of this ultimately enables girls to be asked and to answer the question:

Aap badi hokar kya bhanaa chaahti ho?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

“I want to be a leader in my village!” – Ashiya, Ajeri Village, Rajasthan

On September 7, RangSutra and partner organization UMBVS invited 25 women to participate in a Craft Managers Training Workshop in Bap, Rajasthan. Here, these women were given the space to have important conversations about RangSutra’s work, girls’ education, and financial management. They were given the tools to channel their drive to lead into managerial positions in their communities.

It was inspiring to see these women leave their villages for the first time to participate in the workshop. They expressed a desire to learn more than just how to stitch and sew. “We are not just here to learn ralli (a Rajasthani method of patchwork). We are here to connect with each other and to have important conversations,” Karima, from Mangan Khan Ki Dhani village, expressed to the group. The artisans spoke about saving their money, sending their daughters to school, and providing a future for their children. For these women, ralli represents more than just a sewn quilt; through craft, their lives are now woven together, interconnected through their drive for independence and autonomy.

After this inspirational workshop, I was taken to the URMUL Setu campus in Lunkaransar, Rajasthan, to meet the next generation of female leaders. URMUL is an NGO with seven platforms that empower rural Indians, including health care, education, and livelihood development. URMUL supports RangSutra’s activities at the rural level. At their campus, 2000 girls have learned a variety of subjects and skills.

What I expected to be a quick visit ended up being an experience that will stay with me forever. When we opened up the classroom doors, we were greeted by 100 smiling girls. I was overwhelmed with thoughts of my own privilege as I looked into the eyes of the girls seated before me, all first-generation girl students in their families. We introduced ourselves and received a warm introduction in return, filled with poetry and song. When the time came to ask the girls some questions, I had to ask:

Aap badi hokar kya bhanaa chaahti ho?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

“A teacher!”, one girl exclaimed.
“A police officer!”, another girl stood up.
“A dancer!”, a girl in the back of the room bellowed.

Before I knew it, girls all around the room were standing up one after another, proudly sharing their dreams for the future. “I want to be in the army!” “I want to be a singer!” “I want to be a social worker!” The question stirred waves of hope in the sea of students before me; students with dreams and ambitions, and a place to learn from and inspire each other.

One student stood up to describe the school to the visitors. She had abandoned her dupatta and kurta for short hair and blue jeans. She proudly explained, “at school, there are no distinctions between caste or creed, girl or boy. We are all equal until we turn 18.” This made me wonder: what happens when these girls turn 18 and they return to their villages? Does the empowerment that they experienced at school get washed away? Would this brave girl have to grow out her hair and trade her button-down shirt for a saree? I thought about this as the girls sang and danced before we said our final goodbyes. They sang a beautiful melody, with powerful lyrics that I later learned described all of the amazing things that girls are capable of doing.

My experiences in the field have given me inspiration for my own work and hope for the future. I feel comforted knowing that RangSutra continues to support these girls long after they finish their studies so that they can continue to grow into autonomous agents.

I will never stop asking girls what they want to be when they grow up, or what they want to be now, in the present. Companies like RangSutra and URMUL grant women and girls the right to answer this question freely and with the possibility of fulfilling their dreams. I cannot wait to discover the important contributions these girls will make in their communities, in India, and in the world.

Videos from the Field

By Allie Shier

We connect…We co-create

“Co- creation as a concept has been the core of design development in Rangsutra and, as a whole in the craft sector. Every crafts community has the inherent knowledge and skill to make beautiful textiles/products. Our role as an organisation working with both producers and buyers is to strike a balance between the requirement of the urban/ export market and the inherent skills of the community. While this seems to be the ideal way of functioning as a designer in this sector, it can get pretty challenging to strike this balance. One is perpetually drawn between the two contrasting worlds to create something worthwhile.

          Krithika Acharya, Designer, RangSutra


Krithika has been one of RangSutra’s oldest and youngest designers. She landed up as an intern with RangSutra while studying at NIFT and grew up as a meticulous all- rounder and a gentle designer. Kritika has helped RangSutra create designs, she has also helped the women from the villages of western Rajasthan decipher the designs on paper and produce them in real. It is delightful to see how well the women bond once they learn to put on canvass their thoughts and colours and create something extraordinary.

“Co-creation is the core of our functioning and we will keep sharing stories related to the creation of products at the different clusters. But to begin with let’s start with the story of the sarees woven at Dhanau.”

Award winning sarees from Dhanau

Krithika shares, that when she first reached Dhanau, a tiny village in western Rajasthan, in June 2016, she only had an idea, a Baradi (Pattu), sample (Baradi is the name of one of the traditional woollen shawls woven in the area) and an intention to make lovey handwoven sarees for Rangsutra. She recalls, “So, there I was with a baradi and a few weavers gathered around me to figure out my intentions. These were weavers who were accustomed to weaving beautiful extra weft textiles with thicker yarns for garments and home furnishings. The idea of weaving a 2/100s count saree didn’t really appeal to them! At that moment, leave alone production of sarees on a large scale seemed like an impossible task, even sampling a saree seemed like a long haul. Fortunately for me, there was a bunch young enthusiastic weavers who had been to the handloom school who finally agreed to attempting to make sarees. The yarn broke often, we faced difficulty in winding the bobbin and in setting up the warp but we managed sampling some sarees. All this took about 3 months! Way more than how much normal sampling takes.

