Kadam India has mobilised 600 women artisan in rural West Bengal, imparted training, developed entrepreneurship and provided them market linkages. It has come as boon for the artisans in four districts. Payal Nath, Co-founder of Kadam India talks to Mohd Mustaquim about the initiatives
Kindly brief us about Kadam?
KADAM is a Society set up in 2006 in West Bengal to address the issues of the rural artisans who were semi-skilled and living below poverty. Our mission was to reduce poverty and also stop migration of rural artisans to cities for menial jobs which leads to slums, rampant violence, unhygienic living conditions etc.
How has been the journey of Kadam since its inception?
In 2006 we started work in one village. By 2011 we were working in 2 districts and now by 2016 in 4 districts of West Bengal. We have touched and been catalysts in turning around lives of more than 600 artisans.
What challenges did you face while initiating the move?
In 2006, the awareness about gender equality, good quality of work, better livelihood possibilities was not that much as it is now. So, yes lot of challenges right from the husbands and menfolk in the villages not being open to their wives being trained or village heads not being open to the communities being financially independent. It is sheer willingness of ladies to be the part of the movement and believe in us that we could turn the tide in their favour eventually.
How does your organisation help rural people generate livelihoods?
Our model of work is ingrained in our hybrid model of operation. It starts with the skill level analysis vis-à-vis motivational level analysis of the rural clusters who are our grassroot beneficiary team. And then, a matchmaking of this happens with the market requirements which are also carefully analysed and studied before any kind of training starts. We offer a turn key solution – right from training the rural communities, mostly artisans in the right way to creating market linkages via our market platform for a certain number of years. Some are weaned off when they are ready to handle marketing on their own. Some are like those special children who need handholding all the time so remain a part of our beneficiary groups.
Getting skilled workforce is a big challenge for handicrafts and handlooms, how do you tackle this challenge?
Our model entails skilling them first, building on their strengths. Every skilled artisan might not have the skills of admin, finance or production management. So we believe in identifying amongst the clusters. Their respective skill sets, making their groups and then honing those skills to ensure the entire chain of activities related to making a good handmade product is taken into consideration before they can become producer groups to any big marketing company or to even end consumers.
What model do you apply for getting access to the market?
Once any cluster can produce high quality products, the market itself comes to them. Currently, we sell through 20-25 retail shows pan India. That gives access to local retails of the various cities we do exhibitions in. These get added to our database of retail clients whom we could sell to before the rural communities are ready to sell in bulk to bigger clients.
Only produce of those clusters which start making uniform, good quality handmade products after regular trainings, are put in our e-catalog and circulated to all these retail customers and some bigger customers too.
What was the funding model while initiating the business?
KADAM-HAAT is the market platform, a social enterprise which was set up in 2008 and the three partners funded it themselves as a social cause just because we saw the need for this space to exist if our trainings were to become successful in any way.
How has been the growth over the years?
Last 2 years, we have had tremendous response for our products. Our existing trained clusters infact cannot keep pace with the requirements. That pushes us even more to keep pace with the market and train more and more people in the right way. It also is a pat on our backs “There is something we are doing right for this situation to exist”.
What are your future plans?
We wish to replicate this model of growth which in our case “ Emotes” and keep on diagnosing rightly the skill level and matching those with the market requirements in terms of product innovation and creating more and more happy homes in rural India. Now, we are ready to work in other states of India also.