We still face problems in production, our sarees come in slower than our other products but the appreciation from our customers and the enthusiasm of the young weavers perpetually pushes us to keep trying. One of the weavers at the centre recently received a Rajasthan state facilitated award for innovation

From convincing weavers to work with 2/100s yarn to finally producing a few sarees, the journey has been challenging yet fulfilling. This experience made me realise the potential of the new age weavers to be part of a change for sustaining their skills in the future.”

One of the learnings for RangSutra and its employees have been the fact that our producers in the handicraft sector have been continuously struggling towards keeping alive their craft. The skills of crafting a community possesses is an identity which has been passed down through generations. At RangSutra, we make sure we do not lose this identity of the artisan, in the process of increasing the scale of production. At the end of the day, personalised designing and production found in the handicrafts sectors marks its definitive distinction from the mass made machine produce. RangSutra is proud to say that every thread that makes your wear has been individually put in place by the artisans and designers.

Krithika says, “The sarees from Dhanau feels like a second skin. The care bestowed in their making is felt while wearing.”

 Check out the Sarees made at Dhanau-

Crafts and Mathematics

Craft, is basically a hobby, used as a tool by the men and women to make the world identify their cultures and existence.

 The spaces we call home and the workplace are but, holistic units defining the foundations of civilisation. In the process, it is always delightful to observe a woman become an agent of change when she chooses to step outside of her house, and participate in the activity, most commonly termed as, trade. Working with RangSutra made me realise that, when a hobby is taken as the base reality of extending skill and livelihood, the community is more interested to learn as it is in a language which is already known.

There are generations of weavers, dyers and craftsmen for whom, the ‘craft’ was first an ‘art’ passed on to them, lovingly by their grandparents and parents. There are few who learn this art simply because they are best friends with the girl whose grandmother taught her how to make the crochet top. The persons grew together in a community and had tea, while their children practiced their home works from their S.U.P.W. class.

For the girls who were denied participation in the schooling system, their needle works became their sole escape into creativity. A space where they could express themselves through their needles and thread. RangSutra is a window for many such women, who stay indoors and behind veils. The women come together at a centre where they have to sign their daily attendance, a space where they are pushed to think about bringing a change in themselves and their families through better health and fair pay. The centre is a ‘learning space’ where the women are introduced to right angles, circles made with stencils and quality checks, done with precaution.

The activities involve use of pens and pencils, erasers and sharpeners to perfect the cutting of the drape, signing the challans for the customers, keeping a track of inventory, ensuring quality check and delivering finished goods as per the production schedules. The entire process focusses on making the women better equipped to handle the responsibilities of a successful craft manager. Craft managers are also responsible for , adherence to policies such as regulation and control of child labour, fighting gender discrimination and promoting a healthy work culture at the village based centre. Working at the centre, along the lines of the carefully developed work formats of RangSutra, helps develop a craft manager’s mathematical, entrepreneurial and leadership skills.

Above: Karimatji with her group.

RangSutra is witness to the reality of women became first generation earners, in their family, and the community. One of the newest women to join this group is Karitmatji from Bhadla, Bap tehsil, Jodhpur, Rajasthan. She leads, guides and assist the group of women in her village, on the production orders and leads by example for the many women in her village to step out and speak the language of maths for a better life.

  • By, Meghna Chatterji

Rangsutra- The Beginning.

The idea of RangSutra came to me, in the year 2002, while I was on a sabbatical, studying for a Master’s Degree in Conflict Resolution at the Eastern Mennonite University, writing a paper on Organizations needed for Conflict Resolution in the 21st Century.

It was 10 years since India had opened up her economy to the world, and the impact of that was beginning to show. There were several benefits – especially for middle and upper class educated Indians, who got access to more and newer job opportunities, as well as to training institutions both within India and internationally.  The not so good part was that rural Indian, especially those with little access to higher/ job worthy education were not faring as well. They were not skilled for the higher paying jobs, and at best they were benefitting by getting manual jobs in the construction industry in towns and cities of India, thus having to migrate from their village and having to live in slums and temporary settlements on the outskirts of cities.

Herein was a conflict: Unless India’s growth story was inclusive there was bound to be conflict due to unequal growth and large numbers of people being left behind.

The good thing was there was also an opportunity: Middle class incomes were rising, with people having more purchasing power. There was a growing demand for hand crafted contemporary clothing and home decor items. And India had millions of craftspeople who still retained their craft skills, as well as young ones who were keen to learn.

Upon returning home I met with craftspeople from the URMUL network of organizations I had worked with earlier, as well as other artisan groups and craft lovers. We decided to set up an organization that would be market oriented, but would ensure that hand crafts and rural livelihoods remained at the centre.

And so Rangsutra was created: first in 2004 as a Producer Company and then again in 2006 as  Private Company which later grew into a Public Limited company as the number of artisan shareholders grew.

Envisaged as a bridge between rural producers and urban customers, between traditional crafts skills and contemporary needs, between change needed in the 21st century while keeping in mind continuing our craft and cultural traditions, we embarked on a journey, encompassing both social and economic goals.

By Sumita Ghose